An Apartment at the Mall

Artists make mall home - secretly.

The story out of Rhode Island about artists building a secret living space in a shopping mall reminds us that the fasciation with malls in general remains alive, even as malls themselves are dying. The story from the apartment builders is below, taken from their web site - Trummerkind - The post-WWII term Trummerkind - German for "children of the ruins" - connotes the children of war-torn areas who had lost their families and/or homes, and were left to grow up in a society that required rebuilding and healing. They made their homes in the ally-bombed ruins of cities and towns and lived off the landscapes. This is an apt name, based on the videos of the mall area (below).

Mall management missed a HUGE chance to turn this story into a draw of it's own for the mall. They were announcing the report as criminal and reported feeling "violated" by the artists.

Thats too bad - the clever, smart thing to do would have been to capitalize on this for all it's worth - you can't buy this kind of advertising. Maybe thats part of the facination in the first place though - all this space, utilitarian, wasted, dirty and forgotten.... the mindset that would understand this project would not have such "ruins" abandoned in the middle of the mall complex in the first place.

What You Are Seeing:

Starting in 2003 I committed to the idea of creating a luxury apartment in the mall. Over the course of the years to come I systematically coordinated the movement of the core elements that start to define a home. The space in the mall achieved a base-level of comfort, with enough amenities to qualify itself as a livable domestic space. Life from within the mall was committed to the pursuit of normalcy and the purchase of objects and clothing that would help define me an active participant in the great things the mall has to offer. The apartment was a superb space for hosting guests and I only regret that we didnít have a working toilet.

Very Brief History:

The mall was built through the years of 1997-1999. It is located between downtown Providence and the mill district where I live. I watched every beam of the mall as it was raised. During its construction I identified the 750 sq. foot space that the apartment currently occupies. The space was used to store materials during the mallís construction and remained classifiably underutilized and abandoned once the mall opened.

During the Christmas season of 2003 and 2004, radio ads for the Providence Place Mall featured an enthusiastic female voice talking about how great it would be if you (we) could live at the mall. The central theme of the ads was that the mall not only provided a rich shopping experience, but also had all the things that one would need to survive and lead a healthy life. This, along with a wide variety of theoretical musings about my relationship to the mall - as a citizen and public artists - provided the final catalyst for making the apartment.

From those Christmas seasons to the present, I have spent the time to quietly create this space and occupy it from time to time. I cannot emphasize enough that the entire endeavor was done out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper. It has been my utmost priority to not disrupt the security forces working at the mall, and I have gone to great lengths to make sure that my project did not interfere with their work.

Plans to finish the kitchen, install the wood flooring, add a second bedroom and replace the outdated cutlery were put on permanent hold recently as I was apprehended leaving the apartment. The security personnel who took care of the situation did so in a fluid and professional manner. I admit to being caught off guard after four years, and apologize for not being as forthcoming immediately with information regarding my work.

Videos of the project


Secret Home In Mall