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Billennium Malls & Gated Communities

Author: • Oct 9th, 2007 •

Category: alternate worlds, architecture, Ballardosphere, consumerism, gated communities

Ballardian: Store Wars

Initially, this story reminded me just a little of Ballard’s ‘Billennium’, set in a severely overcrowded future in which a group of friends find uninhabited space sealed off from the oppressive density outside…

Eight artists snuck into the depths of Providence Place mall and built a secret studio apartment in which they stayed, on and off, for nearly four years until mall security finally caught their leader last week.

The casually furnished, unheated apartment was in a 750-square-foot loft beneath an I-beam and above an unused dusty storage room in the mall parking garage that was accessed through a door in a stairwell, according to Townsend, his fellow artists and the police.

Then, when I read the artist’s statement from the group’s leader, Michael Townsend, I realised the resonance with Ballard’s depiction of the Metro-Centre in Kingdom Come.

Michael Townsend:

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.

Living in the mall, which is presented as a consumer interzone providing all we need to survive; striving to understand the mall as if it was a living organism — Ballard lays bare all this and more in KC’s Metro-Centre.

Elsewhere, it’s been compared to Concrete Island.

Plus, a Ballard-referencing article on gated communities in the Ipswich-based Evening Star — a sign that Ballard’s reach is rippling outwards from London?

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  1. […] the couple who lived in the Providence Mall (It was covered extensively on the blogs last year. See Ballardian and the artists’ website here.) The couple Michael Townsend and Adriana Yoto crafted a secret […]

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