Photo courtesy of Dadpranks
, a local artist collective, explored the concept of mall culture in an exhibit at West Mifflin's Century III Mall
this past weekend.
used retail and digital art to investigate contemporary uses of brick-and-mortar mall structures. In a decade where online shopping and social networking have encroached on the economic and social purposes malls once served, malls have to rebrand themselves in order to survive.
“Sensory3 started as an idea to create an artist-in-residence program at the mall. ... Where do you have this access to power and light and air? It’s kind of utopian in a sense,” Dadpranks member Nina Sarnelle said about the inspiration for the exhibit. In essence, the project is meant to build a mutually beneficial relationship between artists and businesses striving to maintain foot traffic and relevance in a unique setting.
The exhibit consisted of a kiosk and storefront, emblazoned with the name Dad Pranks. Shoppers were invited to “create a prank” — take a picture of items they bought in the mall and upload it to a website, where others could download it for personal use. These images are free, and the information accompanying each photo lists every store in the mall where a shopper bought items, thus creating both an artistic image and free advertising for certain bought goods.
The exhibit also included a tour of the mall, in which people were encouraged to meditate in quiet, spiritually significant places there. Tour members could listen on their phones to “mallcasts” that corresponded to specific sites in the mall. Each mallcast consisted of samples of music found in the mall, naturally occurring mall sounds, like fountains, and other sound effects. The tour also contained facts about the mall's architecture and concluded with a ride on the two-story carousel housed on the first floor.
“Where do you have this huge, public indoor space where you don’t have to buy anything?” said Kate Hansen, another Dadpranks member. “You can just walk in. It’s not weird to hang out in the mall.”
Dadpranks, which describes itself as a 21st-century quilting bee, hope to launch this project long term and expand into other Pittsburgh area malls.
“2007 was the first year when a new mall wasn’t built in the United States,” said Dadpranks member Laura Warman. “There’s a lot of potential for cities around the country for projects like this that can embody the community they’re in.”
The exhibit was a featured project in Open Engagement 2015
, a three-day-long local arts convention based around the theme of "Place and Revolution." The project was on display this past Friday through Sunday.