Michael Townsend gives new meaning to the term Mall Rat when he and seven other artists moved into a 750 square foot space above a storage room in the Providence Place Mall in Providence, Rhode Island. They carried in two tons of construction material, a sectional sofa, a love seat, a coffee table, a breakfast table with four chairs, lamps, a throw rug, a hutch and paintings on the walls. Not having water or a bathroom, they snuck into the mall to use its facilities and the food court, although they did have a waffle iron and some video games. They kept this up for four years.
Townsend likens it to being "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."
How did they get this in there?
He was inspired by mall ads in 2003 that promoted the mall as not only "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. "
In the end, he was arrested and charged with trespassing, but appears to have got off with an apology, which he makes profusely at his website. Good Magazine notes "mall security busted Townsend after discovering an online video of the apartment. "The tragedy was that the plug was pulled before it got even more ridiculous," says Townsend, who had had plans to move in for a full year. He was arrested just three days before he installed wood floors."