Shopping Mall, Haifa Museum of Art
Curated by Svetlana Reingold
04.08.2018 - 20.01.2019
A concentration of stores, cafes, and entertainment venues under one roof, in a closed space that differentiates itself from the city and its organic fabric of life; an artificial city on a miniature scale, complete with "boulevards," "plazas," "streets," "bridges," and "nooks." The ultimate temple of consumerism. A hotbed of desire and money. The mall is a public space that absorbs some of the social functions of the "center of town."
Each generation has its own cathedral – a monument that comes to symbolize the spirit of the times. Urban projects directly influence behavior and thought patterns. Shopping malls, as monuments of contemporary culture, are an arena of interpretation and artistic intervention for the contemporary artists participating in this exhibition. Their works seek to comprehend the "mall" idea as it appears in the contemporary artistic discourse, with reference to the cultural assumptions and power relations it embodies.
The idea of the shopping mall is simple: an aggregate of flagship stores, previously spread out throughout the city, is now concentrated under one roof. The effort is aimed directly at the pocket of the consumer, who can now find "everything" in one place. The works in the exhibition emphasize the sense of a spectacle, whose success stems from the mall's identification as an artificial space that is safe, flat, and sterile, denying history, decay, and death. It is a space where the society of spectacle celebrates its narcissistic experience.
Artists often identify the mall with the panopticon model proposed by philosopher Michel Foucault – a place where everything is visible and under constant surveillance. On the one hand, they emphasize the logic of the mechanistic mall, whose function is to ensure a maximal flow of cash by means of a circular flow of commodities and human desires. On the other hand, the artists draw our attention to the social margins denied by the mall culture. The figure of the beggar appearing in many of the works sheds light on those denied entry into the bright, sterile arena that is the mall.
A quick glance at the average shopping mall brings to mind the architecture of a temple or a church – glorious facades supported by Greek columns with gables, or apsis-like half-arches under which all the passageways converge. Instead of icons, there are celebrity photographs; holy vessels are replaced by commodities. The masses worship their new "gods": stars and celebrities representing brand names. The artists presented in this exhibition emphasize the similarity between strolling among tempting store shelves and visiting a museum. The real and symbolic capital invested both in the shopping mall and in the museum externalizes the prestige of both institutions.
- Text by Haifa Museum of Art