Not Quite What One Thinks When One Hears The Phrase "A Life In Retail"

A comedian in New York will be living in a bedroom display at his local Ikea.

As amusing as I find this story, I'll admit, I would be more impressed if Ikea were opening up its bedroom displays to people who really needed a place to live because they had nowhere else to go (as opposed to someone whose apartment is off limits while the exterminators are there). I mean, it is cool of them to give this guy a place to crash and the huge shot of publicity that will probably get him a deal of some sort with a production company somewhere down the road, but wouldn't you feel even warmer and fuzzier if they were, say, offering their store displays to homeless women with children. I know, I know, Ikea letting some middle class guy with a credit card (which you know they have on file for security purposes, in case he breaks anything) is not really risky and it is petty of me, perhaps, to suggest this little piece of performance art should be turned into something more meaningful.

This story, however, reminded me of a far more interesting story which I heard on the radio program The Story.
In downtown Providence, R.I., a massive shopping mall dominates the skyline. City officials have praised the mall for bringing new life to an old industrial city, but some residents and local artists like Michael Townsend have been grumbling since the mall was first built in 1999.

In 2003, Michael and a few friends decided to challenge their own critical perspective on the mall with an experiment - for one week, they vowed to never leave the mall. They would eat, bathe, and find a place to sleep there, in an effort to better understand the satisfactions of shopping. The experiment ended up lasting 4 years.

By the time Michael was busted, he and his wife Adriana Yoto, as well as some friends, had furnished an adequately-functioning apartment inside the mall.

How cool is that? After listening to this show, I had a profound urge to find an unused, unknown room somewhere out in the world and make it my own. For weeks afterward, I would glance at random doors and corners in public spaces and wonder, "Where does that lead? Does anyone even know that space exists?" I know that I am a materialist and really like my stuff, but the idea is still so appealing to me. It's probably related to all the thrift shopping.

You can listen to the radio show here and read more about the whole enterprise (as well as view pictures and videos of the apartment at the mall) here.

And I can't help but think, if we turned all the unused spaces that exist in the world into small homes, we could let people sleep there instead of on the street. It's just an idea. I mean, if no one is using the space anyway, why not?


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