169. Let's go to the mall today.
featuring my sneaky word of the week, sliver.
I went to the mall to find answers to this question -
Who goes to the mall anymore?
In today’s post, some answers from a sliver of life, and a matter of perspective from City Square Shopping Center in Vancouver.
a long slender piece cut or torn off.
I looked inside a sliver of reality, in the narrow space and time between two pillars, for signs of life.
An elderly lady shuffled towards the exit. A young mother played with her infant. A man deposited his tray on the counter. Another man waited for his food order. In the reflected light of a tall Christmas tree, all manner of life carried on its business.
🎙 Related Listening
Ep 495 of the 99% Invisible Podcast - “Meet us by the Fountain”
From this episode, I learned that malls were designed in America by an Austrian immigrant to recreate “the charms of public life in Vienna.” Nearly 100 years ago, the immigrant Victor Gruen had the same yearning as me - to find a space where people could meet other people, where lives would intersect, and where good coffee was to be found.
Malls came to my hometown of Kolkata (India) in the late 90s. It was a good time. I had just entered my teens. It was also a time of great economic progress. More and more malls appeared every year, and commerce imposed cultural change in its inimitable, inevitable manner. Suddenly, it became possible for young people to find refuge from the blazing heat of summer and hang out in safe, indoor spaces. While malls were a new development, there used to be benches on every floor. One day, the benches were taken away because the teenagers never got off them. (Teenagers like me.)
This happened around the same time that cafes became a thing. To begin, the idea of going out to have coffee was considered utterly ridiculous. My part of the world is all about chai. But a new cafe chain took India by storm because it realized that it was about more than just the coffee.
The tagline of Cafe Coffee Day was this - “A lot can happen over coffee.” As young people trying to meet other young people, we certainly hoped so.
With commerce and social interaction shifting from physical spaces to our screens, it is the idea of public life that keeps malls alive.
Dear reader, does your part of the world have a thriving public life? Have you witnessed mall culture evolve? Share your thoughts.
🔍 Last week, I began my yearly audit with SneakyArt Insiders. In the post, I shared one brave moment, a big disappointment, and a big win from the year. I am still nervous about admitting to vulnerabilities, but the support on this comment thread has given me a lot of strength. Thank you, Insiders!
💻 I am doing a sketchbook tour, Q&A and virtual hangout with SneakyArt Insiders on the last morning of 2022. Grab a seat!
🚊 All of December I am (officially) drawing on the public transit of Vancouver. Read about my exciting art residency on the BC Translink.
Thank you for your time and attention. Next week, scenes from my art residency!