THE MALL exhibit in our very own Mitchell Art Gallery is a curated collection of art pieces focusing on different aspects of West Edmonton Mall (WEM). It delves deep into the personal stories and their tie to the unique architecture and “material culture.” It’s more than just an appreciation for the space but almost a direct attack on the oddity and what the curators name the “exploitation indicative of capitalist overconsumption.”
Right as you walk in, the central eye-catching feature is an art installation that is supposed to be an abstract 3D collage of the mall concept. It features a generic three-story parking lot towered by an alternate universe version of the World Waterpark. It’s topped off by a shopping strip that seems dismantled and broken into pieces. Two hands protrude from the side, one holding a “Fatburger” drink with two straws and the other an H&W (H&M dupe) shopping bag. It was cool focusing on the details, and it’s clear a substantial amount of hours was put into this. It challenges the idea of capitalism wrapped up in the fantasy that West Edmonton Mall tries its hardest to put together.
This exhibit opened my eyes to the eerie nostalgia of WEM. Having only experienced it after the 2010s, I never knew the “old” WEM. Another one of the installations, which Dan Graham did, was simply an old box TV loaded with VHS tape clips of the mall from 1986 to 2005. Watching it feels like watching a documentary on an abandoned building with clips from when it used to be up and running, which I think is somewhat the idea they were trying to get at. The WEM I know is vastly different from the WEM that many of my peers who were born here know. And many of your parents know an even more different version of WEM. It’s the same physical space, but it’s changed so much to fit the standards of modern design and social trends. I learned a lot from watching these clips about the culture and focus of this mall “back in the day.” Did you know that there used to be sun tanning areas on the roof of the waterpark? Crazy.
One of my favourite parts of this exhibit is the WEMories section. It prompts visitors to write significant memories and stories on a sheet of paper hung over the right-hand wall. It’s simple but significant and adds another level of interactivity I love. Some reports are wild, and I will undoubtedly keep coming back to check out the latest stories.
I definitely recommend checking THE MALL while it’s still open until April 1.