To induce a people, hitherto scattered, uncivilized and therefore prone to fight, to grow pleasurably inured to peace and ease, Agricola gave private encouragement-and official assistance to the building of temples, public squares and private mansions. He praised the keen and scolded the slack, and competition to gain honour from him was as effective as compulsion. Furthermore, he trained the sons of the chiefs in the liberal arts and expressed a preference for British natural ability over the trained skill of the Gauls. The result was that in place of distaste for the Latin language came a passion to command it. In the same way, our national dress came into favour and the toga was everywhere to be seen. And so the Britons were gradually led on to the amenities that make vice agreeable-arcades, baths and sumptuous banquets. They spoke of such novelties as ‘civilization’, when really they were only a feature of enslavement.
The gradual fade-out of marginal malls has prompted a thriving Web culture dedicated to sharing information about dead or dying properties. Sites such as Flickr.com, Deadmalls.com and Labelscar.com are drawing traffic from mall employees, shoppers and other mall mourners who swap stories, photos and predictions about the status of centers on their way out.
I spent some time a few days ago wandering around in Fridley, MN. It’s been hard this year to find things that I enjoy to take the pressure off. The long summer trip went well, but it will always have a sort of bittersweet tinge to it. It’s the wandering in man-made spaces that seems to always precipitate relaxing in a way that I can’t anywhere else, at least when I’m making or thinking about images. The more absurd the space, the more I enjoy it. Fridley is awesome in that aspect.
It’s Friday, October 12, and the Mall of America’s indoor amusement park is a colorful sea of headscarves and robes. Men sport their finest suits. At 2:00 p.m., the line for ride tickets is more than 100 people deep. The air is alive with the squeals of Somali kids riding the Screaming Yellow Eagle roller coaster or hanging upside down in the Mighty Axe.
. . .
The day started with prayers and breakfast before they headed for the mall. “And we’re going to go to a movie afterwards,” she says. “I think it’s Game Plan or something like that. The Rock is in it. The kids want to see that.”
. . .
Abdirahman Kahin came to the mall with his wife and three kids. “We have gone on some rides,” he says, keeping an eye on his children as they play with Legos. “Frog Hopper, Mighty X, the horses, too. Now Legos.” A native of Somalia, Kahin has been in this country for 11 years, the last nine in Minnesota. He says the reason for celebrating Eid at MOA is simple. “It’s the largest mall in America. We’re Americans.”
In the “Elvis is Everywhere” department, last night there was a huge competition featuring the worst Elvis impersonators I’ve ever seen at the Mall of America. Tonight, there was a replay of a craptastic movie on the same subject. Rose McGowan as Ann Margaret? I just don’t get it.
The Copernican revolution in historical perception is as follows. Formerly it was thought that a fixed point had been found in “what has been,” and one saw the present engaged in tentatively concentrating the forces of knowledge on this ground. Now this relation is to be overturned, and what has been is to become the dialectical reversal, the flash of awakened consciousness. Politics attains primacy over history. The facts become something that just now first happened to us, first struck us; to establish them is the affair of memory. Indeed, awakening is the great exemplar of memory: the occasion on which it is given us to remember what is closest, tritest, most obvious.
Walter Benjamin, Arcades K1,2 p. 388-9
Waking up, one is always disoriented. Locating the “self” as a method of organizing the world glimpsed through cloudy eyes is foolish. Likewise, understanding the past through catastrophe, war, or instrumental figures seems futile. The past does not organize itself around catastrophe; each actor moves onstage impelled by multiple forces. Memory, like history, seems largely involuntary and nondiscursive. I seldom remember words or images when I wake; I locate myself by feel relative to the earth.
These phenomena cannot be explained by circles concentric with the earth. Therefore, since there are many centers, it will not be by accident that the further question arises whether the center of the universe is identical with the center of terrestrial gravity or with some other point. For my part I believe that gravity is nothing but a certain natural desire, which the divine providence of the Creator of all things has implanted in parts, to gather as a unity and a whole by combining in the form of a globe. This impulse is present, we may suppose, also in the sun, the moon, and the other brilliant planets, so that through its operation they remain in that spherical shape which they display. Nevertheless, they swing round their circuits in divers ways. If, then, the earth too moves in other ways, for example, about a center, its additional motions must likewise be reflected in many bodies outside it.
A free postcard from Maplewood Mall
The last time I visited the Maplewood Mall, the carousel operator noticed me sitting at a bench making photographs. We talked for a bit, and she offered me a postcard. The mall didn’t seem at all “second-fiddle”.
Part of the strategy to rejuvenate malls seems to be an increase in spectacle. I skipped the “one minute play” readings at the Mall of America a week or so ago, because it just seemed an odd fit to that circus. But I suppose a mall that includes a university might seem like a reasonable place to see cultural events. But the embrace of the circus quality seems more plausible. At least Island Carousel seems to be betting on it.
On a thinly connected note, congratulations to Mica and crew at the completely unrelated Publlc Address Network. I like the short carousel video you get when you click on the hobo shoes— I’m sure its just a weird coincidence.