Rosemary Williams is a popular woman as of late. Ever since I first heard of Rosemary and her now famous projects, The Wall of Mall and its companion podcast series Rosemary Goes to the Mall, in November 2006 on Radio mnartists, she has quickly become the subject of an ever-escalating number of news stories from the likes of the New York Times Magazine to National Public Radio.
For those who haven’t yet heard of the project, it’s probably best to hear Rosemary describe it in her own words…
“ The Wall of Mall is a wall approximately 8′ high and 20′ wide, covered on both sides with shopping bags from each of the retail stores at the Mall of America. The bags are arranged in rows overlapping each other like shingles. The scale of the piece underscores the impossibility of attaining satisfaction through this kind of consumption, and yet at the same time highlights how shopping is impossible to escape. The piece invites viewers to come closer and identify the individual stores through their logos and designs, and relate to the act of shopping through the memory of their own past retail experiences.”
“ Rosemary Goes to the Mall is a podcast which developed out of The Wall of Mall. After being told by salespeople that I couldn’t have bags for my piece without purchasing something from the stores, I began a long shopping journey with the goal of buying one item from each store at the Mall, and then returning it without the bag. Each podcast represents one shopping trip to the Mall, usually covering between 10 and 15 stores, and is an audio blog covering the events of the day, including the psychology of the kinds of choices I make in each store, interesting interactions with the salespeople, rambling philosophizing about shopping, and occasional trips to the fortune teller machine in the amusement park.”
In one podcast Rosemary visits oxygen bar Oxynate, where, “ buoyed by waves of freshness, all she really wants to do is call everyone she knows and tell them about how awesome she feels. She forces herself to keep shopping, winding her way to Radio Shack, where, having lost all sense of propriety, she drops $580 on a Magellan Portable Auto Navigation System.”
Other projects by Ms. Williams include CEO Views, a video that couples images of the literal views out the windows of high-level executives’ offices while their own metaphorical views on their role as a leader of a large company play on the soundtrack; and Bodega Booty a de-branded recreation of a New York City corner store that operates not only as a, “ love poem to bodegas, [but also to raise] awareness of the energy created by these idiosyncratic community centers.” As another former New Yorker I couldn’t agree more–there are a few faces that are more consistent to New Yorkers than the people behind the counter at their neighborhood deli, even fewer places in the city where people of such contradictory backgrounds all frequent, and the only place you can see movie stars and homeless people both pay $8.00 for a pack of cigarettes.
In addition to her work as an artist Rosemary is also professor of New Media at St. Cloud State University. More of her work can be found at RosemaryWilliams.com.