Mike Townsend, at Brown

Providence Place The Projo has coverage of Townsend and crew’s talk at Brown tonight:

When developers tear down historical buildings in Providence, they tell people that they are capitalizing on underutilized spaces and that they create communities where none exist, according to Townsend. By creating a home in an underutilized mall space, the eight participants in effect were doing the same thing, he said.“We don’t feel it’s wrong to be in those spaces,” he said shortly after his arrest. The group did feel guilty about plugging into the mall’s electricity, and they disclosed last night that they occasionally slipped envelopes containing twenty-dollar bills under the door of the manager’s office to pay for it.

Townsend and Yoto both insisted last night that although the apartment project was documented on Web sites, its existence was meant to be shared only with friends and not to be publicly divulged. While the project has been widely described in international news coverage as performance art, Townsend said that he did not see it as art until it was discovered.

They’re right on, of course. It’s not a shock that the mall — which, btw, is subsidized by gazillions in conceded tax dollars — is gunning for rights to all materials from (and verbalization of thoughts about) the residents’ experience:

General Growth Properties has made a formal written demand for all of the still and video images that the artists made while they were in or near the mall, as well as the maps and drawings that they produced. And the mall company has demanded that the artists sign a confidentiality agreement that, according to Townsend, would prohibit them from talking about their mall experience.

Makes me recall the time I had to find schematics of the mall’s property line — which zig-zags along the Francis St. sidewalk — to stave off the mall’s threats to arrest peaceful (out-of-doors) protesters concerned with the treatment of its janitors a few years back.

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