‘Secret Mall Apartment’ Movie At SXSW

In 2003, eight artist-pranksters created a secret apartment inside the Providence Place Mall. They lived there for four years, sneaking in furniture, tapping into the mall’s electricity, and smuggling in over two tons of cinder block to build a wall. Turns out they were filming the entire adventure and that footage has now been turned into a movie, “Secret Mall Apartment.” Mall security broke up the party in 2007 and the story hit the national news, making Michael Townsend and wife Adriana Yoto pretty famous for a while. Tom Mooney spoke with the movie’s director for the ProJo:

“It’s a fascinating story that I think many people can relate to,” Jeremy Workman, the movie’s producer and director, told The Journal on Friday. “It’s like everybody’s dream to live in a mall, and I think that comes from our inner child.”

More from Mooney’s piece in the ProJo:

In an interview with The Journal in December 2007, three months after his arrest, Townsend admitted it was fun to misbehave. “We were tapping into the collective thrill for everybody” who has not had the opportunity or the courage to flout convention and the law.

That same month some of the artists re-created their four-year experiment in mall living at a temporary gallery space in downtown Providence, using some of the furniture they planned to use in their mall studio apartment had they not been discovered.

That installation at 70 Eddy Street was called “The Apartment at the Mall.”  I had only just joined the Dose crew and I apparently took only the one photo below. (The first iPhone had only been released months earlier — we didn’t have pictures of everything.) My write-up of the installation may have been one of my first pieces. (Here is an announcement of the Eddy Street show complete with product placement, a list of shops who had provided elements of the decor. Remember Oop?)

Needless to say, mall authorities were not letting people in to take pictures when the original apartment was discovered; they got busy real quick dismantling the whole thing. The above photo was taken by Michael Townsend himself. Following his moment in the squatting spotlight, Townsend had success with his tape art installations. We wrote one of those up in 2011.

The film will have four screenings in Austin, starting March 8, at the SXSW Festival. Nothing planned yet, but Workman hopes to have some local shows.


Michael and Adriana at Eddy Street.

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