In collaboration with Emirates Foundation, Westfield London, British Council and Tashkeel, the first manifestation of Shopopolis interrogated how ‘places of retail’, from Arab souks and British street markets to the Dubai Mall and Westfield London Shopping Centre, serve as alternative communal spaces.
Over the last century, artists and architects have been influenced by consumerism and the shopping experience. From Elmgreen and Dragset’s Prada Marfa (2005) to Reem Koolhaas’ design of Prada’s New York flagship store, they have attempted to unpick the circular relationship between culture and consumption. It was Andy Warhol, best known for re-appropriating the strategies of mass production and popular culture as art, who stated that ‘All department stores will become museums, and all museums will become department stores.’
From May 2011, public works – a London-based collective of artists and architects – and Khalid Mezaina and Karima al Shomely researched how Dubai Mall and Westfield London Shopping Centre serve as critical points of exchange that go beyond commercial transactions.
Engaging with shoppers and shopkeepers, the artists collected personal narratives and documented micro-communities and invisible ‘networks’ that exist in each mall. These narratives inspired the conceptual design for unusual, yet practical ‘products’.
Each of these newly-designed products complemented each other; and together, they set the stage for a communal feast: a table, chairs, cutlery, food. The resultant exhibition, FEAST, featured an installation of the innovative products and a video documentation of the feast with the project participants in main display window of Westfield London from 17 to 23 July 2011.
Writer Yemisi Blake was commissioned to respond to Shopopolis by re-imagining all of the narratives gathered at Westfield London into a collective story. Moments of Story can be downloaded here.
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