Beginning in 2015, The Changing Landscape of American Retail is an ongoing documentation of the shift from traditional brick-and-mortar locations where we once socialized and interacted with our community, to the stark and generic, yet essential e-commerce.
Like memories, familiar retail entities are fading away. Today, they stand as modern-day ruins and architectural artifacts from the not-so-distant past that reach into my own maturing interests and evolving identity.
Toys “Я” Us brings back memories of avoiding my brother’s aerial assaults with red dodge balls and Nerf guns. The Battlefield Mall was once a central meeting spot for my junior high peers, anchored by the food court and Aladdin’s Castle arcade. The arcade elicits a sensory transaction when I encounter the flashing lights of Street Fighter II, manic electronic beeps, purple geometric carpet, and the odd, distinct odor of stale popcorn mixed with the metallic scent of quarters tucked into my front pocket. Throughout high school and college, I spent hours at Best Buy and Circuit City listening stations previewing new music releases from my favorite artists.
In 2012, Circuit City closed their doors. Toys “Я” Us folded in the spring of 2018, and Best Buy continues to shutter underperforming stores. Additionally, arcades and food courts are endangered as Class B (based on sales of smaller stores) malls are closing all over the U.S.
Closing stores looks like the decline of thoughtful conversations, empty playgrounds, and loss of community as we opt for a digital alternative. We are no longer previewing music and getting recommendations on new album releases in person, in retail shops. We will no longer meet our friends in food courts. The Changing Landscape of American Retail is an exercise of looking at the past and peering into the future, serving as a metaphor of the way technology is accelerating cultural change in the modern world. I know you can’t fight change, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be sentimental.