There is no such thing as a cheap t-shirt.
It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to produce one white t-shirt from start to finish—chalking to stamping, with all that cutting and sewing in between. The entire 2 hour opening event, however, was what it took to make just 1 t-shirt, which was then immediately sold. The reason for the lag in production can be attributed to the mass of people filtering through my work space; many of which, stopped to first question my work in Finnish, then ask again “what are you doing?” in a language I could understand. I would explain to them that I was making white t-shirts, followed by either an explanation about the waste in the production of garments, the importance of highlighting and honoring the labor involved in the production of garments, or a short run down in my capacity in producing (these particular) garments. People responded in different ways. Some really appreciated the action of putting on display this seldom seen venue. Others tapped into the gravity of the commentary that the installation denotes. A few were confused. One man wanted to know how I ironed the t-shirts without burning myself, as he explained that he often burns his arm accidentally when ironing his own clothes. Another visitor said I looked like a geisha, and became very excited about the conceptual connections between geisha and sweatshop worker—presence and nothingness, something like that. But I believe all walked away with a greater understanding of the white t-shirt’s genesis, and hopefully a fuller awareness of the weight of the clothes on their own backs. (Janelle Abbott)