There is no such thing as a cheap t-shirt.
There have been several visitors who edged their way into the exhibition space, rather nervously, thinking they were intruding, or trending on a sanctuary they were not invited to enter. I’ve found myself with a policy that I will not interact with visitors unless they initiate the conversation in the first place. This allows for a more genuine ignition of conversation. However, when people are shy to walk through the room, even simply to see the neighboring installation just beyond, I do make the effort to tell them that, “Yes, you can come in!” Still shy, the visitor usually bobs their head and steers clear of any heavy machinery—clinging to the wall of televisions adjacent my workspace. It has led me to question the function of the ‘authority’ of the visitor. They have the authority to stop me in my work: just ask me a question, I will answer, I will respond, and usually, I will put on hold my work to do so. They have the authority to obtain and own the results of my work: just be present at the right time, and the t-shirt can be yours (for 4.95). But for some visitors, this is too much. For some it’s too much to merely enter the space; they are overwhelmed, perhaps, but the assumption that they pose a threat to my productivity…where then does ‘authority’ lie? The visitor too abashed to venture into the work space relinguishes their authority to the object: may the shirt lead its own course! We side together, the museum goer and I, with a mutual respect for the act of making, the action of genesis. How rarely does a white t-shirt find itself bestowed with such honor! Royalty for a day, a moment, those few seconds amounting to the moment the needle of the tagging gun is threaded through the bias: we will all acknowledge what you have gone through (t-shirt) to be where you are now—fully made, wholly realized, a white t-shirt today (yellowed with sweat, smudge with ink tomorrow, and the next day). (Janelle Abbott*)
*Will admit that this commentary is shamelessly sappy. Shamelessly!