SHAME is my response to the news in April of 2013 that a garment factory complex halfway around the world collapsed, trapping thousands of workers. The installation combines gel medium transfers of imagery from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse, a "quilt" of silkscreened magazine ads from clothing manufacturers, donated clothing labels, stitching and photographs printed on silk and paper, video projection and an interactive installation (www.lycoming.edu/textile) with animated stories from local textile workers to draw attention to the history of human rights violations in the production of the clothes we wear.
For 200 years the textile industry responded to demands for better pay and working conditions, union organizing and laws regulating factory safety by running away - dumping the current workforce for cheap labor in a new location. I witnessed the cycle of anti-union tactics, poor working conditions and wages, empty factories and unemployment lines first-hand as a garment worker and organizer in my twenties. Textile mills and garment factories gobbled up and spit out each new wave of US immigrants, moving from New England to Pennsylvania, from north to south, and finally to third world countries in a never ending search for cheap labor, less regulation and greater profit. The history is not pretty.
In 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist fire claimed the lives of 146 garment workers and shocked the nation. Over a hundred years later, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh claimed the lives of 1,129 people, injured 2,515 and shocked the world. American corporations, including Walmart, The Gap, Target and Macy's, continue to refuse to sign a legally binding accord (signed by 70+ European companies) to pay for safety improvements in the factories in Bangladesh where their clothing is produced.
It is time to pressure the clothing industry to put basic human rights before profit. This is a global problem. It is our problem.
Shame #2 (Installation view)
Shame #3 (Detail of "quilt")
Fashion To Die For
A Stitch in Time