It's Time to Evaluate your Clothing Consumption 1,281 Deaths Later

 Rachel Breen, “Shroud” (2018) at the Perlman Teaching Museum. Photo courtesy of  rachelbreenart.com

Rachel Breen, “Shroud” (2018) at the Perlman Teaching Museum. Photo courtesy of rachelbreenart.com

1,281 white garments hang from the ceiling of the Perlman Teaching Museum’s Braucher Gallery in Northfield, Minnesota. Each represents a garment worker killed in the 2013 Rana Plaza Factory Collapse in Bangladesh and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York.

Artist Rachel Breen and poet Alison Morse collaborated in the creation of this moving exhibit as a call to action for Americans to evaluate their clothing consumption and understand their relationship to the two tragedies. This statement sheds light on the vastly overlooked working conditions of garment workers, particularly those working for fast fashion companies.

On her website, Rachel explains:

"It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of these two garment industry tragedies and our relationship to them. They are not separate stories but inextricably linked realities that expose the unjust ways garment workers are treated."

It has been five and 107 years since the tragedies respectively, yet we seldom hear about them. The fact that these events are over a century apart speaks volumes about how little progress we have made to improve garment worker safety.

 
 Rachel Breen, “Shroud” (2018) at the Perlman Teaching Museum. Photo taken by  Sheila Regan
 

The installation is described by writer, Sheila Regan:

"Beneath the enormous shroud of clothes, which takes up the entire ceiling of the gallery, benches are laid out in the center of the room. There, visitors feel the weight of the shroud hanging over them, and take in Breen’s pastel wall drawing, made from stencils created by an unthreaded sewing machine. The drawing incorporates floor plans of the Triangle Shirtwaist and Rana Plaza factories, as well as shapes of fabric scraps the artists collected during their trip to Bangladesh. Visitors can also call different telephone numbers and listen to sound pieces created by Morse, including recordings of interviews, poems, and sound collages.

On the opposite wall from the drawing, as well as at several stands throughout the gallery, are Morse’s poems, which often take on the voices of people affected by the two disasters. She also weaves in her own role as a consumer of clothes, faced with making choices in our consumerist society. Morse’s work incorporates vivid descriptions of things the two artists saw on their trip and gathered from their research."

 Rachel Breen, “Shroud” (2018) at the Perlman Teaching Museum. Photo courtesy of  rachelbreenart.com

Rachel Breen, “Shroud” (2018) at the Perlman Teaching Museum. Photo courtesy of rachelbreenart.com

In 2015, the two conducted interviews with garment workers, activists, and survivors of the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse and documented their entire research on their blog.

Learn about the artists and the entire exhibit here.
Original article covered and written by Sheila Regan from Hyperallergic.