I've given myself a third job. My position: AlternARTologist. My mission: Collect interesting projects + artists for study + discussion---emphasizing art as a place for alternative process + thinking. I'm not sure about the end purpose for this collection or what in/tangible form it may take, but maybe that's the point. (?) Maybe this is just another procrastination tactic? I'm certainly not getting paid. Well...
(Clock in)I went to see this little event hosted by the UIC's Gallery 400 At the Edge project. It was in an abandoned storefront in an old building on Western Ave. I was half expecting to feel immediately uncool--being there by myself surrounded by clicky art school kids--but instead walked into a humble workshop with only 3 guests, piles of scraps of fabric on the floor, and a small plate of triskets. It was the temporary workshop of Frau Fiber, CEO of KO Enterprises (KO= Knock Off, tag line: the labor behind the label). She is the alias for the artist behind the project, for which she worked over three weeks, working 12-hour days, to complete 5 sets of dress shirts + suits mimicking name brand garments (not made in the USA). Trying to really embody the labor-intensive often overlooked issues of the fashion industry, mass consumption, and America's exploitive overseas workforce, she re-created the scene in great detail. Frau worked in 2 ex-Union Halls and in the old garment district of Chicago. She filled out time cards and even docked herself pay (17 cents an hour) when she was late. She created patterns based on the original purchased clothes, and with one small non-industrial sewing machine made her "white collar uniforms." The show was actually a sale of the clothing, although the artist, a.k.a. Frau, confessed to me that she was 2 jackets away from completion, and after the "sale" would have to do some overtime to complete her task, "because that's what the real situation would be like." (I doubt the real situation involved taking a break to sip an adult beverage and snack on square waffled crackers, though. But I'm not criticizing!) She also priced these garments in relation to the time each one took to make by the hourly wages in Cambodia, Indonesia, etc., discovering that Germany is the highest paid for their American apparel. The shirt in the front (in the pic below) had a price tag of $84.
I love artists/art operating under the guise of legitimate business in order to critically examine larger social structures and problems. It was really interesting to hear her talk about the project, but there is more info on KO's website: www.koenterprises.info
Welp, I met my quota for the week. I'm out.