How fashion waste finds its way into art
A news article was recently found about unsold clothing. In the Chilean Atacama Desert, a huge pile (the size of a hill) clothes from “fast fashion” had piled up. The play also states that an estimated 39,000 tons of clothing that went unsold in the US and Europe ended up in Chile each year and took up a great deal of the desert. Most of them were sent to landfills. It was equally important that these clothes were made in China and Bangladesh. It’s amazing to know that merchandise travels the globe in the name of fashion and a large part is thrown away in a matter of months when trends change.
The fashion industry and senseless dumping of clothing that still has a sizable life have been at the center of recent discussions on climate change and ecology. And this has now become a reference area for various creative people. The artist Boshudhara Mukherjee, for example, uses found, discarded, and purchased textiles to create immersive installations.
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With a formal education in painting, the use of color and the idea of ââperspective shape her ongoing work. She began with the need to break out of the narrow framework of a two-dimensional painted surface. Mukherjee abandoned the framework to allow the canvas to rule, decide, and create its own shapes. Her reticulated tapestry weaves painted and cut canvases of her own paintings together with clothing and thread. âThe source of clothes found are generally closets of my family and friends who have been told not to ‘throw anything’ – everything from clothes to bedding to tiny bits of thread and wool. I use what I find around me, âshe says.
“Adi” by Boshudhara Mukherjee. Courtesy photo: Tarq
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While for Mukherjee the material, the associated techniques and processes of cutting, weaving, crocheting, patching and knotting are the focus of her work, there is always a story and a historical association of the garment. She feels that stories are everywhere. Even something bought often reminds of the day who you went shopping with and your experience visiting the store. But used fabric has an extra layer. âAll these memories flow into the work because the material is just there,â she adds, describing her work Adi, in which she used denim from her partner’s discarded jeans. And then the stereotyping of objects – like lace that is supposed to be too “girlish” – gives their work unique interpretations.
She admits that most of her installations arise in an organic and spontaneous flow. She explains, “Most work starts with something I see or feel and I know I want to use it in a work – like a color or a piece of fabric or a texture.”
By reflecting on the idea of ââfashion itself, she admits that until recently she had not realized the seriousness of the subject. The overwhelming need for fresh water to make a garment and the use of toxic dyes pose an urgent threat to the environment. This conversation is often overshadowed by talk of plastic and engineering waste. âThe idea of ââjust throwing things away, especially in a world where so many have so little, is ironic,â she says. For them, fashion means wearing your own personality and not joining a rat race run by the media to help a few in our capitalist framework. In-house sewing was traditionally the practice in India. Upcycling was almost a given. For Mukherjee it was an easy way not to add to the carbon footprint and also to have a personal touch and memories with you. âIt is the love and respect for the material I have inherited from my family that shows in my work and in life in general. I think my work is “more personal”, it’s about my love for fabrics and their reuse. But yes, if there is a comment it would highlight the ordinary and hopefully inspire the viewer to look at their possessions with new eyes, âshe says.
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