Together under The Hoodie, Het Nieuwe Instituut and curator Lou Stoppard have invited a range of artists to respond to the themes of the project with a new work created from their own individual perspective and practice. In their mixed-media installation What We Are Made Of, Angelica Falkeling looks at cotton: the material most hoodies are made from. In this work dealing with one of the most-used ‘raw materials of our everyday lives’, Falkeling uses audio and sculptural elements to explore the cotton industry’s impact on the societies it touches and our climate.
“The annual cotton harvesting season has just begun. Hoodies are made from cotton. In his book Empire of Cotton: A Global History, historian Sven Beckert describes how this natural fibre was able, thanks to its exceptional ability to absorb and retain colour as compared to other raw materials such as hemp, flax and wool, to become a driving force behind the global capitalist market. Now, activist groups and families in Indonesia, Bangladesh and India are filling pipes in factories with concrete in an attempt to protect their land and communities against the pollution and excessive consumption of water by the cotton industry.
What We Are Made Of tells interwoven stories about cotton and the people who work with this material. The work is set in the region of Uzbekistan around the Aral Sea. This collection of salt water basins once made up the third-largest lake in the world, but it is now an infamous byword for large-scale desertification; a natural disaster of global significance. Cotton production in this area is supported by forced labour (modern slavery). What We Are Made Of is an artistic, pedagogical project about the raw materials of our everyday lives.”
This audio book follows Aida on a visit to her parents’ farm near Nukus in Uzbekistan, where her family is forced to work in the cotton fields on a seasonal basis. We also visit Mike, an LA-based musician, and the Vienna-based influencer Cassandra who is 80% pro-vegan and ‘trying to be against fast fashion, but she might be addicted,’ Falkeling explains.
Material, more-than-human interpretation of the hoodie
In both the exhibition and the onsite and offsite programming of The Hoodie, particular attention is paid to the social, cultural and political narratives and associations represented by this form of sweater. In most of the storylines in the exhibition, the ‘human scale’ is the measure for the relevance and significance assigned to the hoodie. In the contribution by artist Angelica Falkeling, a more-than-human reading is brought to this item of clothing. The material properties and production process through which it is created are central. Falkeling interweaves the human experience of forced labourers and the destruction of major natural resources into a joint indictment of the logic of exploitation, of which today’s fashion industry is an exponent.
Although she is aware that a critical ecological approach to the fashion industry could easily fill a whole series of exhibition projects by itself, curator Lou Stoppard sees Angelica Falkeling’s installation as a valuable voice within The Hoodie. A work such as What We Are Made Of could lead to a more intensive discussion of sustainability and a worldview that looks further than productivity and profit at the cost of human lives and the planet.
Angelica Falkeling (Degerfors, Sweden, 1988) makes location-specific installations using elements drawn from live performance, (ab)use of textiles, sculpture, moving images, text and other exhibition formats. Falkeling engages from a queer, feminist and intersectional standpoint with economic and ecological aspects of the artist’s practice. Born in Sweden, Falkeling has lived and worked in Rotterdam since 2015. The artist frequently adopts the form of a queer driver, tailor and storyteller who experiments with craft techniques passed on in conversations from one generation to the next, making use of humour and geological time.
Het Nieuwe Instituut has previously engaged extensively in various projects examining the downsides of industries (including fashion) and the various time scales these manoeuvre through. For this, we have collaborated with a wide range of experts who address these same themes elsewhere in their academic, artistic or curatorial practice.
Part of the Temporary Fashion Museum
As part of the Temporary Fashion Museum, curator and fashion theorist José Teunissen compiled the Fashion Data programme consisting of a section of the exhibition, a range of activities and online and offline publications highlighting the unethical and unsustainable functioning of the current fashion system, and providing a number of examples of (mainly Dutch) designers who are attempting to provide an alternative through ‘slow fashion’.
Essay by José Teunissen
José Teunissen’s essay ‘Fashion Data: on the failing fashion system and alternative solutions’ can be read in the web magazine of the Temporary Fashion Museum. The entire publication is available online from ISSUU (in Dutch).
Thursday Night Live!
Within the context of Fashion Data, an evening was organised in cooperation with the festival and knowledge platform Stripped – A New Look at Fashion which carries out research into ‘the downside of fashion’. This included a screening of the revealing documentary film The True Cost, which like Falkeling looks into the clothes we wear, the people who make these and the influence the process of producing them has on the planet: “Who really determines the price we pay for the clothes we buy?”
Installation in the Temporary Fashion Museum
For the Temporary Fashion Museum and Fashion Data, artist, materials researcher and fashion designer Conny Groenewegen developed the installation Fashion Machine, making the production mechanisms and scale of the fast fashion industry palpable, while in the alternative ‘sweatshop’ in the exhibition space in Het Nieuwe Instituut a new form – and an almost activist charge – was given to a banal material like fleece.
Installation in Neuhaus
As a member of the NON+ collective, Groenewegen was also one of the driving forces behind the installation Pandora’s Box. With a large-scale, mirrored ‘hamster wheel’ and a tunnel made up from fleece sleeves, this occupied a prominent place in the philosophies section at the temporary transdisciplinary academy for more-than-human knowledge Neuhaus. This work responds to the imaginative capacities of designers, mythology, technology, philosophy and play. It is part of a series on the notion of ‘Synthetic Time’, which analyses, among other things, the linear concept of time that also determines how thought takes place within our industries and production systems.
A clear (artificial) thread runs from Fashion Machine to Pandora’s Box. In the latter work, after all, a story in two parts is woven about the efficient mass production of clothing and the long-lasting destruction of the living environment that accompanies this. Artificial fibres such as fleece simultaneously very fast and exceptionally slow: they are just about able to keep up with the desired speed of production in late capitalism, but break down so slowly they hang around on the surface of the earth for an eternity.