BETWEEN COMMUNITY AND COMMERCE
Curator: Tamar Dresdner
Sara Berman presents a poetic reflection on consumerism, capitalism, and globalization in Times Square, the heart of the capitalist economy - whose by-products are volatility, financial insecurity, and anxiety. "Two years ago an experiment with denim caused my domestic dryer to break. Lint, which is the accumulation of textile fibers and also contains human and animal hair, skin cells, dust and microorganisms, clogged up the filter and I was left with a failed experiment and a large handful of blue lint," says Berman.
In time, Berman's experimentations with lint took her to dry-cleaners in London, who had large machines. Presently a pattern emerged: the larger machines produced long, unbroken swathes of lint, which consistently presented themselves in the form of a one-dimensional sweater. This ready-made was fascinating to her, not least because each batch of lint was the result of multiple drying cycles, meaning that the hair and bodily detritus sloughed off numerous people, and the textile fibers came from many different garments made in places all over the world. In essence, what started as the collection of fluff from the bodies of people Berman knew, had become an ironic ready-made of a garment made of waste material from the bodies of people across the globe.
As a former fashion designer, Berman has a strong affinity for fabrics, materials, and clothing, and she is interested in the way they transform and become something else.
The process of drying clothes in machines is one of subtraction. The fibers fall out of the garment, and its mass decreases. Berman challenges our definition of what dirt is and shows us that it varies according to context. Beauty lies even within what we usually perceive as waste. While in the dryer, lint is categorized as trash; but once it has been elevated to the level of an artwork, it gains aesthetic and economic value. Like the initial clothing item from which it has been created, the work of art itself becomes a product of consumption in a capitalist economy, trapped in a consumption cycle.
From an almost weightless material, Berman has created an object with a physical presence. But while her readymade lint works might look like sweaters and their shape reminds that of a torso, in their physical presence they are reminiscent of ghosts bearing the memory of an absent body, a body that has experienced trauma and pleasure. The lint, with its component of human hair and skin cells, functions in Berman's works as an empty shell, which stands for the disappearance of the physical body, thus positioning the work in a liminal zone. This body of work deals simultaneously with the body and its negation.
I would like to argue that this exhibition addresses the anxiety caused by the contemporary condition of constant existence in a liminal zone, as well as the collapse of hierarchies and categories. High and low, filth and beauty, private and public, rich and poor, first-world and third-world - the garments inside the London dryer had belonged to people from diverse nationalities, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes. While swirling in a dryer, the clothes shed not only fibers; they also shed all forms of hierarchical order, and the lint forms a substance that contains particles of numerous persons.
In collaborating with ZAZ10TS, Berman's intention is to draw attention to the communal aspect of the work. According to her, the use of a public space in a building that is home to
fashion manufacturers, which leads through the center of NYC to the fashion district, the seat of so many globalized manufacturing decision-makers, is a fitting showcase for a work that centers on the intimacy of the body in a world of mass consumption and commerce.
"The ritualistic cleanliness of my immediate environment was essentially remaking itself into a global expression of commerce, community and abject beauty."