Authorship, Feminism and Consumption
Editor's Note: This issue’s reading list comes from Cat Tyc, author of one of our Notes from the Field pieces on clothing swaps as fashion research site and practice. This list brings together a number of her sources of inspiration, from films to books to songs, which tie together themes of narrative, authorship, the self, feminism, and consumption.
1. Agnes Varda, The Gleaners & I (2000)
This film maintains a narrative tone that I am trying to recreate throughout the whole CONSUME(s) ME project, with Varda’s balance between interviews with contemporary ‘gleaners’ (or individuals who live off and reuse what others throw away) and her own introspections. She talks to regular folks about their consumption and turns the camera on herself to analyze her own process of gleaning in relationship to her filmmaking practice. She analyzes her hands and compares them to the potatoes on the field.
2. Laurie Anderson, Heart of a Dog (2015)
In including this work, I am thinking specifically about how Anderson constructs narratives rooted in the personal to more universal themes. This particular work centers around her dog but slowly unravels to be a meditation on loss of varying scales. Anderson’s narratives have come up often in thinking about my work and my attraction to the ‘walking text’ also championed by writers like Renee Gladman and Lisa Robertson.
3. Julie Ruin, “You make me want to go away / You make me want to CROCHET!” On the album, Kill Rock Stars, September 1998
Every time I work on this text, I hear this song in my head. This was the record Kathleen Hanna made after ending her seminal 90’s band Bikini Kill. She was fed up with being attacked on stage and by other women in the media and made this record under the persona of Julie Ruin to try to be someone else. I have always interpreted this song as a frustration with women who resented her for being a known feminist. I love that her frustration about what that all entails has this great meta response to being an active feminist which is to just go home and do ‘women’s work’ and that is the parallel I am playing with by having it open this text.
4. Kate Finnigan, "Isabel Marant: I Am My Own Muse," The Telegraph, March 11, 2013. Read here.
I just love this quote:
“She starts every collection from a feeling of ‘disgust and frustration', perhaps this is a motivating state for her. 'I always think, "OK, again another collection. Why new clothes, when we have so many, I know we don't need it. What is going to be the difference?" It's always rejection, love and hate. Then I [go through] a psychological healing.' She laughs. 'From that, the excitation comes again. I go, "Yeah, that's a good idea, I must do it, I didn't do that properly before." Then it's a bit like a puzzle; there's a shoulder [shape] coming, a length is coming, a kind of fabric... I'm very instinctive, actually. I'm not very intellectual.”
5. Juliet B. Schor, Plentitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (Penguin, 2010) and The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer (Basic Books, 1998)
Schor draws on economic theory, social analysis and ecological design and interviews with urban farmers, DIY innovators and other proponents of alternative economic behaviors to articulate a new version of what ‘wealth’ means.
These texts explore customer dissatisfaction, American work habits, stress shopping, and theorize why Americans save less money than people in other Western countries. Schor does not blame people for lack of self-discipline or the advertising industry but instead takes the perspective that shopping has become the ultimate social act and then analyzes the effect of this from an economic & psychological position.
Reading both books gave me a sense of validation about some of the feelings that I have been having about these issues. Primarily, the feeling that consumer consumption and its relations to stress and self worth were factors in exacerbating the cycle of overproduction and overconsumption.
6. The Work of Carlos Motta
Artist Carlos Motta has created two projects, Museum as Hub: Carlos Motta: We Who Feel Differently (2012) and Gender Talents (2015) that explore documentary modality. Besides the shared presentation triad of installation, website and book form, I feel an affinity for how Motta frames his politic for discourse in his work.
An example of what I mean is quoted here in an interview I conducted with Motta for “BOMB” in April 2016:
On the one hand I have been interested in documenting the underrepresented experiences of queer communities around the world in the form of online archives, publications and public events. These works are about building community and creating discursive spaces. You could say this is a more activist approach to making work, although I have also been keen on experimenting with the form, presentation and display of these projects in institutional contexts as we discussed above. It is interesting to me to see how the art world overtly embraces (in a somewhat retro, nostalgic way) works that deal with the politics of the 1960s and 70s (sexual liberation, feminism, civil rights, etc.) but it is distinctly more reluctant to dealing with the politics of the present. My work deals with present-day sexual and gender politics so I have taken this challenge as an opportunity to ask questions about the processes of institutionalization of ‘the political’ from within artistic institutions.
7. The work of Martine Syms
I feel really connected to artist Martine Sym’s practice. When she talks about her process, I feel a kinship to her statement that, “the origins of the project is a text and the research is writing or figuring out what I am interested in the project,” and that “I usually don’t make a thing unless there is going to be a place it is going to be.”
Like Syms (and Motta), I think a great deal about context and the possibility for reflecting popular discourse with the hopes of troubling expectations. I relate deeply to her statement, “I consider my work thinking about what I am seeing. All I want people to do is think.”
This essay has been a main influence in thinking about poetics in relation to disciplines besides the page. In regards to this project, I think I have tested the flexibility of the line, “Form is nothing more than content” beyond measure.
This news story provides the statistics and facts for the section of my project, “We Are Wearing the World.”
10. Martha Rosler, Traveling Garage Sale (1973-2010)
It feels important to name Rosler’s project as an influence because the retail space as art space is a very overused trope. Specific to her engagement, I think her questions are similar to mine and I felt inspired by the level of performativity she brought to her tag sale at MOMA and think subconsciously, it acted as a reference point in ideating the Recess space and thinking about what my role would be in the space.
11. Adam Matthews, “The Environmental Crisis in Your Closet” Newsweek, August 21, 2015
12. Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed Press, 2011)
Kondo's whole take on relationality to clothing and objects is notorious at this point but I am totally charmed by her phrases like 'kissing your socks goodbye.'
13. Guy Dubord, The Society of the Spectacle (originally published in 1967)
In some ways, it almost feels too obvious to name this as an influence because the metaphor of shopping/fashion as spectacle is such an obvious one but it would be hard to not name Situationism as a design influence for when thinking about the Store space and also that CONSUME(s) ME is essentially a continuation on the discussion of ‘commodity as spectacle’ that he coins in this text.
14. Elsa Klensch’s STYLE TV show on CNN
When I was young, I watched this show every Saturday morning and was also obsessed with MTV’s House of Style. I transcribed some of these videos for the section where I talk about watching this show as a child.