I Turned 3000 Kilograms Of Clothing Destined For Landfill Into An Art Installation

“Blood Mountain” is a sculptural installation featuring a 3-meter high mound of red clothing and apparel. Upon closer inspection t-shirts with feminist slogans like “Girl Power” and “The Future Is Female” can be seen poking through the debris. Fashion items, once hung in pristine department stores, now presented as a giant pile of landfill. Uncannily, this imposing red mass is being exhibited in a former garment factory warehouse, now Grau Projekt, in Melbourne, Australia. 

I created “Blood Mountain” in response to the fast fashion industry piggybacking on the feminist movement by way of feminist slogan Ts. 

My other projects include “The Wall of Shamed” (2017) and “What Does Breastfeeding Look Like?” (2016). Through my practice I consider how man-made structures and systems affect women. 

 

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“Blood Mountain” – 3000 kilograms of red clothing at Grau Projekt, Melbourne, Australia

The idea came to me early last year. It was just after Christmas and I was wandering around a department store. There was a sea of clothing on sale – rail after rail. It was never-ending. I noticed one T-shirt with “Girl Power” emblazoned on the front. It made me think, is this “girl power” – all this waste? I started looking into the effects of fast fashion and learned that it’s mostly women who work in garment factories. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and have little to no rights, let alone choices. 

According to Feminists Against Sweatshops, “Companies that use sweatshop labor to increase their own profit margins are taking advantage of predominantly young women. Factories that employ the use of sweatshop labor perpetuate numerous injustices. Women are paid as little as six cents an hour and work ten to twelve hour shifts. In many instances overtime is mandatory. In some cases, women are allowed only two drinks of water and one bathroom break per shift. Sexual harassment, corporal punishment, and verbal abuse are all means used by supervisors to instill fear and keep employees in line. Companies such as Nike, Guess and Disney should not be allowed to continue to increase their profit margins using the sweat of hardworking women. These women deserve to be paid a living wage, to be given a safe working environment, and the right to be free of unwanted sexual harassment.” 

Peak of “Blood Mountain”

The environmental effects of fast fashion are also devastating. Both in the manufacturing process, and afterward. It takes around 40 years for an item of nylon clothing to decompose. Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter after oil. 

The idea was to reimagine a mountain in the form of greed and waste. Mountain, is considered the archetype of ascent and power – the bridge between heaven and earth. My work asks, what is the environmental cost of bloated man-made structures? And what is the role of feminism within such structures? Also, whose empowerment does the current iteration of the feminist movement serve? I find it hard to ignore the inherent irony in Western women proclaiming their feminist or pro-women stance via an item of clothing made by one of the 85% female garment manufacturers living in dire circumstances in the developing world. 

Sunset over “Blood Mountain”

I believe that in recent times feminism has become very trendy. The focus for a lot of feminists revolves around issues affecting Western women, who by comparison enjoy lives that are far less fraught than our sisters in developing countries. In this global world, we should rest easy with the knowledge that our clothes are made by people who are treated in a way that we would expect to be treated, sadly this is not the case – yet. Achieving the right to vote and equal pay took hard work and determination. And those things certainly weren’t won by wearing a $3 T-shirt that says “Girl Power”. 

Clothing from the pile

I would argue that it is our responsibility, as privileged individuals in countries like Australia, the US, Europe and the rest, to demand more from the companies that make our clothes. 

Future landfill waste

The clothing and apparel were supplied by Savers Australia. The staff stockpiled thousands of kilos worth of red textiles over several months for me to use. Had I not taken the items they would all end up in a landfill.

“Everyone Should Be A Feminist” T-shirt

“Feminist” T-shirt

“Girls Can Do Anything” T-shirt

“Girl Power” T-shirt

“Grl Power” T-shirt

“GRL PWR” T-shirt

“Feminist” T-shirt

Female Symbol T-shirt

“Free Spirit” T-shirt

“The Future Is Female” T-shirt

Debris and women’s empowerment T’s

“GRL Power” T-shirt

“Girls to the Front” T-shirt

“Feminist” T-shirt

“I Can Change The World” T-shirt

“Wonder Woman” T-shirts

Time lapse video of installing “Blood Mountain”