Monday, October 31, 2011
“Dressing Room / Garment Work” - Elizabeth White & Anne Elizabeth Moore, USA
Curated by Nini Palavandishvili
Project was shown in the framework of Artisterium, 4th Tbilisi International Contemporary Art Exhibition and Art Events
October 31 - November 10, 2011
Anne Elizabeth Moore and Elizabeth White are artists from the United States who occasionally collaborate on social practice-based projects in regions undergoing great economic or political change. This collaboration combined two previous projects, both addressing the role of women’s work, appearance, and labor in the international garment trade and fashion industry. Dressing Room / Garment Work was presented in the Silk Museum, a beautiful formerly state-run facility now undergoing a rebirth—although the silk industry, itself, is receiving no such revitalization. This disparity between public celebration and economic development comes under scrutiny in Dressing Room / Garment Work.
Dressing Room (2006) explored the relationship between self and reflection in the social and psychological site of the dressing room. In U.S. culture, women in particular are held responsible for learning the language of clothing and for developing the related but separate skills of shopping and dressing. Everywhere we go, our female bodies are regularly surveyed as meaningful territory on which social status, personality, and moral character are written. Thus the capacity to project the way in which we wish to be received indicates mastery over our appearance and provides a sense of power within a system over which we have little control. Housing many of our hopes and fears, the dressing room then becomes a space in which this quest for power is continually played out through repetitive self-scrutiny. In this private space we evaluate what will be our public appearance, considering ourselves as the objects of others’ gazes, simultaneously looking and being looked at. Making public my self-surveillance, projections show me trying on dresses and looking at myself in an endless loop, pointing to the awkwardness and interminability of our efforts for satisfactory presentation of self. Filmed separately, the two video feeds amplify the distinction between self and appearance and interrupt the viewer’s privileged voyeuristic perspective.
Dressing Room has been exhibited at the Visual Arts Gallery in New York.
Garment Work (2010) was conducted by Anne Elizabeth Moore in residence at the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, formerly one of the largest and longest-running textile mills in the world. A site for early radical socialist organizing and a haven of sorts under the GDR, the Baumwollspinnerei took a heavy hit when the Berlin Wall fell, and let most employees go, eventually ceasing production entirely and opening its doors to artists and galleries. Local demand for textiles, however, did not decrease in 1989, nor the products they are made from. Germany took advantage then of an international policy called the Multi-Fibre Agreement, which was intended to allow the world’s most impoverished countries the chance to enter the lucrative industry. Today, however, this agreement has ended, alongside the local benefits it ensured, so Cambodian women now make t-shirts and jeans for the US and Germany and others under extremely difficult conditions. The video distills 34 hours and 36 minutes of work into an hour-long video of Moore’s durational performance, which involved taking apart a pair of jeans with her bare hands under the contemporary conditions of the former textile mill. Garment Work is a meditation on capitalism, integrity, loss, and perseverance.
Garment Work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei in Germany, Meta House in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and DoVA Temporary at the University of Chicago. The video was screened at “Our Demons,” a part of the 2011 College Art Association conference in New York City. 
Elizabeth White and Anne Elizabeth Moore were residents at GeoAIR residency in July 2011.