The video might be uploaded onto social media, shown to friends and family or simply stored. Digital technology enables the generation of billions of pictures, with poor execution and not much thought, to be forgotten and left on some digital heap. People consume pictures of themselves, and other people hourly, through social media, these too are thrown on the pile. What worth does this ascribe to our own and other’s picture?
What about our clothing? That is so much part of how we project our image to others and one of the first things we notice about each other. The Benaki museum in Athens has some beautiful traditional costumes from different regions and times in Greece. Each garment and textile has a use, story or meaning that has stayed the same for generations. Some garments or objects are passed through the generations. People kept some items or garments their entire adult life, cleaning, mending and caring for them. Yet now, just like our pictures, material possessions are acquired and discarded with little effort or thought. Like taking out a smartphone to take a thoughtless picture it’s become habitual. Putting aside the effect this has had on traditional craft and industry, and the environment, what effect has it had on our sense of self?
Individuality is seen as a good thing, expressing one’s personality through physical attire is human. When changing fashions, rather than tradition, dictates our dress, how do we see ourselves as part of a whole, as part of a continuum or tradition? Does this change how we make decisions that affect people in the future, our grandchildren’s great grandchildren? When clothing (which was once kept and cared for) is thrown away in a season, or a year, or two what does that reflect about the rhythms of our lives?
These changes have been coming to a crescendo since industrialisation, which in the scheme of things, isn’t long ago (togas were in use for thousands of years). We are faced with more stuff, more pictures, more waste. What are we wasting?
These were the thoughts that wafted through Kelvy’s brain as she bumped along in the Vaporetto, watching the other tourists.
Photo credit: Ashton Applewhite, fellow Documenta goer and jumpsuit enthusiast, EMST, Athens, 23rd June 2017