This afternoon I braved the snow to attend the Cultural Experience Award - this time we were at the Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street near London Bridge to explore the T-Shirt exhibition and art as activism.


T-Shirt: Cult, Culture, Subversion - exhibition open until 6 May 2018

I have to be honest - I've never really thought about T-Shirts as anything more than just clothes, however as I walked around this well-planned and informative exhibition I thought about clothes as performance. One of the things I'm fascinated by, generally, is the claim that identities are inherently theatrical; rehearsed and performed. Therefore, the clothes we choose to wear are our costumes: they create our characters.

Think about it: how long do you spend choosing your outfit before a night out, or a job interview? Thinking about "Who do I want to BE today? What do I want this outfit to SAY about me?" We use our clothes to inform others about our identities, and T-Shirts are often used as an extension of this performativity.

T-Shirts in the exhibition. I particularly liked the one on the left; it is understated, simple (and a nice cut!), yet the tapering letters imply that the 'optimist' who is wearing the garment may not be particularly optimistic after all! Placed in the 'Revolution' section, this takes on political nuance - is the wearer not optimistic about the outcome of the revolution? Or not optimistic about the future in general?

T-Shirts, as a garment shape, have been around for millennia, although, thanks to the slides and labels in the museum, I now know that the term itself was coined in the late 1800's. They can convey messages ranging from brand identity (as a uniform), fandom (band t-shirts), or political affiliation. To wear a T-Shirt that clearly shows an aspect of your identity is a strong choice - it's public, it's obvious, and it can make a statement about what you believe in, stand for, or simply like. Something that really struck me was the amount of politicised T-Shirts that affiliated with LGBTQ+ views - maybe because the T-Shirt itself is a unisex garment?

Political messages on T-Shirts ** T-Shirts as art

After we spent some time in the exhibition, we met with the artist Jenny Leonard, who led us through some art activities designed to inspire us to think about the messages we send through our choice of clothing, including prompts such as 'design a t-shirt that you would wear when meeting an alien', or 'the first word on the shirt is "Beware..." ' - this was a fun challenge as we were only given thirty seconds for each design, which really helped me tap into my creativity (if not my sparkling artistic talent!). We even had the opportunity to create our own T-Shirt messages 

Playing with T-Shirt designs, and thinking about Art & Activism - please don't judge my drawing skills!

I didn't quite get time to finish my T-Shirt, but I went with my Life Rules! They are words to live by!

The exhibition was well-laid out, the activities were fun, and I definitely found myself considering the ways in which I present myself, and convey my identity, through my clothes. 


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