Project: Family Tee Series, 1991.
The Family Tee Series consists of a small child's t-shirt collection bearing photos from a family's archive – in this case the family is my own: each t-shirt bears a different image which, reproduced on acetate from the original photograph, was then heat transferred to the chest of the white cotton tee, making the photographic record of a personal history newly accessible; each image renders an intimate record of transformed expectations and circumstances; each successive generation is seismically removed from those previous. The t-shirt itself, originally an undershirt unfit for outerwear in much of the world, is emblematic of the intimacy of successful colonization: not unlike Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Rock and Roll.
This transformative use of what is now a commonplace multimedia application transfigures individual history to the status of popular consumption. The child, often not allowed to handle photos, inadvertently, through the collection of t-shirts, becomes a vehicle for her or his own historical placement and social/political narrative.
Ironically, the diversity of experience and place evidenced by this particular series lends itself explicitly to making a spectacle of one's own identity and circumstances: the images themselves alternately expose, impose, and/or are exposed to a perverse hierarchy of interest wherein the exotic opposes the mundane in the arenas of the sacred and the profane. Not all histories will be (are) similarly endowed with cultural cache, begging the question: what can multiculturalism be for those who may not know themselves to be of (a) culture or as 'having' history?
NYC © Tracy Ann Essoglou 1991
Excerpted from the artist invitation; exhibition, Micro-Colonization, 1991:
How far is it between the imperial centers and the colonies today? Another exit on the freeway? A plane flight? A flight of stairs? Around the block? Across your bed? How do you measure this distance? How is it traversed, acknowledged, ignored, determined, maintained? How do the vestiges of colonial practices survive, indeed thrive, in the microcosm of your local environment? How do they relate to your own sense of place? Where do you locate yourselves in this complex?
A/C invites responses in the form of 'local' work; the critical art you've made that is experimental because it shows the colonial experience in your life. This is not a request for autobiography in the sense of philosophical, spiritual, or psychological development, but for a record of the dynamics of the environment through which you move every day, or a symbolic history of the systems which have placed you and against which you identify yourself in relation to the world.