Last night I serendipitously encountered this performance art piece in the Arts District of Chicago called “The Tradeshow.” A moving and critical artistic commentary on the garment industry, it provided unexpected closure to the international justice conference I had been at for the past two days at DePaul University.
A three-hour performance piece, I actually just caught the last
half-hour of "The Trade Show," which was just perfect. Apparently designed as an artistic exploration of the human cost of the garment industry, a mixed-age cast of performers
acted out various stages in the garment production process. Meanwhile,
looped video of garment workers explaining their work experiences
played behind them. Toward the end, the performers unravelled a piece
of fabric and stretched the thread all around the space, entwining each
other and the audience.
The proceeds from the performance went to two causes, one local and one
global. Coincidentally, both of them connected to the discussions on
the International Criminal Court. The first was to an activist
campaign to stop the use of extreme solitary confinement at the Tamms
facility in the area. The second beneficiary was the International
Rescue Committee, in particular their work with victims of rape in the
Congo and Darfur.
One of the performance artists made an interesting statement about how
when we look at situations like prisoners in high-security prisons or
the perpetrators of heinous crimes in Africa, we often divorce
ourselves from their humanity. She said that we mustn’t fall into the
trap of thinking of them as animals or unworthy of being treated
decently. Which is an important reminder even when thinking about the
10 indicted individuals before the International Criminal Court, who
stand accused of committing some of the worst violations of human
rights in the world.
I feel so fortunate to have found this performance, and wished that
other people who had attended the ICC conference with me had
“The Tradeshow” was created by Ann Heine, Erica Mott and Sheelah
Murthy. Co-presented by RATIO, a non-profit network of artists,
musicians, performers and supporters of the arts raising money for