Mercury Lung – Chouchou & Coco
Based on our research of sweatshop, sweatshop workers, and the fast fashion industry, we decide to design an installation about the dark side of the fast fashion industry (mainly about the environment pollution and the ignorance to human rights). Our installation will basically look like a human lung with a silver chrome surface. When the audience interact with the “lung”, there will be alarm noise, interior light changing, and smoke effect to deliver the message that the interaction is harmful to the “lung”.
Concept, design questions, goal
The concept of the project is mainly to tell the audience that the action of shopping fast fashion clothes would lead to severe consequence. Just like the reality of the fast fashion industry, there are hardly any protective measures provided to sweatshop garment workers. One of the most common diseases the workers have is the lung disease, because of the ungraded cheap materials they work with every day, and the lack of protection to their respiratory tract. Therefore, we choose “lung” as the form of the installation.
To build the connection between the audience and the “lung”, we will create the “lung” as a clothing shelf. There will be fast fashion products on the shelf (the “lung”). As long as the audience picks up the fast fashion product from the shelf, which presents the consumption of fast fashion product in reality, there will automatically be sound effect and multiple visual effects to warn the action.
Our research is mainly about sweatshop and the harm of sweatshop. Sweatshop is a kind of factory using cheap labor for a large amount of production, which mostly refer to the fast fashion factories. Speaking of sweatshop, people usually think of the extremely low wage and the ignorance to human rights and safety. We will present the installation from the perspective of a sweatshop worker to show their uneasy condition due to sweatshop. Besides, we also find sweatshop and the connected fast fashion industry are causing environment problems for using materials not meeting environmental standards and dumping untreated waste materials to cut down the cost.
Audience & experience
As soon as the audience picks up the product from the shelf-structured “lung”, there will be loud alarm sound, fog effect, and dazzling light effect around the installation. Those effects are designed to warn the audience that the action of picking up the product is wrong and urgent. In other words, to buy fast fashion products equals to support the industry chain of sweatshop, which would lead to the unhealthy condition of the “lung” (presenting the health condition of sweatshop workers and the environment). Fog effect would also symbolize the air pollution caused by sweatshop of releasing untreated waste chemical gas.
Technically, we use light sensor to detect if the cloth is taken or not. When the light sensor detects light, it will trigger the three small installations to function (fog, light, sound). During the process of creating the “lung” structure, we changed several times changing the form of the ceramic pieces. Firstly, we planned to brush green color onto the fired ceramic pieces, and then add a layer of glaze. But due to the workshop schedule, we cannot get the firing done until the end of the final week. Though we had finished brushing the glaze, we changed to spray a silver chrome layer to the pieces’ surface.
Prototyping & testing
Since the theme would be sweatshop and fast fashion industry, we decide to cooperate a clothing rack structure to the installation. To build connection of sweatshop workers and the audience, we decide to make the appearance of the project into a huge “lung”, and to present the lesion of the “lung”. At first, we planned to use wood to build the shelf. When the clothes are taken out, the dark side of the shelf will be exposed, which symbolizes the health problem of the workers and the ugly side of the fast fashion industry.
In consideration of the difficulty of cutting wood into a precise and complicated shape, we changed the plan to make the structure by ceramic pieces. There will be 4 holes at the corner of each piece and we will use wire to connect the holes and to build the structure into a specific shape. Since the ceramic pieces turned out to be heavier and more fragile than our expectation, the pieces broke at the corners when we add pressure to the structure. We changed the building order several times to ensure each piece is receiving a proper pressure.