dematerialization /de-muh-teer-ree-uhl-ize-shuhn/ n1. materials that mysteriously appear in shops, are used briefly, then seemingly disappear without a trace. 2. materials that do not matter [Latin: related to: de DOES NOT, materia MATTER]

The idea behind this installation was to juxtapose materials we value, with materials we give little value to. It is simply a travesty the amount of clothing that goes to landfill each week even in a small city, like Hobart.  The ONO Project, curated by Kate Kelly and Pip Stafford, held at the derelict baths building on the corner of Collins and Molle Streets, Hobart, offered a tremendous opportunity to create an installation that would highlight the disparity in the way materials are valued in contemporary society.

Although few people could care less about the amount of unwanted clothing that is dumped in landfill, many were filled with anger and disgust at the idea of the old Tepid Baths being demolished. A site visit revealed one of the upstairs apartments had been stripped of all its plaster walls and ceilings, leaving only the exposed frameworks and floorboards. A single room of one of the apartments was re-lined with clothing salvaged from the local landfill. The clothing was stapled in place replacing the walls, ceiling and floor coverings, leaving only an empty doorway to enter the room.

Clothing is something that many people buy on a whim, and don’t give a second thought to throw away, even if never worn. Charity donation bins are overflowing with unwanted clothing, most of which are perfectly wearable. So much so that charitable organizations regularly dump clothing in landfills, some of which is unopened, unsorted bags of donations. The simple fact is, there is way more clothing being discarded than there are people buying it. Even if it was all given away, there would still be a glut. The new market simply outweighs the second-hand market.

A considerable amount of clothing now is made from cotton, which uses an incredible amount of water to produce. An average T-shirt uses up about 4000 litres of water! Yet many of us wouldn’t think twice about throwing away a T-shirt. Not only is it a waste of resources, cotton buried in landfill will emit methane, the worst of all the green house gases, while it decomposes. Same goes for leather, linen, denim, hemp, or any other material used to make clothing that is derived from a living plant or animal.

The bricks, timber, glass and tile, that makes up a building is far more likely to be reused after a building is demolished; though an incredible amount still goes to landfill. Building materials are perceived to be more valuable than clothing, though this may not actually be the case. It is more a matter of what we assign value to. Ironically, the same protestors who may well chain themselves to demolition machinery to prevent a building being toppled, may over their lifetimes throw away tonnes of usable clothing.