Honest Threads

Clothes have stories. Sometimes they are our own, and sometimes they are the stories of the people who wore the sundresses and neckties before we came across them, whether from older relatives or in the local Salvation Army.

Artist Iris Häussler adds another layer to that conversation with her current installation Honest Threads. Set up in a red room in Toronto’s infamous shopping emporium Honest Ed’s, Häussler gathered clothes from people of all walks and brought each garment’s story to life. Reading a story attached to a pair of black leather shoes provide a connection between the viewer to their former owner. A viewer can even “walk a mile”, as they are invited to take the clothing home for a few days. This turns what was an installation work into a performance piece, but only for the wearer — who else would know that your boyfriend is actually wearing Ed Mirvish’s shoes to the grocery store?

Becky Johnson recorded her borrowing experience on her always-captivating blog (photo above is stolen from her post). Personally, I’d love to hear more stories from people who borrowed the clothing — where did they wear it? How did it make them feel? They have started to slowly post this layer of the clothing’s history on an Honest Threads blog, but I’m wanting more…

What some other people thought of the show: Canadian Jewish News, The National Post, Now Magazine.

Honest Threads has been extended until March 28th at Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor Street West, 2nd floor, east wing. There is a free panel dicussion tonight, March 5th, 2009 at 6:30.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has seen the exhibit – what did you think?


4 thoughts on “Honest Threads

  1. What a wonderful and unique exhibit. One of the things that has always drawn me to vintage clothing is the story behind the pieces, whether known or imagined. In that way it has always offered an escape into a world of different experiences, out of the ordinary or everyday in nature. A blending together of art, experience, culture and history. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Because this exhibit allows you to experience putting on the garments of a stranger, it really encourages you to connect to stories of the past and bring your own story to the clothing. By breaking the taboo of touching something in an art exhibit, it also calls into question things like “what is a museum?” and “why are there barriers between art and reality/art and the everyday?” I think it’s cool that all the stories have equal value, and you’re free to sift through them, explore, and make your own connections.

    I also thought Martha Bailey’s comment was very apt, about this project being ‘distressing’ for a writer because it really highlights the limitations of words and focuses on the prevalence and potency of the object itself. No one is telling you how to feel.

    I go to The Grange members lounge to study/read, but have never taken the excavation tour, which I’m definitely going to do now. The panel presented a really interesting juxtaposition of the two shows.

  3. I was particularly interested by the discussion about dress-up being a form of transformative play. Like MJ said, touch and texture seem intrinsic to connecting to the garment’s power of memory or imagination, and one of the speakers said something interesting about the “truth of exchanging sentiments via objects”, which is interesting when you think about how much meaning the viewer, or in this case, the wearer, applies to the garment. Like how when you buy a vintage piece, you often invent a history for it, which makes you treasure it even more…. Buuut if you learn the “true” story behind the piece, it can overpower it (not in a bad way, but it completely affects how you think about the item).

    I think what was so clever about the Honest Threads exhibit was how there is no way to know if the stories are true or not, meaning the viewer can only truly engage in the stories if they accept the proposed truths. Leaving things unexplained is more demanding for the viewer, than knowing what’s “real” or not, I think it was David Moos who said, something like…”we need a new term for deception – to describe how artistic ‘deceptions can lead us towards truth”… and it’s interesting to think about how we automatically search out narratives for the clothes we wear…ie. Hm, this dress MAY have been worn by so and so in 1946… and how the act of inventing a truth may be equally viable.

    Not sure if I am making any sense…but the point is…this panel talk give me a lot of food for thought and I am still munchin.

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