by Tamara Leacock
Photo credits: Suzanna Finley, Galo Delgado, and Stephen Elliot
While in Mexico, I evolved in my relationship with fashion and the realm of the wearable from passive participant to activated protestor.
I alongside 40 other activists, artivists, scholars from around the world, and particularly across the American Hemisphere, participated in a wearable art / body art protest against the genetically modified agriculture where we debated, protested, and marched in the name of social visibility, land rights, and the right to live without GM.
When we arrived to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, we were presented with a problem. Monsanto, the creators of Agent Orange and the company responsible for the bulk of genetically modified foods in the U.S. food supply chain, was looking at Mexico as its next market, and in particular, Mexican corn. And we were faced with the task of, through the act of a protest, through the motion of moving through the streets, donned in hypervisual garb and thus embodied sartorial protest, calling local, national and GLOBAL attention to an issue that lead to a destruction of a people.
The emotions we felt? Confusion, anger, distress, psychic imprisonment, cultural anxiety, social anxiety, emotions propelled by the potential of challenging body on an issue that has affected bodies back home and around the world.
So, led by world renown artist and activist Jesusa Rodriquez, and digital activist/prankster Jacques Servin of the Yes Men, and alongside the actors/activists of Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya and world renown activist group Yuyachkani, we explore how to use our bodies, and the refashioning of our bodies, to raise awareness in San Cristóbal, and Mexico worldwide, of the spread of genetic modification and its continued impact on humanity.
We took to the streets, in naturally dyed pigments, fabric, food scraps, as two theatrical sides: HUMANITY/ People of the Corn and a re-fashioned interpretation of the corporate beast, Monsanto.
We succeeded in drawing a great crowd in the Plaza de la paz y la resistencia, a plaza at the center of the city where such actions often take place, and sought to settle this Humanity vs. Monsanto debate in the most fair way as possible: a dodge ball game. Each side enlisted help from the crowd, with only the side of Humanity achieving, and in the end…fairly and squarely, Humanity/The People of the Corn won, and most importantly, the very person who won the game was a young woman from the area who just happened to join in. In this act, we brought hypervisibility to an all too pressing issue, but most critically we succeeded in dialoguing with quite a number of children who may not know the politics of GM, but knew that “Monsanto is bad because they are trying to take the corn.”
The evolution of our emotions? Inspiration, adrenaline, joyful confusion, solidarity, vitality, affirmation.
In this overly chemicalized world, what can we do? Where do we stand? Continuing the conversation from a transnational to a hemispheric to a GLOBAL level so that Humanity DOES win in the end? How? By electing organic, staying active in our food and FABRIC consumption, making our governments and the multinational corporations listen while making sure that everyone in our lives is informed, conscious, and equipped to make the best nourishment and consumer decisions they can through various platforms, whether it be blogs or fashion collection presentations to spread the awareness.
And thus Spring 2014 season, I had the opportunity to feature a collection of 7 pieces, inspired by the act, inspired by the necessity to continue this conversation of Sin Maiz No Hay Vida on the catwalks of New York Fashion Week, and inspired by the needs to build upon the e-motions gendered through our moving sartorial protest. The collection was showcased at phenomenal New York Fashion Week event, Fair Fashion Runway, the best event of the season featuring designers and companies committed to ethics and humanity. The show reflects a collaboration between ethical lifestyle site, Magnifeco.com, the New York Fair Trade Coalition with amazing hosted by free NYC co-working space, the Wix Lounge and with amazing makeup sponsored by the Body Shop.
The collection featured 7 pieces, each representing different aspects of vitality, and in total, the ancient environmental philosophy of maintaining the planet not simply for this generation to enjoy, but the subsequent seven.
The pieces were highly embroidered with hand-sewn smocking, reminiscent of the textural beauty of the corn crop, gold and graphic fabric quilted into huipiles inspired silhouettes, hair and makeup recalling highly textured and e-motive global sartorial traditions, and bold red, magenta, black, and naturally dyed hemp, jersey, and sheet fabrics reclaimed and re-energized with the new purpose of social art.
The emotions felt from this action? Inspiration, peace, and creative exhilaration that we can as humanity, as individuals, artists, activists, scholars, AND ethical companies can move through our planet as a space of beauty, wonder, and joy, maintained for us and the subsequent seven generations to follow us.
Tamara is a founding designer of conscious demi couture line, ReciclaGEM by Tamara Leacock and founding blogger of reciclagem-themovement.com. As a current, M.A. degree candidate at Gallatin, Tamara is developing a thesis on strategies for decoding the imperialism embedded within the fashion system to enhance fashion’s role as an instrument for social justice.