• 06.17.13

A Striking Sculpture Of Used Clothing Questions Our Consuming Ways

Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen makes a ship out of clothing worn by workers in a Max Mara textile factory.

Kaarina Kaikkonen says her most recent installation, Are We Still Going On?, is “about all of us as human beings.” Which is an ambitious place to begin. More specifically: “We are all in the same boat, and the boat is our environment. So if we do not take care of it, we cannot go on. Or can we go on consuming? What about our economical situation–can we go on like this?”


Kaikkonen’s installations evoke, among other themes, environmental concern. Her very materials–recycled fabrics and materials, and in this case, second-hand shirts that “do not destroy nature”–express this. For her newest piece at Collezione Maramotti, in Reggio Emilia, Italy, she has sculpted a large metaphorical boat out of hanging fabrics. That the installation lives inside the old Max Mara fashion company’s factory adds irony to the site-specific work–most of the clothes used to construct the boat belonged to workers at the textile factory. The hanging shirts are suspended in air, like a massive choir of ghosts. They are relics of a bygone landmark that contributed to the area’s economy.

Unlike some of Kaikkonen’s other well-known works, Are We Still Going On? is immersive and interactive. For the Helsinki-based artist’s Way installation, she covered the steps to the Helsinki Cathedral in a gradient of used men’s jackets. Viewers could stand alongside the work or move back for a panoramic view. But Are We Still Going On? lets spectators shuffle around between the fabrics, which mimics the way they might if they were on the deck of a swaying ship.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.