Fashion Victims by Jane Winsett

Writer’s Reflection

All in all, I am pleased with the outcome of this inquiry. From the start, I was truly interested in my selected text and in the concept behind Yolanda Domínguez’s art installation. Performance art is great because it brings art to the general public; it is not just limited to a museum or a gallery. It was also good to look over past news articles and refresh my memory on the Bangladeshi disaster. It confuses me when people say they have not heard of the incident…

Talking and working with Kathleen during our class’s revision day was incredibly beneficial. During our one-on-one talk, Kathleen’s questions deepened my understanding of this inquiry and of the pros and cons of Yolanda Dominguez’s art installation. I added more focus to the shortcomings of her art project and to the advantages and disadvantages of posting a video (with a Spanish description) to YouTube.

The most difficult part of this inquiry was the word requirement. I am even having trouble writing a cover letter that fulfills the requirement. During AP Literature last year, I realized I sometimes have a hard time expanding on a topic. (This may or may not be because I prefer succinctness.) With that being said, I hope I successfully elaborated in the necessary places. I also hope I properly convey the significance of Domínguez’s art project. It is not easy to explain the significance of an art piece, especially when there is not a concrete canvas or piece of paper with the final result.


As a visual and performing artist, Yolanda Domínguez describes her work as a space to “generate social criticism and a reaction” (“Statement”).  For over ten years, Domínguez has created artistic works that question society’s norms and cause controversial reactions. Since graduating from Madrid’s Complutense University and earning master’s degrees in art and photography, Domínguez has led workshops on gender equality and has had solo exhibitions in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States (“Bio”).  As opposed to letting viewers remain in the background, Domínguez forces spectators to become involved with the creation process of her works.  In one of her more recent projects, Fashion Victims, Domínguez responds to the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza, an eight-story building in Bangladesh that, amongst other things, housed clothing factories.  A day before the accident, cracks were found in the building.  While the building’s shops and residential areas quickly closed, the garment-factories forced their workers to come in the next day for work. In total, 1,127 workers were killed in the collapse (Mobertz).  Fashion Victims places well-dressed women in front of popular stores in Madrid; however, these women are buried under piles of rubble, leaving only glimpses of high-heeled shoes and shirtsleeves to be seen by passersby, whose reactions are being taped.  Such a setup is meant to evoke images of the Bangladeshi women trapped under cement and debris – the very pictures that were plastered on the fronts of international magazines and newspapers.  This mixture of street and performance art is meant to draw attention to the unsafe working conditions for laborers in developing countries.  Bangladesh’s “lax labour laws” mean young, female factory workers earning the lowest salaries in the world do not have any type of protection (Ferguson and Jolley).  With that being said, Fashion Victims is “an appeal for responsible production and consumption, both for people and the planet” (“Fashion Victims (2013)”).  Domínguez’s art performance and subsequent video on YouTube leave an impact on viewers because it not only focuses on the Bangladeshi factory collapse, but also shows the importance of educating people on where apparel is produced.

Domínguez’s choice of location sets the tone for her art installation and indicates her targeted audience.  The performance piece takes place in one of Madrid’s large commercial areas, a space that assumedly garners a wealthy, clothing-enthusiast demographic.  The female performers are sprawled in front of Mango, a Spanish clothing company that uses Bangladeshi laborers to produce its clothes.  However, Spanish shoppers are not the only intended observers of Domínguez’s performance.  Because there is a video on YouTube that documents the art installation, Domínguez’s audience is not limited to pedestrians milling around the streets of Spain.  And seeing as the Bangladeshi clothing factories that collapsed were producing items for H&M, Primark, and a plethora of other popular international chain stores, the audience for Fashion Victims is all-inclusive (Frayer). Consumers in other wealthy countries also have the opportunity to be impacted by the art’s message.

The video of the art performance is interesting because it does not incorporate speaking, subtitles, or disrupting animations; these additions would merely detract from the intent of the project.  There is only instrumental music in the background of the video, and the occasional shouts or clicks of cameras from passersby documenting the scenes taking place.  Because of this minimalist filmmaking choice on Domínguez’s recording, viewers are not distracted by extraneous elements.  Instead, we are forced to both watch as the scenes unfold and to focus on the reactions of pedestrians walking by.  The simple editing approach to Domínguez’s video has benefits, but the lack of contextualization prevents Fashion Victims from being a truly effective art performance.  The message is essentially lost in translation. In addition, the video’s description is in Spanish. While this makes sense because Domínguez is a Spanish artist, it excludes a major portion of her potential audience.  If a non-Spanish speaker wishes to read the text Domínguez has provided, a translation is necessary.  Also, the title of the YouTube video is “Fashion Victims,” a vague name that will most likely only make sense to followers of Domínguez’s art career and project plans; however, seeing as the title is in Spanish, it might be lost on her Spanish followers.  In order for a viewer to fully understand her project, one must also have preexisting knowledge of the Bangladeshi incident.  It is safe to assume the type of person who will appreciate Domínguez’s creation is artistically inclined and familiar with international artists.

With that in mind, Domínguez’s decision to add her recording of Fashion Victims to YouTube is strange.  The popular video-sharing site is primarily filled with teenagers who enjoy watching pranks or music videos for popular musicians and bands.  Because of the website’s younger demographic, Domínguez’s message is potentially lost.  The actual performance of Fashion Victims is more successful than the video because it involves unsuspecting passersby and shoppers, whereas the only possible involvement on YouTube is limited to a 500-character comment.  Part of the art project’s appeal is the visible bewilderment and discomfort on the faces of confused pedestrians and shoppers, so adding a video of the performance to YouTube takes away that crucial aspect.  Viewers of the video do not get the actual experience of the live performance, and therefore miss out on a component of the art piece.

There is much variation in the reactions of those walking past the collapsed women on the sidewalk: some people gasp and rush over to the bodies, while others stop to watch or take pictures (Frayer).  Nevertheless, it is impossible for passing spectators to ignore Domínguez’s art installation.  The recording clearly shows the pauses and inquisitive looks of pedestrians.  Domínguez does not provide an immediate explanation for her audience, perhaps because she wants people to feel an impulse to investigate and to ultimately research the global issue at hand.  The delivery of Fashion Victims is simple because the message being sent to viewers is complex.  It demands that we investigate the labels in our local stores and closets and – hopefully – fight against the large chain stores that have been taking advantage of desperate workers for far too long.

In today’s society, the term “fashion victim” is used to describe a person who is unaware of current fashion trends.  After awards shows and movie premieres, it is easy to find the phrase mixed into the pages of gossip magazines and Internet articles.  In an interview with National Public Radio, Domínguez provides an alternate definition for the term: “The real fashion victims are not celebrities, but anonymous workers in poor conditions, in polluted countries” (Frayer).  As opposed to equating the phrase with A-list Hollywood actors and actresses, Domínguez believes the true sufferers are the enslaved workers of Bangladesh and of other poor countries.  Since the incident in Bangladesh, people have begun to question and research where their pieces of clothing are being made.  It is no longer possible to feign ignorance or turn a blind-eye to the unethical treatment of factory workers.  The collapse of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza resulted in the deaths of over a thousand innocent people, yet the consequences of the devastation led to a worldwide conversation about working conditions in factories and inspired a plea for change.

Works Cited

“Bio.” Yolanda Domínguez. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

Domínguez, Yolanda. Fashion Victims. YouTube. N.p., 29 May 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

“Fashion Victims (2013).” Yolanda Domínguez. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

Ferguson, Sarah, and Mary Ann Jolley. “Fashion Victims.” ABC. N.p., 27 June 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

Frayer, Lauren. “Fashion’s Victims: An Artist’s Focus on Garment Workers.” National Public Radio. NPR, 19 June 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.

Mobertz, Lauren. “‘Fashion Victims’ Installation Brings Bangladesh Textile Factory Accidents to the First World.” Rev. of Fashion Victims. DashBurst. DashBurst, 4 June 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

“Statement.” Yolanda Domínguez. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.