Cargo presents a series of clothing bales, of the kind found in the second-hand industry, carved in marble and rendered alongside abstracted volumes of steel. These constrained and condensed bricks of fabric, with their interwoven and baroque folds, are arranged on six recycled nylon palettes. Each pallet is constrained to a cubic volume composed of three layers of an alternating chiral pattern, reminiscent of masonry stacking. The simple lines of the black geometric frames further articulate the block volumes, giving contrast and focus to the individual bales.
The clothes represented in the bales are Seton’s own, accumulated in his studio over seven years of tenancy. Every piece of clothing has a story. In discarding an old shirt or a worn-out pair of jeans, we are shedding pieces of our past. It’s been said that we remake ourselves every seven years. The clothes in these bales are like so many skins shed as Seton changes as the years pass.
Each bale is a compressed version of the long tradition of fabrics and shrouds in the narratives expressed in tropes of classical statuary. The individual stones of each bale correlate to different periods of the artists own life, youth spent in the Wombeyan Caves area, years of study in traditional statuary of Bianca Carrara, exploration of the palate range of Statuary and Badiglio, and finding of a sense of place and appreciation of local textures and colour in Katoomba Green.
The work is at once personal and materially biographic, and politically charged, speaking to the economic and environmental impacts of the second-hand clothing market. Australians discard over 500,000 tonnes of clothes every year. Some 15% of these clothes will be sold second-hand within Australia. The rest either end up in landfill, or are bundled into bales such as these to be shipped abroad, often travelling many thousands of kilometres and crossing numerous national borders in their journey through this global economy.
There are many stories folded into these transient bales, caught in the ever-faster cycles of profit and (correlating) environmental impact. In creating effigies to these discarded garments, Seton offers an encounter with our own complicity in the systems that result in landfill that will outlive us many times over, the destruction of local textiles industries, a culture that consumes fast fashion at ever-increasing rates, and waterways stained whatever colour is running through the mills that season.
Each bale speaks to the interconnectedness of our world, the complex webs of needs and concerns, war and trade that drive us. In spending many hours meticulously carving these flocked effigies, Seton slows the pace of these entwined systems, pausing to consider their momentous impact on our environment, culture, economy, and the developing nations that bear the brunt of our insatiable appetite.
Throughout his practice, Seton has often used clothing and fabric to speak to the body and how it participates in the systems that structure our world, whether economic, geographic or social. From the ubiquitous hoodie politicised by the shooting of Trayvon Martin, to the makeshift tarp shelter of the refugee and the empty life jackets washed ashore the Cocos Islands, cloth serves as a humble reminder of the deep and messy entanglement of the personal and political.