Saleema Waraich
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The politics of wastefulness and ‘the poetics of waste’
Ruby Chishti’s sartorial interventions
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The rise of British colonialism in South Asia was intimately tied to the British desire for cotton, which eventually led the British to manufacture cotton quickly and cheaply ‘at home’ while crippling local cotton industries in South Asia.  In recent decades, the drive to capitalize on consumer desire for clothing has reached crisis levels, with fast – or ‘throwaway’ – fashion destructively changing the relationship between people and the clothes they wear, and wreaking havoc on the environment by affecting climate change and creating mountains of waste. This chapter focuses on Ruby Chishti, an artist trained in sculpture at the National College of Arts in Lahore and now residing in New York. Chishti’s relationship with fabric over time is examined as a path for recovering clothing’s possibilities and potential, while stressing the costs – environmental, human, personal – of clothes that are designed to be quickly thrown away. Chishti’s early engagements with clothing sought to maintain connections to absent family members; after relocating to a new country and losing her family home in Pakistan, she attempted to construct a new ‘home’ untethered from a physical location. Her later monumental installations connect to the forced migrations of refugees and larger geopolitical and environmental crises. Her choice of practice and material engages with a series of issues plaguing society, including those related to fast fashion. In particular, Chishti’s more recent works with discarded clothing transform cheap, ephemeral waste into sculptural/architectural monuments, thereby resisting the abbreviated (by design) lifespan of fast fashion and reflecting upon its ramifications.

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