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Monday, July 9, 2012

Nonsense, or Authenticity? Rome's T-shirts

For years we’ve noticed the gibberish written on shirts sold in Rome, both in the markets and regular shops.  Most of it made no sense at all.  Until recently we thought it had to do with the Asian/Chinese origin of these items; we had assumed that the content was written in small shops in obscure Szechuan towns by uneducated(or at least not English-fluent) Asians who thought they were writing correct English.  And that, indeed, may have been true years ago. 

Dianne, from the State of Washington herself,
thinks this shirt may be a "second", in part
because it was being sold in an outdoor market stall.
But today that market, we surmise, is probably as rational and structured as any other, meaning it wouldn’t be at all difficult for buyers to insist on, and receive, shirts with correct spelling and perfect English.  Also, two decades into the China boom, it is impossible to believe that there are hundreds of Chinese out there butchering the world’s dominant language--unable to spell Washington--because they don’t know any better. 
So what’s going on here?  What appear to be mistakes and errors, we think, are in fact efforts to produce a new form of authenticity.  In a world of increasing homogeneity, the random, or nearly random, juxtaposition of words, ideas, and images--even the intentional introduction of errors—results in products with a claim to the unique, even if mass-produced.  In another "sign" of authenticity, many of these garments carry a date.  Whether all this amounts to genuine progress toward the authentic we aren’t sure.  But we do note the similarity to the postmodern, particularly the collage work of Robert Rauschenberg (right) and his ilk.
More photos below.       

This jacket for a small child is one of our favorites: "DEATH FROM" is such a nice touch!

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