Susan Silton covers entire museum in California with colorful tarp

Susan Silton - Inside Out, 2007, site-specific installation at Pasadena Museum of California Art, vinyl tarps, sandbags, pony clips. Photo Robert Wedemeyer
Susan Silton’s exterior wrapping of the Pasadena Museum of California Art in a striped fumigation-style tent
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer/pmcaonline.org

What did Susan Silton do?

Susan Silton’s piece “Inside Out “is regarded in two parts, while it is an exploration of the duality of stripes as mutually a signifier and as an extremely utilized decorative pattern. Her installation “inside” functioned as a store chock-full with numerous striped objects for sale, exposing the innocent function of stripes to decorate (and make more appealing) average consumer objects. “Outside,” covering the entire museum, laid fumigation tents frequently seen in the Los Angeles landscape covered in bright colors, and needless to say, stripes. Such tents often serve as exterior indicators of a pest infestation beneath it and are the recognized remedy for containing such infestation, however, these striped fumigation tents suggest at one of the stripe’s supposed historical functions as a symbol of otherness (long ago society’s outcasts including clowns, and prostitutes were marked to wear).

It seems that both fumigation tents and stripes are related to the function of othering those contaminated, whether socially contaminated for supposed moral reasons or for reasons of infestation – either way, these serve/served to single out people who are in one way or another deemed unclean or undesirable within mainstream society. The stripe has evolved over the years into a decorative item, as is made clear with the sale items covered in bright aesthetically pleasing stripes that are pretty enough to be a candy wrapper.

Why did she do it?

Silton’s installation, more than anything else, is a social experiment or a study, looking at the evolution of semiotics in contemporary times; the representation of beauty and othering (or singling out)- and how the means of representation are interchangeable. Silton’s experiment is pure brilliance, as she demonstrates how something that once was worn as a marker of what was thought of moral depravity (such as the scarlet letter) is now on baby’s clothes, throw pillows and other middle-class furnishings. Inside Out, if anything, will leave you thinking about the ways semiotics changes through time.

Pasadena Museum of California Art wrapped

Susan Silton - Inside Out, 2007, site-specific installation at Pasadena Museum of California Art, vinyl tarps, sandbags, pony clips
Susan Silton’s exterior wrapping of the Pasadena Museum of California Art in a striped fumigation-style tent

Susan Silton - Inside Out, 2007, site-specific installation at Pasadena Museum of California Art, vinyl tarps, sandbags, pony clips
Susan Silton’s exterior wrapping of the Pasadena Museum of California Art in a striped fumigation-style tent

Susan Silton - Inside Out, 2007, site-specific installation at Pasadena Museum of California Art, vinyl tarps, sandbags, pony clips
Susan Silton’s exterior wrapping of the Pasadena Museum of California Art in a striped fumigation-style tent

All photos courtesy of the artist Susan Silton/susansilton.com unless otherwise noted.

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