GONE TOO SOON – Daniel Arnan Quarshie

A solo Exhibition by Daniel Arnan Quarshie.

Gone Too Soon is a poignant reminder of the imminence of death, drawing on old master Vanitas paintings. The show mainly focuses on the life cycle of clothes as a metaphor for the cycle of human life and bodies. Clothing is the closest thing to our human bodies and a universal element of human life. I am particularly interested in used and discarded clothes as marks of time and embodiments of the histories and memories of the use of their previous owners. The material evokes a sense of presence carried by its literal presence and the idea of it being an archive of the touch, use, and memories of human life. This sense of presence is ironically countered by an equal sense of absence that comes with the anonymity of their past owners. I see discarded clothes as bodies that have come to an end of themselves, reminding us of the passage of time, the frailty of life, and the surety of death.

“Remnants II”, a sculpture made up of discarded refrigerators and clothes, evokes an ironic sense of familiarity and estrangement. In this piece, the clothes have been buried inside the refrigerators, which have themselves been rendered empty and doorless, in allusion to tombs. One refrigerator stands on top of another with clothes sprawling from inside of them as if in an attempt to escape. By stuffing clothes that protect the body against the weather in machines that preserve using cold, I draw an analogy between machines, clothes, bodies, and climate while referencing dead bodies in morgue freezers. Filling the empty refrigerators with the clothes that normally don’t belong there is a play on the sense of absent-presentness that comes with the objects. 

Gone Too Soon involves charcoal drawings made from stacks of discarded clothes that were collected off the streets of Frankfurt over a period of time. Each drawing was composed by digitally layering and manipulating a number of images of the clothes in Adobe Photoshop. The resulting compositions are montages of interwoven time, space, and histories associated with various anonymous human lives. The exhibition traces the journey of the clothes, which are mostly mass produced in the global south, worn in the global north, and shipped back to the global south as second-hand goods and waste. The layered compositions reference the layered manner in which textile waste in Ghana and other third-world countries builds up over time into mountains. The show speaks to the politics of capitalism, labour, overconsumption, and environmental degradation associated with fast fashion. 

The title of the show was taken from one of the many elaborate captions of obituaries punctuating streets and neighbourhoods in Ghana. While insinuating the transient nature of life as intended in its original context, “Gone Too Soon” also hints at fast fashion and its ramifications. The sculpture and drawings in the show are accompanied by a sound piece appropriated from a jingle that popularly accompanies hawkers of NBA Herbal Balm in Ghana. The import of the song, which is sung in the Twi language, is that humans will be dead before they believe. 

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