Tiny Containers


Custom bathing suits

In collaboration with Surya Mattu and Sarah Rothberg
More&More Unlimited (an Illogistics Company™)
Suits: Print All Over Me

More&More’s flagship project, Tiny Containers, is a series of swimsuits that visualize the global circulation of stuff, bringing the overwhelming system of complex trade relationships to human scale.

Tiny Container swimsuits represent the contents of shipping containers, arguably the most important facilitator of globalized trade. Containers are black boxes, their contents nearly interchangeable, as far as the system is concerned. Containerization and the abstraction that surrounds it allows the flow of the shipping system to continue for its own sake. These swimsuits suggest that despite their invisibility, humans and the ocean are part of this flow.

For the first iteration of the suits, on exhibit at bitforms in 2016, we used data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, an open API that is used to track nations’ import and export products and volumes. In order to visualize the data we created a glossary of icons that corresponded to the 1,256 4-digit categories that determine import-export trade:

The swimsuit textiles were generated using More&More’s custom interface that offered visitors a chance to track what else might have come along with the product of their choice from a specified country of origin.

In the second iteration of the project we focused on creating national “portrait” textiles by visualizing nations’ world’s fair share—the export products that dynamically make up the majority of a nation’s export identity (see the post Greetings From______ for more on Italy and Somalia’s “fair shares”)
The term “trade hyperobject” became our mantra—a wormhole into logistics that we could find no way out of. The more we researched about global trade, the more it seemed that the idea of nations was quaintly obsolete. One would fare better to reconsider provenance labeling on products to say MADE IN CHEAP or MADE IN EXPENSIVE.

Here are some alternate textile examples that focus on particular national exports: