The Cost of Business

2004

Materials: Cotton men’s dress shirts, paper, plastic water bottles

In The Cost of Business, dress shirts hang by their cuffs in a gesture referencing  the flight of birds. The dress shirts reference the larger world of business  and become the sky for small bird silhouettes. The shirts are made of  cotton. Today, approximately four pounds of pesticides and herbicides are used to produce each pound of commercially grown cotton, exacting a terrible toll on the environment and bird populations.

As we watch birds take flight, their dark wings beating against the sky, we often feel a part of ourselves ascend.  “As free as a bird” is a well-worn metaphor suggesting this inner feeling.

The four shirts dipped in ash represent the birds at risk of extinction. Below, the plastic bottles suggest a stream of water–the new technological stream of water that is widely used by workers and many others today. The use and manufacturing of plastic is also inflicting widespread damage on  bird populations. The cost of doing business is being paid in feathers. 

Unfortunately, today the freedom, health and lives of birds are increasingly limited  by many human activities and the majority of ordinary business activities. Their freedom and lives are curtailed by collisions with power lines, windmills, vehicles, and plate-glass windows. Their freedom to nest is lost as construction and extraction industries level forests, meadows, wetlands and other avian habitats. Their food sources are destroyed or contaminated by agri-business’ use of pesticides. Cumulatively, these human activities that we all engage in or indirectly support are leading to devastating declines in bird populations across the globe. Recent studies show that bird populations in America have been decimated—three billion birds have been lost  since 1970. 

© Deborah Kennedy 2020