I wanted to pay tribute to the workers who lost their lives in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire back in 1911.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was a tragedy that resulted in massive garment worker labor reform. It occurred on March 25, 1911 and was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the New York city, and one of the deadliest in US history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged 16 to 23.
The factory, a sweatshop, was located on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the Asch Building, at 23–29 Washington Place and is now the Brown Building, part of NYU’s campus.
Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice aimed at deterring theft and preventing employees to take unauthorized breaks – many of the workers could not escape and jumped from the high windows.
“Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits”
I opted for a subtle and respectful approach. The door depicted is locked, similar to that of the doorways locked in the factory. As someone on the outside, when you approach the door and make motions to hold the handle, you hear sounds of fire. When you turn the handle you will notice that it is locked.
For this process, I found part of a door and scorched it on my stovetop to achieve the look of being burnt – as an item that could be found in the rubble after a fire. I used a photo resistor to detect the proximity to the object so I could trigger the sound of fire.