This portion of the gallery is a dark place, reached through a blast door pulled back into a still-darker groove during visiting hours. The room is large but crowded—many people, many children. Illumination shines here and there, and into the light there loom cases of glass, within each at least a few objects now bereft of function. Here and now, these artifacts have been placed so that we may remember them. With dignity they sit or hang, informational placards explaining the purpose they once served, each and every one receiving its due as a part of history.
I am drawn to the largest installation, located in the echoing room’s center, surrounded by the young and the old, who stroll or skip past and look with interest at the item, moving about and studying at it from all sides. It is a garment, and is mounted accordingly.
The garment imitates the human form, the empty sheaths that were once animated by limbs hanging limply on the sides, gloves, shoes and all, the chest supported with stiff and forthright pride by a hanger. It is made of some rubbery, glistening substance, colored scarlet and crimson.
The suit is small—a child could wear it with little in the way of bagginess. It was not made in the form of a child, however. The thighs are marked with long black streaks that draw attention to a growing curve; and the bust is distinguished by a pair of distinct protuberances that the tailor had made of stuff firmer than the rest, stuff that is highlighted in a paler orange—he (it must have been he) did not want the observer to miss them.
They are so small. She must have been so young when she donned the suit, when she took on the burden given to her. It glows red as blood in the incandescent light; its color recalls that which gives life, but it is itself lifeless, a static thing put on display, to be viewed by all. Inert—a hanging, rubber thing—this garment appears flimsy. It lacks the warm, sturdy flesh that once innervated it. But its material is not easily torn.
I look at the placard corresponding to this artifact. It reads:
PLUGSUIT, manufactured 2015
Courtesy of Nerv-01, Massachusetts
No mention of the person who once wore it. I suppose that her name does not matter, in the end.