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March 2006
Putting the ‘Cap’ in Capitalism
The Satya Interview with Ray Cross and Shaun O’Rourke

 

There’s a new shop in town that embodies the ideals of every kid who ever wanted to operate a gallery/studio/retail space/venue/hang-out, all with the focus of motivating social change. Set in Brooklyn’s newest trendy hood, the border of East Williamsburg and Bushwick, Antimart is home to this dream. Ray Cross and Garrison Buxton of Peripheral Media Projects, a silkscreen freelance collaboration, joined with Shaun O’Rourke and Dee Titus-O’Rourke of Black Irish apparel to start the project known as Antimart. Because the area has a concentration of creative artists, activists and students, as well as the Bushwick Art Project, Antimart has docked in an ideal community.

Appearing as a retail shop filled with politically motivated clothing, prints, cards and other art, Antimart is also a production facility with usable studio space for silkscreening, woodworking and more. Antimart also transforms into a venue for shows, lectures and tutorials. And with Ray being “an avid alley shopper/dumpster diver,” the space has been crafted out of nearly eighty percent recycled, found and gifted materials.

The Antimart focus? Uniting like-minded people and artists in a corporation operating outside of the usual model. Inspiring local and global connections, Antimart currently functions as an umbrella establishment for 20 independent and freelance clients—and growing. Antimart’s global networking goal is manifested by Ray and Shaun’s trips abroad to seek out fairly traded products in South America and Africa.

Antimart strives for people to be their own media and “make their voices heard above the drone of corporate America.” One way to do so is by sporting a political piece of artwork: an Antimart T-shirt, printed on sweatshop-free materials and silkscreened on site. Instead of the usual “F*%! Bush” garb we’re used to seeing on liberal New Yorkers, Antimart is smarter in their designs. From Peripheral Media Projects, there are “Riot Cop” prints and “Stop Driving” T-shirts—complete with an elegant paragraph about the destructive nature of driving on the back. Black Irish features their corporate America remix project T-shirts, taking corporate brands and reworking the meaning entirely. Featured mock-ups include, “Capitalist Classic” ala Coca Cola and “Exxcon” ala Exxon Mobile. Antimart truly is your newest political outfitter.

Ray Cross and Shaun O’Rourke sat down amidst buttons, fabric and silkscreens to speak with Maureen Wyse about their art activist paradise.

Why Antimart? The name, the idea, the people, the projects?
Ray Cross: We want to put this out as an ethical business, one that is community and network-based, working together for positive change both locally and globally. That’s why it is an Antimart, as opposed to a Wal-Mart or Kmart, which are huge chain stores looking to get things at the biggest discount from China to sell here, while offering the lowest pay for the labor force. We’re doing the opposite, we’re looking out for our employees, our suppliers and those selling our merchandise.

Shaun O’Rourke: For better or for worse, corporations have more rights than individuals. That’s why we chose specifically to do this as a corporation. We’re trying to get some of those rights back. We’re trying to have the same overall impact but in an ethical manner, supporting everyone along the production chain, from the sewers to the marketing, with social and economic benefits for the people engaged in this model. Our true hope is that we can level the playing field and prove a sustainable business model.

RC: I think about [Dead Kennedys singer] Jello Biafra’s “don’t hate the media, be the media” quote. It is just so good: Don’t hate the corporation, be the corporation—we’ll do that and support the organizations we want to support.

What does it mean to say that Antimart is “putting the ‘cap’ in capitalism?”

SO: [Laughing.] Basically the strict definition of capitalism is honoring the bottom line—maximizing shareholders’ value and investment in the company. If the environment comes up, it is just like “that’s for someone else to take care of 10 years down the road.” So we are “putting the cap in capitalism,” trying to kill that model. Showing that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still achieve profitability and good community standing without exploiting people or the environment along the way.

How does Antimart combat all the things you are against (imperialism, establishment, conventional, political, exploitation and apathy)?
SO: Awareness is the first step. So a lot of the things we do tend to provoke thought. Some of the shirts have quite a bit of information—graphs and technical information, things that you wouldn’t normally expect to find on a garment. A T-shirt is a much more functional canvas and it enables people to collect these pieces of art.

RC: Clothing is such a powerful media. I think our work on paper holds the same idea. Where a sculpture or a painting is more one of a kind and there is a certain economic expense that goes into it, ink or prints on paper, or stencil work is something that can be available and affordable to a lot of people.

[There is an] apolitical part, too. All these issues facing us—overpopulation, global warming—whether you vote republican or democrat, it is not going to change much. It will have to be a whole new network. This space and these people are an experiment in creating that, creating our own culture as much as possible.

Why do you heart NY?
RC: It is such a big place, with so much amazing culture going on that’ll never be talked about, reported or documented. People do incredible stuff for the hell of it. I love getting on a subway and seeing that someone has popped out an ad and put in their own art. Even the simple stuff, the little graffiti that make up this city. That’s what sets it apart. People always feel like they can write whatever they want or make that little note by the phone. Or put up that thing that they made. And that is what I think is really charming about the city.

Visit Antimart, 49 Bogart Street, unit 1G in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Open every day except Mondays. To learn more and find out about classes, workshops, lectures and other events, including their upcoming corporate clothing drive to raise sweatshop awareness, contact www.antimart.net or (877) 204-4964.


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