A room with brown walls and grey cement floors filled with headless female mannequins wearing various outfits for a range of seasons. The colors are primarily black and white, with a few yellow, brown, grey, and red garments.

Love Letter to Andrea Zittel

Andrea Zittel, A–Z Personal Uniforms, 1991–2002. Installation view, Andrea Rosen Gallery, 2004.

Andrea Zittel has been making work preparing us for a pandemic since the 1980s. In the high desert outside of Joshua Tree, her wagons stations nestle amongst the boulders. These pods, tinier than the teensiest tiny home, ask a question with their very existence: what do you really need to live? Zittel lives her practice, paring down the junk of late capitalism: plates, cups, a second outfit. All are expendable.

Zittel explores isolation, limitations, arbitrary restrictions. What they may give us, and what variety takes away. There is liberation in choosing limitations. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts. A meal or an outfit is the one thing that gives us pleasure. To force variety would make life harder, not easier.

When we all got trapped inside our homes, it was Zittel’s project A–Z Personal Uniforms (1991–2002) that kept coming to my mind. For years, she’d wear one dress every day for a whole season. One perfect outfit, until nature demanded something new. Thinkpieces spewed forth, insisting that getting dressed every day to work from home would save you from despair. Absolutely not. Zittel had taught me that the silliest—or even the most painful—limitations still have something to teach us. I picked a black dress from Target, faux linen rayon. It felt like the tunics I used to wear at renaissance fairs. Putting it on turned me into a resilient Viking, who shits without toilet paper and can bake her own bread. I called it The Garment. I wore it until it ripped in half.