Every year, artist Trong Nguyen produces a new product for his company Humanitarians Not Heroes. In his words, the company “is an art project that doubles as mass commodity.” Nguyen uses familiar, accessible items like T-shirts, fortune cookies, vanity mirrors, and identification cards to blow your mind and make you want to purchase. The T-shirts bear the birth and death dates of people such as Gertrude Stein, Bob Marley, and Ho Chi Min, or dates of historical events or eras: the Spanish Inquisition, Prohibition, the ’80s. But names are not included, and like a club with no sign, that’s evidence of hip. Nguyen says, “The shirts hint at basic things like mortality and the celebration of life. At the same time, they are a question mark and quiz show.” Whoa. Whether you dress to comment on mortality or just to look good, these have the potential for addiction—collect all your favorite writers, artists, religious leaders, celebrities, scientists, royalty, wars, and more.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2004