Concerned about the unethical practice of child labor throughout the world, artist Cynthia Sibley has created an installation piece entitled “Shadow Children.” The intention is to help bring to light the suffering of millions of children worldwide who must endure a life of enforced labor and poverty. The installation consists of a structure that is a 10’x10′ room with walls made out of old musty tents. Visitors enter the structure, and their movements set off a series of triggers that illuminate the life-sized silhouettes of children. The action of setting off sensors by the viewer, corresponds to our actions in daily life that are often a catalyst or at least play a role in the plight of these children.
There are inner and outer layers of canvas cladding in order to create a space for the “shadows” and to reduce the amount of natural light inside the room. A series of events happen once the viewer enters the interior space. Motion sensors trigger lights that illuminate life sized silhouettes of 2 children inside the walls and also set off industrial kinds of sounds (clanging metal and machines running). Movement in different parts of the room triggers different sets of sensors. This action of setting off sensors by the visitors is meant to corresponds to our actions in daily life that are often play a role in the plight of these children — the role of being an active member of a consumer driven society.
In the center of the space, suspended from rusty, heavy pulleys and thick ropes is a set of worn and dirty children’s clothing. The clothes are arranged in the order of natural wear as if they were occupied by the body of an invisible child. Each rope is tethered to a cement block which has a spray painted image of some form of industry that incorporates the use of child labour. Examples include a factory, a sewing machine and a pick axe. This section of the room is illuminated by a cold column of directional light, much like the light shone over someone who is being interrogated. The room has 2 clearly marked flap style doors to encourage the viewer to walk across the floorspace, thereby triggering all of the motion sensors.
Incorporating the use of musty, old canvas tents, worn out clothing, and discarded items from building sites, the work is intended the bring to light the suffering of millions of children who endure an endless cycle of brutal labor and poverty.