The Names Below is a collection of four accordion books filled with images of folded paper take out bags, exhibiting the name of the assembler stamped on the bottom. The books highlight the names of the countless line workers who supervise the production of the bags, and eight out of ten of these workers are immigrants.The project was conceived by Alva CalyMayor in 2006, while the conceptual artist was still in art school.
CalyMayor tells The Creators Project, “I developed a lunch routine, getting a sandwich and bottle of water. My lunch was packed in a paper bag to go. At the printmaking workshop, every container and box is saved to store inks or materials, when I folded the bag, I found the name Jesus García (January 2006). I started to notice different names, and decided to save them. I felt a close relationship to them. My initial question began with their origin.”
Through time, CalyMayor learned that the names of the workers on the bag appear as a form of an honor system used by the bag making companies. Instead of using numbers to inspect the bags, the manufacturer utilizes names. CalyMayor calls this “a romanticized explanation for quality control.” She found that most of the names came from immigrant French‑Caribbean and Hispanic heritage. So the bags themselves became symbols of the immigrant experience for CalyMayor and reminders of their resilience.
“I felt satisfaction when I would have a bag with a name from a deli in midtown and then the same name would repeat from that one handed to me at the opposite side of town or near my apartment or school,” says CalyMayor.
The artist is currently working on a new edition of The Names Below to print the series and make it available in Latin America and the United States. The books will be available as a set of four as well as individually, and each book will maintain its accordion fold to further the ideas of the manufacturing process.
CalyMayor's works question patterns of mass consumption. For The Names Below, she will also make 60 box-sets available for pre-order so that she can offset the print and assembly costs for the art edition. She hopes that the books strike a chord with people about how the immigrant experience really does touch everyone and shapes our daily lives in surprising ways.
To learn more about The Names Below Project, click here.