From 2008 to 2009, I was living in Berlin. At that time, what I appreciated most about the city was its proximity to Eastern Europe. The Polish sensibility, and in particular the culture of kludge that was noticeably not German, fascinated me.
For a while I was making ends meet by buying clothes in Western Poland and reselling them in Berlin. About once a week I would wake up early, take my bike on the train, and equipped with several duffel bags bungee-corded to the back of my bike, I would spend the day zig-zagging through port-cities and villages, visiting all of the shops I discovered during previous trips. Before moving back to the States I sold my Polish secrets to an Icelandic boutique owner. I still keep my hand drawn map on a shelf next to my bed, like a mythical treasure map of a world that couldn’t be any different from New York.
I found my animal shorts in a bin at a pay-per-kilogram thrift store in Krakow during my first trip to Poland and my first time inside a Polish second-hand shop. After I saw these shorts, it was clear that I was onto something big. Still very cut off from the West, Poland offered a unique opportunity for thrifting since most of the clothes had been donated from Western countries. In this case, the shop, which was located in a Stalinist worker neighborhood near what has been renamed Ronald Reagan Square, seemed to get most of its clothes from Australia.
The shorts feature cartoons of Australian wildlife in a classroom setting, playing games and goofing off. It makes no sense why they would have been made in an adult size at all, which is particularly appropriate because I feel closer to my childhood self now than to the person I was just a few years ago. Wearing these shorts began to symbolize a form of protest, a way to let people know ahead of time that I wasn’t going to let them control me. Not only have they given me endless confidence in my own ideas, but they’ve also provided me with leverage to turn the tables on a former employer–because sometimes you have to out-weird people be taken seriously. These shorts are the new me!
Joel Holmberg is an artist living in Brooklyn who makes art on the internet and also with his bare hands. His CNN blog, nythymes.com, showcases and re-captions clips from the cable news network’s most neurotic moments on-air.