Studies for Model Citizen

Laura Carton

Studies for Model Citizen

Digital photography


Model Citizen consists of T-shirts with “CITIZEN” printed on the front. The artist and a small independent street vendor, both of whom wear the T-shirt, give them out to shoppers in Jamaica. To obtain the free T-shirt, the shopper must agree to wear it over his or her clothes upon receipt for the duration of their day. A banner at the distribution store entices the shopper with the advertisement “Are you a Citizen? Free T-Shirt Here!”

Though the meaning of the word “citizen” seems basic, the issues that it raises are complex. What is a citizen? What is the basis of citizenship? As the social and legal link between individuals and their democratic political community, the concept of citizen is intended to be inclusive, to provide equality in the marketplace, equality before the law, the fundamental social equality of all individuals, the right to be included in the process of collective decision-making in the political arena, and the right to receive the social benefits the state might distribute. But how do we as a country reconcile the continued and increasingly acute inequalities and exclusions of certain citizens? What if an individual is not a citizen? What does it mean to be an “alien”? What rights, if any, are afforded the alien? What kinds of black market economies develop as a result of these classifications? What happens if an alien wears a shirt proclaiming him- or herself a citizen? These are some of the questions that Model Citizen seeks to pose.