© 2010 Saty + Pratha saty-pratha-royal-academy-12

Art + Fashion + Identity at the Royal Academy.

“The exhibition examines how artists and designers use clothing as a mechanism to communicate and reveal elements of our identity.” So says the statement for the exhibition. Not exactly revolutionary. But don’t let the clichéd brief deter you, there are some really fantastic works to be seen at the Royal Academy’s fashion-focused exhibit. Here are some of the things that grabbed our attention:
Helen Storey’s Say Goodbye. In this work, we are shown two identical dresses, their styling is part-Rodarte, part-Corpse Bride (is this one in the same?). One dress is intact, the other is in a state of dissolution. A commentary on society’s fast-food-consumption of clothing, these dresses are made from a biodegradable material that disappears when exposed to water. I thought the display/dipping mechanism was gothic looking, maybe because I am perpetually in a ‘gothic’ phase, or maybe because we had just seen The Other Boleyn Girl and have guillotines on the brain.
Susie MacMurray’s Widow dress! From afar, this full-length gown seems soft and tinsel-y, we wanted to run our hands over it. But, when closer, we saw that the dress is made from thousands of shiny-sharp pins! All pointed outwards, intending to repel and harm. The workmanship on this piece was exacting, and is deserving of all the gasps and awe it undoubtedly draws.
Cindy Sherman’s Dolls Clothes. This tiny 8mm film is so beyond amazing! It has a simple concept – a paper doll gets dressed in a variety of outfits – and like all of Sherman’s work, it features herself as the ‘doll’. Watch it, it’s a great example of a clean idea with an excellent execution! Advance apologies for the video being a bit doge, it was made it 1975:

We also super-loved Gillian Wearing’s Sixty-second Silence, a video in which a grouping of police officers are set as if posing for a group photo. Though uniform in clothing and posture at first, each member of the grouping starts to (naturally!) fidget as time elapses, showing us their individual personalities! Here is a still from the video as it starts out:
Sharif Waked’s Chic Point is a great little video of Palestinian men being subjected to searches at check points by the Israeli security forces. He uses repetition as a tool to elicit emotion – man after man lifting up shirts to show that their torsos aren’t adorned with bombs or dynamite or contraband makes me as a viewer feel embarrased and angry on their behalf. But the accompanying video, a good idea in intent – a catwalk show featuring a line of bodysearch-friendly clothing – is, unfortunately, quite corny in production.
Yinka Shonibare’s Little Rich Girls are a grouping of dresses offset by a peacock blue display. From this piece, I learned that all the amazing batik fabrics that are associated with African countries we actually imported to the continent by the Dutch! When we got home, I fell into a googling-rabbit hole, and found that the rainbow-bright fabrics were first made in Indonesia, and industrialized by industrious Dutchmen. But the patterns were too much for the Dutch homies to handle, so they shipped it off to their colonies instead. Not to be outdone by the Dutch, the English started producing similar fabrics in Manchester (ha!), and shipped that off to their African colonies. Vintage globalization!
Other famous/notable works shown are videos of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece and Marina Abromavic’s Imponderabilia performance pieces. And, Hussein Chalayan‘s ‘Son’ of Sonzai Suru installation is somewhat ugly … and hella scary!
P.

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