TEL AVIV.- The exhibition "Fashioning the Object: Bless, Boudicca, Sandra Backlund" conceived by Zoë Ryan, curator for the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, explores different practices and representations of identities via clothing.
The presentation of fashion (whether haute couture or "ready-to-wear" clothing) in the ivory towers of the art establishment poses a special challenge as it introduces a contradiction in terms: emblematic of the apparatuses of constant change, fashion is akin to a sociological capsule of the present moment, whereas the museum represents a slow, compressed time which pinpoints the present along a historical continuum, providing a seal of approval and canonizing by means of its retrospective view. Can such a presentation preserve the vibrating, vibrant quality of fashion as a cultural form, without transforming it into a ghost? How can fashion's performative quality be sustained inside the museum?
The exhibition is constructed as three environments: The Bless Environment is a domestic-collagist space, a montage of real and illusive, concurrently transpiring around, within, and outside a curtain of colorful metal coins. The curtain, which occasionally functions as a sound-blanket as well, serves as a surface for diverse objects: accessories, artifacts, and clothes (ranging in quality between vintage and meticulous nonchalance), and magazines in which the Bless collections were hosted.
Bless was founded in 1997 by German designer Ines Kaag (b. 1970, graduated from the Academy of Art and Design in Hanover [Fachhochschule]) and Austrian designer Desirée Heiss (b. 1971, graduated from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna).
The Boudicca Environment is a space of videos, photographic/filmic essays, or montages of stratified narratives and images, sequences of reality-dream which draw on multiple disciplines, and manifestations of human existence. In this space, the human body becomes a theater of hybrid body images, computer animation, and poetic texts, set against a soundtrack ranging from the classical to the electronic-psychedelic.
Boudicca was founded in 1997 by Zowie Broach (b. 1966) and Brian Kirkby (b. 1965), both graduates of Fashion Design from Middlesex University, England.
Sandra Backlund's Environment engulfs the viewer with a choreography of tactile knit pieces, cycles of orders and connections, replete with gender associations, which convey sophistication and intricacy. Backlund's sensual knitwear has a constructivist DNAarchitectural knitwear made of layered loops, presented on busts installed on tripods, with photographs of the works as backdrop. The photographs' close-up aesthetics, conceived by Swedish photographer Ola Bergengren deviates from the prevalent genre of fashion photography. His photographs transform the perception of clothing, which momentarily resembles abstract objects.
The Swedish Sandra Backlund (b. 1975, graduated from the Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm) opened her studio in 2004.
The exhibition was conceived for the Art Institute of Chicago and shown there from 14 April 13 September 2012. According to Zoë Ryan, curator for the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago: "Bless, Boudicca, and Sandra Backlund are among the most visionary fashion designers working today. Harnessing a conceptual and intellectual approach to design, their practices are located firmly within the fashion industry, yet their work is not driven purely by market forces. In Instead, they are aligned with the avant-garde tradition of designers who sought to transform the landscape of fashion through pieces embedded with visual narratives drawn from daily life, including early-20th-century notables Elsa Schiaparelli and Cristóbal Balenciaga, later luminaries André Courrèges and Mary Quant, and more recent creators such as Martin Margiela and Hussein Chalayan. Like these designers, Bless, Boudicca, and Backlund view fashion as a critical forum for dialogue and exchange, as well as an armature for understanding our place in the world. However, they endeavor to move beyond previous practices by drawing on an even greater spectrum of ideas inspired by disciplines as diverse as fine art, performance, design, and architecture to create work that responds to the social, political, and cultural environment and explores the creative process. This ambitious approach both allows and requires the designers to extend their practice beyond clothing. Moving away from traditional presentation methods, they embrace a more cross-disciplinary approach, harnessing film, photography, graphic design, and architectural installations to create work that revises traditional methods of fashion presentation and provides tools with which viewers can further engage with the designs. These multifaceted methods, illustrated here in three distinct installations, enable the designers to construct narratives that frame their clothing and accessories and provide insights into their working process, emphasizing their ideas and inventive spirit and ultimately offering more complex readings of their work. The result is a rich oeuvre that overturns conformist approaches to fashion and suggests alternative methods that open up the world of clothing design in an effort to emphasize the cultural and social significance of fashion and encourage fresh thinking and discovery."