curated by Liselot van der Heijden
Robert Boyd, Elke Lehmann, Jillian McDonald, Momoyo Torimitsu
January 10 – February 9, 2008
Dress Code emphasizes the social and emotional impact of clothing. Since the relationship between the body and the public sphere is mediated by clothes, the art projects in this exhibition understand clothing as a vehicle for generating meaning, situating the body as part of a larger social construction.
The projects in Dress Code use clothing to examine the construction of identity within specific cultural frameworks like consumer and corporate culture, fashion, gender stereotypes, and a location where fears and anxieties are both a personal and a collective experience. The artists use humor and irony to communicate these complex social issues to audiences often unaware that they are part of an artistic project.
The projects use various strategies such as performance, public intervention, displacement, ready-made objects, as well as subversion and appropriation of mainstream media, commercial exchange, commodity objects and advertising.
The Virgin Collection was conceived by Robert Boyd while traveling through southern Spain. He was struck by the number of bridal stores and by the white-hooded robes worn by members of the Roman Catholic fraternity known as Nazarenos during Holy Week. Merging the two forms of gender-specific robes into one harmonious yet disconcerting ensemble disrupts and questions roles of gender, while the Nazareno reference can be read as a Klan reference.
The juxtaposition of different attires becomes a disconcerting conglomerate of ideals-virgin purity, matrimony, beauty, fraternity, supremacy. The Virgin Collection functions as a dislocation of these ideals. The work is fundamentally political in nature but utilizes transgressive qualities of mimicry as its core. While neither didactic nor proselytizing, the work is simultaneously critical, bizarre, humorous and frightening. Through its biting humor, it asks that these ideals be reconsidered and viewed again.
For Re-Bagged: First Collection German artist Elke Lehmann shopped at mega-brand stores including H&M, Puma and GAP to select materials for her clothing/packaging hybrids. Lehmann then employed various strategies to insert each shopping bag (sometimes even including the receipt and change) into the garment it contained, creating pouches, sleeves, skirts, hoods and adjustable design elements.
Dissolving the boundaries between container and contained, Re-Bagged: First Collection collapses the effectiveness of seductive marketing displays. Lehmann’s collection amplifies our consumer culture’s emphasis on packaging, brand names and logos and ultimately issues of waste and recycling.
Seams by Canadian artist Jillian McDonald is part of her ongoing series of performance interventions in public spaces that attempt to wrest everyday activities from their usual associations. In a downtown Manhattan storefront, one year after September 11 2001, Macdonald invited passersby to lend an article of clothing of personal significance, for the length of the exhibition. When participants agreed she asked them to speak with her about their personal fears and anxieties. Fears and anxieties are based on our personal and collective experiences. McDonald translated each individual’s fear into a personal protection message, to counter the fear. During 4 weeks, McDonald was present in the storefront, hand-embroidering into the seams and inverted places of these clothing items the individual messages for each owner. Seams was commissioned by The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
In the Miyata Jiro project Japanese artist Momoyo Torimitsu uses the stereotypical image of Japanese businessmen: “I made a life-size crawling robot as a corporate soldier to let him crawl on the streets of big cities in the world. It provoked a variety of different responses showing how people react to the stereotype and revealing their own cultural preconceptions.”
The Miyata Jiro performances triggered a variety of different reactions on the streets in New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, ranging from smiles and amusement to anger, to worries from people who took him for a real person. In addition to the videos documenting Torimitsu’s performances and the public’s reactions, there will be documentation of “Non-art” media reactions to the project specifically made for this exhibition. These are mainstream newspapers, gossip – and fashion magazines.
Dress Code was originally shown at the Art Gallery of The College of New Jersey.