Symposium The Art of Fashion

Coppens, k

Friday 18th, I went to the symposium The Art of Fashion at Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam. After some mishap while travelling – the brand new extra fast HiSpeed train already breaking down (so HiSpeed became NoSpeed=NS) and a Rotterdam taxi driver who didn’t know where Museum Boijmans was (don’t they get to do an exam?) – I arrived too late, but not very. 

After curator José Theunissen’s opening speech and her announcement of the exhibition catalogue and the separate scientific volume issued for this event, we split up in three groups, with lectures and interviews going on in three rooms within the building. After Inga Fraser’s presentation of a large series of short films dealing with clothes and fashion transformed in art, I wanted to attend Luca Marchetti’s lecture, but the room was small, full and hot.

I therefore listened to the interviews with Anne Nicole Ziesche, Christophe Coppens and Han Nefkens. While Ziesche called herself an artist now instead of a designer, not making any difference anymore between art and fashion, Coppens clearly had difficulty with that because of his restrictions as designer. Nefkens, who had generously commissioned five fashion designers to make works between art & fashion for this exhibition, did not like labels as well. He did not consider himself a classic collector, but stated that art must communicate and so it has to be brought into the open – I liked that.

During the break I ran for the bookshop, enjoyed the September sun in the museum courtyard, and discussed with my students. After the break I attended the presentation by Judith Clark, who had curated the exhibition together with José Theunissen, and stayed on in the same room for an interview with Hussein Chalayan. Chalayan had an interesting talk how his roots and living in London created him an in-betweenness (between belonging and displacement, between optimism and melancholy), which corresponded with his in-between in fashion and art, and his affection for both the commercial and the artistic side of fashion. We were just in time for one drink, when the museum’s representant thanked the organisers and we were lead to the preview of the exhibition.

An exhibition that has been designed with some trajectory, but without a classic linear pathway. Connections are made between objects, but in a rather free floating manner, as Clark had already announced in her speech. In that respect, the spectator can even decide where art begins and fashion stops or viceversa, though the institutional museum context tends to declare all objects as art, as Chalayan remarked before. The museum makes it all more seriously, he stated. Still, I had a strong feeling that there was a lot of irony in the exposed objects, whether the temple and sarcophagus of Walter van Beirendonck, the women’s dresses as if standing in a wind tunnel by Chalayan, or the fairgroundlike dark passage where the strange smells by Vikor & Rolf reigned. Like trying to find a counterbalance to the seriousness of the museum. But I may be wrong; the intermedial world of fashion and art was just as new to me as to my students. It surely needs more analysis, theory and history. Next November and December we hope to do a first good move in that direction within my new course Contexts, Practices and Institutions of Intermediality.

Viktor en Rolf, k

~ by Ivo Blom on September 19, 2009.

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