Fashion Abducted!

Art engages the gender aesthetics of fashion at the Kunsthalle

Tribal-glam ‘Golgotha’ | Photo: Steven Cohen

With its latest exhibition, “No Fashion, Please! – Photography Between Gender and Lifestyle”, the Kunsthalle Wien boldly ventures where established fashion fears to tread. Tossing convention aside, artists explore brazen alternatives while questioning the relationship between body and clothing. Attire and accessories support more unsettling environment, portraying the body as a living canvas or sculpture relating a visual narrative.

Art historian, editor and curator Peter Weiermair coordinated 19 distinct international photography presentations. Still photography, sculpture, film and video thus remain the settings for portraiture, documentary and staged situations.

These artists are familiar with the conventions of fashion photography, yet they wilfully renounce them with reckless and determined abandon. They exploit alternative perspectives in technique, visualisation and personal expression – tableaus with divergent story lines.

One is greeted by self-portraits of Matthias Hermann, a former member of the Staatsoper ballet: imposing photographs, bold in composition, nudity and colour. This audacious introduction is a proclamation of what awaits: One encounters not only art, but the artists’ and models’ emotions shamelessly displayed – brave and dynamic, mysterious and cryptic, delicate and vulnerable.

London-based, South Korean photographer Chan-Hyo Bae visualises feelings of alienation and identity, while American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia suggests a sense of detachment and mystery. Acclaimed American photographer/filmmaker Bruce Weber approaches nostalgia in two distinctly contrasting short films on suburban culture and perceptions of nudity.

The deconstruction of beauty, gender, and social relationships is engaged by artists such as New York University graduate Sophia Wallace, self-taught photographer Alex Prager and performance group Martin & The Evil Eyes of Nur.

The body is an image of art and performance in stills from British photographer Fergus Greer of Leigh Bowery, a prominent figure of the London club, fashion and art scenes from the 1980s to 1994. Australian-born Bowery was known for his startling and unconventional approach to performance art, culture, fashion and gender identity, and influenced Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood.

South African visual and performance artist Steven Cohen approaches body art through striking portraits, featuring painted faces adorned with glitter contrasting black lips and background in successful tribal glam. Shown are skull-piece high heels, which Cohen wore as he strutted down Wall Street and through Times Square, an act symbolising the overzealous reach of capitalism and the fashion business in maximising profits at the dead’s expense.

There’s a voyeuristic feeling to it, but also a sense of companionship, of accompanying these artists into uncharted territory – the subjective space in between definitions and outside categories. Art abducts fashion from its comfortable aesthetic domain and incorporates it into a distinctive world of challenging perceptions and reconstructed idealism. Artists’ varied perspectives merge to highlight the changing aesthetics of beauty, gender identity and body awareness at the convergence of fashion and art, and the liberation of emotion and expression.


No fashion, please!
Through 22 Jan. 2012
Kunsthalle Wien
7., Museumsplatz 1

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