|Photo: Andy Stagg, Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London |
The exhibition “Aware: Art Fashion Identity” at Royal Academy of Arts finished almost two weeks ago and I still have the resonance of some of the imagery burned into my mind. Thirty artists and designers from all over the world were chosen to explore and share their visions of social identity. I visited the exhibition a while back and really enjoyed how it showed in a very clever and entertaining way, the staggering beauty of the world, depicted in a plethora of mediums. Divided into four sections (Storytelling, Building, Belonging and confronting and Performance) each piece highlighted how we use clothing as a way of communicating elements of our identity.
It’s really hard to pick out just one thing that really impressed me, but I was astounded by Hussein Chalayan’s performance installation; 'Son' of Sonzai Suru which was in the last section of the exhibition. Chalayan has been commissioned by the London College of Fashion and Royal Academy of Art to produce new work especially for the exhibition. The installation consists of a mannequin draped in a shimmering dress and three cloaked figures manipulating how the dress falls to suit their own needs. The contemporary dress was inspired by 300 year old Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet theatre and has Asian characters embroidered upon it. Three black figures surround the dress and each grasping at it, as strings in puppet show.
Looking at this installation I felt like I was watching a spectacle or rather the process of creating the perfect look. Of course, we are all aware of the manipulative element of the fashion industry and everybody knows how it works. The thing which touched me the most in this art piece is Chalayan’s ease in bringing together different cultures and creative disciplines. I really like the subtle and theatrical way the installation showed how industry can control and to a certain degree dictate what we, as consumers, should be interested in. This brings into stark contrast the ultimate dichotomy of fashion, pure in design and intention versus big business bottom line and share price indexes.