Moderna Museet, Stockholm
September 25 2004 – January 23 2005
Curated by: Salka Hallström Bornold, Lars Nilsson, Lars Nittve, Magnus af Petersens
Participating artists: Vanessa Beecroft, Bless, Hussein Chalayan, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Alicia Framis, Anne Valérie Hash, Martina Hoogland Ivanow, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Maison Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Steven Meisel, Benoît Méléard, Lars Nilsson, Terry Richardson, Yinka Shonibare, Jun Takahashi, Viktor & Rolf.
Stating the obvious
The exhibition Fashination at the Modern Museum in Stockholm is a large production curated by the Museums director together with one of the museum’s curators, a participating artist and a fashion editor of a Swedish lifestyle magazine. The buzzwords for the exhibition are “cross fertilization,” and the artists chosen are supposedly actors in the field working with the perfect marriage of Art and Fashion. Art and Fashion have traditionally played in two very separated fields, where fashion at times has knocked on the door to art, but art has not been interested to meddle with something not considered “high brow.” Unfortunately most pieces included in Fashination points to the fact that the words “cross fertilization” tend to reinforce the differences between genres, rather than the similarities. Even the best example of an actor crossing boundaries from the fashion side towards the art, Martin Margiela, who really have produced groundbreaking things in the past of this particular field, exhibit totally toothless work – photography, the common fashion ones – in the show.
Other photography in the show includes Inez van Lamsweerde and Vanessa Beecroft from the more “arty” side, and Martina Hoogland Ivanow and Terry Richardson from the fashion side. These actors are supposed to meet in the same ringside, but unfortunately it is a loose-loose situation, and their works seem to have randomly been thrown in the cake, and the lack of context that could make the pieces remotely interesting becomes evident. A key to Beecroft is, for instance, that her ideas and concepts are placed within the artworld and not in a fashion context. For Richardson, a interesting key for his work is quite the opposite – his photography is hip within the fashion world because it’s arty. When the context the pieces seem to need is lost, the pieces loose their enigmatic touch too. Steven Meisel is the only artist that rises above the context of the show that seem to lower any ambitions rather than giving the pieces a boost, as his photography are so fetishist and glossy de luxe it becomes almost ironic, but it’s not and his photography glows in comparison to the others. Bless, the brand and the designer duo, also present interesting work in an installation that leaves several interesting question marks and one wants to see more. However, the overall impression is that all the pieces included in the show experience the same problem with the conceptualization/the theme of the show – or shall we say, the lack of concept in the theme of the show – regardless on medium, genre or field.
Another problem with crossing boundaries like this, is what Hal Foster calls “the used car syndrome” – it’s about how people from different fields will always get attracted to the most conservative ideas from the other fields, and always end up with: “you buy my used car, I buy your used car, and we end up with two really shitty cars.” When the talented fashion designer, Hussein Chalayan, known for his abilities to cross boundaries make an “art video” for the show, he unfortunately uses all stuffy clichés you can think of on how an “art video” should look like. Terribly enough this is also the case with the artist Yinka Shonibares first attempt in making a film, Un Ballo in Maschera 2004. The dancers in 18th century cut dresses made out of typically “African” cloth, are performing the analogy of the assassination of the Swedish king Gustav III on a masquerade in the year 1792. The result is an archetype of a pretentious dance video from the 1970ies.
The show could easily have been more interesting, had the curators not stated it was an exhibition crossing boundaries, but instead just assumed the obvious and natural situation of showing a Fashion exhibition (with a capital F) within the Institution of Art (with both capital I and A). The discussion whether or not the objects/films etc. are “art or not” would in this scenario become quite unnecessary as the fashion would in a natural way be included within the concept and context of art, and it would also be more in the line of the reality of the boundaries between art and other disciplines. If one could disregard the lack of theme one could instead concentrate on the pieces, how they interact with each other and how they work in a broader sense. Some pieces included would by then have become really interesting. But that would have been a completely different show.