11 May 2009
Generally when I dress I cut a rather shabby shape — old clothes, sometimes ill-fit. At best I’ve been complimented on my uniformity of dress. (In college, I wore white t-shirts and jeans with a ritualistic rigor; more recently I’ve become fond of black denim and button up shirts topped by a Filson vest that looks like it was cut from a single piece of thick, Beuys-like felt.)
No matter my personal style I can’t fight the allure of beautiful clothes; nor the sense that the last twenty odd years have seen a repeated incursion of art makers who use them as their medium of choice; nor the observation that, no matter what subculture these artists emerge from, my favorites seem to tropism toward the same aesthetic: psychedelic colors explode the eyes’ capacity to order what they see, a patchwork aesthetic that baffles even the thrift-store trained mind.
I’m speaking here of the gay Australian-British icon Leigh Bowery; the proto-indie, American collective Forcefield; the African-British, institutionally-approved Yinka Shonibare MBE (MBE!); and, most recently anointed, the Midwestern dancer and professor Nick Cave. (Visualizations, which I’ll try to prioritize over explication, come after the jump.)
This art world meme I’d like to delineate draws an odd narrative. The crossing of geographical and sociological boundaries makes no sense. However, the psychographic implications — to borrow my favorite term from the advertising & branding trades — are another thing, entirely. I’m hoping this short jaunt will draw some conclusions about that shared mentalities of the practitioners, tying this all together with a neat little bow. (Like a drawstring on the back of a dress, like a particularly eccentric cravat.)
Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis