Dysfashional #6: The imagination that makes fashion

La Orfanelle, an installation by Antonio Marras, 2006.
La Orfanelle, an installation by Antonio Marras, 2006.

Fashion is a paradox. Its skin-deep and transient nature makes one never take it too seriously. Yet good fashion is nothing but serious. It is art that stems from deep contemplation about aesthetics and self-identity.

The French Cultural Center (CCF) opened its Le Printemps Francais or art festival this month with “Dysfashional #6”.

“As a fashion exhibition which does not exhibit clothing, ‘dysfashional’ shows that fashion is beyond the objects that materialize it, an unstable state of sensibility,” says the event’s program booklet.

Some 15 art works curated by Italians Luca Marchetti and Emanuele Quinz, in the form of installations, videos and photography from European and Indonesian artists are exhibited at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta from May 8 to 15.

The Jakarta edition of this exhibition marks the first time “Dysfashional” is presented in an Asian country. The first edition was held in Luxembourg in 2007. Lausanne, Paris, Berlin and Moscow also hosted the exhibition in the following years.

Marchetti and Quinz approached designers and artists to participate in this exhibition on fashion that did not feature products such as clothing but “the imagination linked to fashion”.

CCF Jakarta director David Tursz said in the press briefing on Dysfashional #6 that the exhibition showed French culture from a more European perspective.

“To present France not alone, but really as part of this European state,” he said.

Turnz added the event also opened up opportunities for Indonesian artists to be involved in the festival.

Ruangrupa artist collective, Jay Subiakto with Stella Rissa, Davy Linggar, Deden Hendan, Oscar Lawalata, Dita Gambiro and Kiki Rizki with Erika Ernawan participated in the Jakarta edition of “Dysfashional”. Their works were exhibited alongside installations from European artists including Justin Morin with Billie Mertens, Antonio Marras, Hussein Chalayan and Michael Sontag.

The range of ideas and concept explored by artists in one simple theme of fashion is broad. The theme brought out contemplations on the body, urban lifestyle, fashion as protection of identity, and nothingness.

The first installation at the entrance of the gallery represents the different languages used to express the idea of fashion and beauty in Germany and France.

To visualize this, Parisian artist Justin Morin — who was in residence in Berlin in 2009 — and Belgian designer Billie Mertens observed how women in Berlin and Paris wore their hair, in a collaborative work titled Babylone.

The work features two columns, one with different shades of colorful wigs and the other column made of blonde and brown hair.

Morin when speaking at the National Gallery last week, said he had noticed many people with colorful hair in Germany. “Housewives, women between 50 and 70 years old with strange hair cuts and dyed hair,” he said.

As someone coming from Paris, he found this interesting. “It’s a cultural representation of traditional beauty. Like it’s very normal for them [Berliners] to have these very strange haircuts. I think maybe for them French women are very boring,” he said.

Morin explained he focused his attention on hair because he wanted to work beyond the ideas behind clothes. At the first and second edition of “Dysfashional” in Luxemburg and Lausane, he noticed “everyone was talking about the clothes but nobody was talking about the hair”.

In addition, Morin said hair was part of his personal story as his mother was once a hairdresser until he was five years old. “It’s an old souvenir for me,” he said.

British-Turkish designer Hussein Chalayan’s 2004 short film Anaesthetics can be seen on a big screen as visitors walk further into the gallery. The 11-chapter film shows how rituals and codes of behavior in fashion can work as anesthesia. “With aesthetics you can anesthetize the violence of life,” Quinz said on Chalayan’s video.

Photographer Davy Linggar revisited the 2005 work he created with Agus Suwage in Pinkswing Park (Adaptation), which ignited the furor of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) for the nudity it contained. The original Pinkswing Park described the life of Adam and Eve, with models Anjasmara and Isabel Yahya posing nude in the picture.

In the adaptation of his own work, Linggar created a black and white version of the park and left a blank spot where the models once stood. The picture was then placed above a dresser drawer with lit candles on top of it. “This represents the death of freedom of expression,” Davy said in the gallery. “Someone’s morality should not be judged by one’s nakedness,” he said.

Antonio Marras’ Le Orfanelle is a poignant piece on the life of unwanted babies in Marras’ hometown Sardinia. His installations consist of white frocks hanging from the ceiling with dim lights shining from the bottom of the frocks. Quinz said the idea came from the Sardinian custom of leaving unwanted babies at the doorstep of monasteries and donning them in a white frock.

Marchetti noted the fresh perspective Indonesian artists brought to the exhibition. The Jakarta exhibition aroused a sense of exploration in him. In Europe, Marchetti and Quinz commissioned works from new artists for the exhibition. “Even if each piece of work, even if each new art work was new, we had more or less the feeling we would know what would come out,” he said.

According to Marchetti, there is a common aesthetic in Europe with some differences between countries. “There are common points, common aesthetics, and common ground,” he said.

“Arriving here we could feel the exhibition was really going to be an exploration or discovery,” he said.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Features | Thu, May 12 2011

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