Monday, May 9, 2011

Fashion: the aesthetic of shocking and entertaining

By Paolo Villalba Storti

The aesthetic of our days is a complex idea because it’s something that is constantly changing, imposing different values and qualities to define it. But, it could be possible to accept that the aesthetic of our 21st and 22 st centuries is shocking, now that it’s a big deal to break up with the traditional parameters of beauty for establishing a new form of representation in art, fashion, mass media, architecture, etc. Hence we can see the triumph of the provocation inside the aesthetic of our times, a shock aesthetic.

NOte: This image was taken from the work of the fashion designer 'Alexander mc Queen'.

To specify more this reflection, I would like to write about the phenomenon of fashion as a transgression of different aspects related with the traditional way of perceiving the images from a contemplative way, promoted by art of paintings, sculptures and architecture during the 17 st and 18 st centuries with the beginning of museums, galleries and academic institutions of art, until a new idea of entertaining as a consequence of the apparition of a new aesthetic that has a relation with mass medias, publicity, design, fashion, art, etc. Every one of these areas shares their aesthetic concepts between them. No wonder fashion uses multiple references of the art context and vice-versa. That was the case of the exposition at the Museum of Antioquia, in Medellin, 2 years ago, with the exhibition of some clothes manufactured by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.

Consequently, we are in a new period of time where museums and other art institutions exhibit other kind of production of images and objects that aren’t necessary conceive as art, in a traditional meaning. For that reason, we’re having new visual experiences closer with the idea of the evaporation of the traditional aesthetic of beauty to something more ephemeral, I mean, a new way of conceiving the aesthetic not in a restrictive way but an expanded vision where art takes ideas of the publicity, design, fashion and mass medias and vice – versa.

NOte:This image was taken from the work of the fashion designer 'Gareth Pugh'.

Due to those circumstances, fashion context is a new form of extravaganza and situationism that is constantly taken references of art to produce ephemeral and striking images like Gareth Pugh, Valentino, Alexander mc. Queen or Agatha Ruiz de la Prada use to do it. Both are successful fashion designers that are constantly exposing their clothes in museums and galleries as a new form of expression, closer with the new idea of art that started to conform during the last 20 years as an expanded aesthetic phenomenon. This is an example about how the aesthetic is changing in something nearest to the idea of shocking and entertaining. It’s like a new way of see art as a soft thing that is constantly changing.

NOte:This image was taken from the work of the fashion designer 'Valentino'.

In other words, the fashion aesthetic uses to change constantly in different products that make references of other visual contexts as we could see in the work of these fashion designers. The fashion aesthetic has a commercial aspect too, now that it produces artificial necessities. Furthermore, we’re in a society of consumption and for that reason, fashion is frequently creating stereotypes about personalities which confirm that is at the same time a politic matter.

If I say that fashion is a politic matter, is because it has the possibility to construct identities. On top of it, it works as an historic document to learn about the traditional ways of consumption of a particular age or period of our society. Fashion establishes the institution of consumption by the homogenization of the human appearances as a kind of simulacrum of liberty, now that the fashion machine is persistently selling the idea of freedom to use anything that you want to wear as a costumer but, in reality, it’s alienation because there are series of the same clothes that people begins to consume.

In fact, this phenomenon in fashion is known as a ‘prêt – a - porter’, which is a French expression that means ‘ready to buy it’. In other words, the ‘prêt – a - porter’ notion develops a new structure of fashion, basically producing the same clothes in series with the same materials and forms, I mean, the same manufacture, according with the demand of consumption. This is a simulacrum of democratization, but it’s nearer with some kind of alienation.

Note: Lady Gaga using a meat dress. This is the claim of uglyness in pop culture as a consequence of the promotion of a shock and provocative aesthetic. But, at the end, it's a copy of other referents of art.

In addition, fashion is in a constant ‘déjá vu’ because it usually re –takes elements that it was common on other periods and it comes back again. For example, when Lady Gaga came out with a meat dress for a musical event, specifically at the MTV Video Music Awards of 2010, that wasn’t something original because in 1987, a woman artist, Jana Sterback, made a performance using a dress made by putrid meat; that piece was called ‘Dress for an Albino Anorexic’. In our days, everything’s a copy of an imitation and fashion isn’t the exception.

Note:‘Dress for an Albino Anorexic', Jana Sterback. 1987.

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