3/8/10

Illuminated Manuscripts

So, I interviewed the wonderful Brad Walsh for East Village Boys and it came out last week. PLEASE GO CHECK IT OUT. He's really smart, and I really like that.

I've blogged previously about Comme des Garçons S/S 1997 'Lumps and Bumps' collection. The A/W 2010 collection definitely seems reminiscent. I think the 'Lumps and Bumps' collection has been on the minds of a great many people lately. I know, personally, that it's one of the main search terms people use to find this blog (other popular searches: "Kelli Ali teeth", "Peggy Bundy feet"). For another thing, the brilliant girl genius Tavi finally published her account of going to Tokyo to meet with Rei Kawakubo, mentioning that her own favorite CdG collection was this same 97 one. I think it's important to note that often with any given collection, Kawakubo gives journalists a word, phrase, image or idea that she'd been thinking of while putting the collection together. The phrases, images, or whatever, are typically vague, inscrutable and sort of mystical. For last season's bratty recap /reclamation of the trends Kawakubo had inspired in the last year, which were then ripped off, the phrase was "Adult Delinquent". The 1997 collection was referred to as "Body meets dress - dress meets body", which I think is important in looking at the newest collection, for which Rei Kawakubo gives us the following: "INSIDE DECORATION"



So, alright. Both collections are about demystifying (maybe re-mystifying) the female form. Notions of ugliness and beauty. Making new shapes. Gotcha. Though to use Kawakubo's themes / credos, it seems like the 1997 collection was about a kind of discourse between a wearer and the piece of clothing, right? It was about two things meeting, and the tension between the physical bodies. I don't know if I totally agree with the reading of that collection as trying to emulate hunchbacks, tumors, or other deformed body parts. I think there's a slight distinction between "mutant" or "hybrid" and "deformity". As in: synthesizing new shapes, instead of somehow deconstructing, damaging old ones.

So I am having similar thinking with this collection too. I think Cathy Horyn is pretty spot-on, about usually everything. But I disagree that the shapes we're seeing in the new collection are supposed to be about exposing organs, or that the bunched shapes in the skirts are meant to depict intestines. I think the phrase of "interior decoration" is less about exposing than about finding a new modes of embellishment.



So much of high fashion, it seems to me, is about luxury, craftsmanship, embellishment. Even after the recession, it seems like a certain amount of gaudiness is kind of... necessary, somehow. Implied. I keep thinking of those huge Dior couture dresses. Or Karl Lagerfeld's shimmer. It takes a lot of work and it is physically and psychically heavy. What I think Kawakubo is doing here is illustrating some ways in which we can embellish, decorate, craft and build up, from within.



These clothes seem to me to be much more about fortification. Like, what if ONLY the interior form were decorated? What would that mean the outside would look like? Instead of adding new shapes to put together a new silhouette, she seems to be building from within, and letting the silhouette explode outwards. I think the idea is a bit more organic, more logical maybe. I am into this idea of invisible, interior decoration. Illuminated manuscripts. Embellished in careful, productive, un-showy ways. Decorated to the point of breakdown, of ugliness.



In the Marina Abramovic article I quoted in my previous post, she makes a comment about how every culture has some sort of ritual for mortification of the flesh. The idea is, roughly, that by systematically killing or torturing the physical form, you can prove that some part of humanity (say, the soul) is eternal. You can strip away the flesh and you start to discover the divine. I think the tack taken by Ms. Kawakubo here is sort of the opposite: fortification of the flesh. By building up from within, by adding strength to the form, we drastically change it, we are forced to reckon with new shapes and new physicalities, and this wrestle with the forces that animate these new, imaginary shapes. You can see the whole collection here.

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