Monday, 2 August 2010

Early 'Indoctrination' Notes


The relationship between fashion and contemporary art has been long and illustrious. From Paul Poiret’s patronage of the Impressionists in the 1880s to the globe-trotting Hermès H Box, fashion houses have always sought to keep the company of avant-garde artists, and use their increasing wealth to maintain the arts. In an austere period of government funding, with some arts divisions facing cuts of up to 40 per cent, such institutions as Fondazione Prada, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and Fondation Cartier are more important than ever as they continue to pledge funding and expertise to exhibitions, events, publications and schemes.

But what is the next step? How far can this go?

As a professional writer who in fact sees himself more as an artist who just happens to write, I have always sought to locate myself within the visual rather than simply literary realm. There is only so much you can do with words on a page, and who wants to stand for twenty minutes in a gallery reading a piece of text? I have thought about literature as an object (a display of beautiful books), literature as drawing (a handwritten text on beautiful paper hung like a final sketch, or as words and sentences converted into drawings based on an alphabetic grid) and finally, literature as installation/performance, an idea that really excites me.

In a performance – to state the obvious – viewers are watching you, scrutinising your hair, your nails, your varicose veins. Your planned actions are only part of the apparent picture. I recently saw a dance performance in which one of the girls was wearing dirty, grey tracksuit bottoms. I initially questioned whether they were a deliberate choice, but they seemed to fit with nothing else in the piece, so I can only judge that she hadn’t given any thought to her outfit at all. Her scruffiness – compounded by the bottoms’ bagginess, shapelessness and lack of support for her ample rear, not to mention the frizziness of her hair – compromised the performance. A projector had been installed to display a moving image before which she and her colleagues would dance and throw shadows. It looked as if she’d installed the work and in her excitement, forgot to get changed into something more suited to the performance, and at a Private View, on top of it. What the artist is wearing shouldn't detract from the actual performance, by means of being either too showy or too shit. There must be a balance.

An early idea I had in terms of merging art, fashion and writing involved ‘living’ in a glass box, that viewers could see into but I could not see out of. It would be a self-contained, furnished apartment, that I would never have to leave except in case of an emergency. I would eat, sleep and shit in it, wearing Prada, thereby enlivening the clothes as I sat at my desk writing my great novel. The installation would only end and be dismantled when I am done.

My written work is all about sex, art and religion. I tend to use the geometry and performance inherent in football as a motif, sometimes as the subject itself. As I prepare for my first group show, I must consider many variables if I intend to perform my contribution. I have earmarked my space within the gallery, a little closed-off room slightly bigger than the interior of a shed. It is a four day exhibition, not an unreasonably long period of time to spend installed within the space, writing. I want the space to be draped in black, with chiaroscuro lighting. Candles would be evocative but are precluded by Health and Safety, so spotlights will have to do. I want to sit on a cushioned chair at a simple desk, with beautiful stationery, maybe on a black cloth, writing. I want flowers, and canonical texts. I want the viewer to be able to see what I am doing, but not so that I am distracted, perhaps by means of a narrow gap in the drapery covering the doorway, and orienting myself away from the viewer by sitting with my back to the door. Already there are references to Caravaggio, Fantin-Latour and Duchamp, mindful of Christianity, Huysmans, Baudelaire, Goethe and Blake.

I want the viewers to see me from behind, and study the back of my head. I want them to crane their necks to see over my shoulder what I am writing. I don’t even really need to be there. It can be an installation or performance – the writing is as important a paradigm as me, so I can leave my desk and my hand-written work upon it and the piece will take on a different, and no less strong, meaning. If I am there, what I am wearing will take on equal importance to what I am writing and the rest of the installation. The clothing becomes part of the art. This is why I want to wear Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. The clothing and accessories – most notably, and desirably, the crown-of-thorns necklace – possess a silky, pious, monastic aesthetic, with an underlying athleticism, that embodies my sex-art-religion model. I have to set my sights high. No market trader looking to make a profit will start low and hope the prospective buyer ups his price out of generosity.

Givenchy is owned by LVMH, who are famous for art sponsorship on many levels. Such a small brand cannot compete with, for example, its label-mate and part-owner Louis Vuitton when it comes to splurging millions on Young Arts Projects and sponsorship of Chris Ofili and Anish Kapoor exhibitions, but might be able to lend me a few outfits to illustrate an exhibition that seems to reflect their philosophy in every dimension, no?

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