Oops there goes my shirt…

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During a recent cyber-stroll or rather quest for an out of London gallery jaunt, I stumbled upon the quite unique and imaginative space at Fabrica in Brighton. Housed in a spectacular old regency church in the hub of the city, the gallery uses its unique space to incorporate a wide range of installation art. While perusing the past and most recent exhibitions, Kaarina Kaikkonen’s The Blue Route immediately caught my attention not only for the incredible aesthetic serenity but also for the inherent nature of the artist’s work. Self-attachment and a sense of loss appear to be key drivers behind the work and the installation really does seem to raise questions about the resonant meaning ingrained in second-hand clothing.  The Finnish sculptor is famed for working with this unusual medium and her installations are often associated with the idea of path-finding and the road. In an interview found on the Fabrica website, the artist talks of self-reflection and personal attachment to garments and delves into this idea of clothing as symbolic or representative of the human being. Then I thought a bit more about history and meaning behind old clothes. Circumventing the obvious sustainability issue which lies at the core of this area, I thought to myself “what other forms of attachment are out there?”

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William Kherbek of PORT magazine notes reference to crucifixion imagery and links Kaikkonen’s installations to the Passion Plays of European history. For me, this is a really interesting approach to a return to theism in the arts which ties in accordingly to Robin van der Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen’s notion of the metamodern. An acknowledgement of uncertainty and a new approach gives way to a metamodern feeling and its development in contemporary culture  is something I will be exploring in future posts but for now this idea of religious referencing provides some bizarre points of contrast. An article entitled ‘Second Hand Clothes Could Have DEMONS in them’ quickly caught my eye for obvious reasons. Should we exorcise our clothes after a quick thrift store rummage? Clearly there are some who believe so. I think this probably takes the idea of garment’s having identities and history a bit far, but… each to their own!

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Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz who work under the composite name, Guerra de la Paz demonstrate other forms of relationship and attachment to used clothes. Aesthetically, their work is quite far removed from Kaikkonen but the medium and installation construction invites comparison. Finding objects rather than paths could be a generalised differentiation. The emphasis here appears to be more focussed around form and structure and the nature of mass-production and consumption in society. A specific earlier work from 2007 provides a stunning point of contrast to the Blue Route, particularly with regard to Kherbek’s notes. Martyr is an assembled mesh of recycled camouflage gear arranged and hoisted up in crucifixion posture.  An obviously more direct nod to Christian themes, the work across the board is just seriously cool. Diverse media and ironic points of reference make me want to see a whole load more!

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So old shirts seem to have been the focus here, now for some ridiculously awesome new ones.

 Sidian, Ersatz & Vanes are onto something seriously good. In the words of Bey, “If I were a boy”… I’d be all over this.

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