I am not really into fashion so I didn’t know what to expect during the exhibition and even by looking at the website of The Future of Fashion is Now I had no clue whether I am gonna appreciate this kind of art or not. My fondness for Adele Varcoe started when I visited the exhibition. It was divided into 3 parts and it was the last one which seemed to me totally unclear and thereby intriguing. Ironically it was precisely this part –New Values and New Stories– in which I found this amazing artist who is taking fashion into a higher level, looking at it not only as an outfit but more as a factor indicating our behavior.
Adele Varcoe is an Australian artist. She is not strictly a fashion designer but her works are directly lined with fashion. She is creating experiences which are suppose to show the social effects on clothing. Adele is mostly constructing group performances in which she brings people together in order to explore the elusive nature of fashion. She wants to outline the sense of self which is heightened through the clothes.
While making her performances she likes to mix the participants, working with artists, models but whats mostly important with the public. She is interested in revealing how fashion influences the interactions and relations between people. Adele often uses the quote “perception of dress” which in her opinion is the subconscious behavior of the society depending on what we wear and in what situation we are.
The performance which I saw in the Boijmans exhibit and which invited me to learn more about Adele Varcoe was the salon fashion show Imagine Chanel. It was in 2012 when she came up with the idea of presenting fashion experience through language. She used the descriptions of garments from 1920s till 1960s Chanel archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Powerhouse Museum as material to reveal the role which our imagination plays in looking at fashion. The main goal of this performance was to highlight that fashion is not something that exists as dress only. The fashion show is led by a woman reading the descriptions of Chanel outfits while nude women circle between the audience acting as they were wearing all the precious, described cloths. This situation gives the audience a broad field where by using their imagination they can design their own clothes worn by the models.
Adele’s concept is based on the professional opinion of a sociologist Yaniya Kawamura [x] who claims that : “Fashion does provide extra added values to clothing, but the additional elements exist only in peoples imagination and beliefs. Fashion is not visual clothing but is the invisible elements included in clothing”.
Here comes the link between her work and the name of the third section of the exhibition: New Values and New Stories. I am really fascinated by her way of thinking. It looks like if she is taking a broad working space which is fashion and approaching it from a totally unconventional side. I think the point of conceptual art is to influence the audience and show them something which is not obvious. Working with subconscious behavior and reactions upon “invisible fashion”, Varcoe is putting new values to clothing which is actually our second skin changing our behavior and social interactions.
Each of her works is often closely connected to the broad area of fashion sociology. It is claimed that in fact, fashion is not about clothing but more about the basic process that propels modern life, and it is the outfit which structures the psycho-social development of a modern person.
A similar concept was to be seen in Varcoe’s other exhibit in the Boijmans Museum called ” Feeling of undress”. This movie was even less about fashion itself but more about the social behaviour and human interactions.
Some other sociologist like Georg Simmel states; ..” that fashion refers to a general phenomenon, in which it becomes a type of social horizon point where the individual interest and taste comes across the collective”. He once wrote “Fashion represents nothing more than one of the many forms of life by the aid of which we seek to combine . . . the tendency toward social equality with the desire for individual differentiation and change”.
I think after experiencing her art or being part of it, we start to realize some behaviors and actions which are natural for us but we can never see them consciously. Varcole gives us an opportunity to set aside our subconscious actions and observe how the natural behavior is chaining depending on what situation we are in.
I think the most interesting part of being an artist is to use your creativity and open minded thinking to show the audience something new, in this case something totally normal but not realized in everyday live. I think its also interesting how she links the scientific knowledge in the area of sociology to play with the human mind and gives people the opportunity to experience and then realize the way of human behaviors by taking part in her art performances.