The concept of ‘anti-fashion’ and the contemporary radicals of the industry are the subject of a new exhibition entitled Outer Dark: Continuing After Fashion. As it opened its doors last night at Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst (MAK), Dan Thawley explored its inner and outer limits.
Just one of many cultural institutions dotted along the banks of the Main River, the applied arts museum was designed by American architect Richard Meier in 1985, with bright white walls reflecting natural light throughout. Dark, however, is this exhibition’s overarching bent, with a focus on those creations born of uncertain times – reactionary fashion that questions conventions and ideals of beauty. Curators Mahret Kupka & Matthias Wagner K have gathered silhouettes, artworks and audiovisual projects from the avant-garde heroes of the past three decades, alongside local talents pushing the boundaries of the craft today.
With installations generously spaced through the wide halls of the exhibit, one will find not only garments but also constructs of the universe behind them. Take for example Alexander McQueen’s contribution: a sweeping silk evening coat with a texture evoking bubble wrap from “Horn of Plenty” autumn/winter 09-10, elevated within a black antechamber alongside a video loop of the show. The Maison Martin Margiela too mixes video with garments, in a black-mirrored room dotted with backlit vitrines. Split-toed tabi boots, a Stockman dummy-inspired jacket and trompe l’oeil dresses from spring/summer 90 onwards demonstrate the house’s mastery of the ugly-beautiful deceit and the theme of self-referencing in fashion today.
Other modules featuring Ann Demeulemeester, Rodarte and Yohji Yamamoto shrug off the need for clothes entirely – questioning methods of communicating fashion today. Demeulemeester’s poetic creations are shown in two Super-8 films by NY photographer Erik Madigan Heck playing on 34” tube TVs, as an aesthetic comment on the values behind analogue vs. digital technologies. The exhibition’s only print-based inclusion arrives from California via Antwerp, in the form of Rodarte’s issue of A Magazine Curated By (2011), with all 200 pages of the Belgian title lining two floating walls from cover to cover. Yohji’s addition is a freestanding cinema, showcasing his feature length biopic This is my Dream for those willing to truly immerse themselves in the quiet musings of one of fashion’s true philosophers.
While the fashion-savvy will likely cry déjà-vu at some of Outer Dark’s international imports, it’s the local talent that may surprise. Local duo Garland Coo hail from the famed Black Forest, and their mixed media installation Essence features an imploding/exploding dress and light sculpture surrounded by hundreds of hi-fi stereo speakers reverberating with a soundtrack captured directly from the forest itself. Munich-based men’s wear designer Boris Bidjan Saberi shows his heavily constructed and distressed sportswear on the runway in Paris however chose to exhibit sculpture instead – two sinewy, headless bodies poised to attention – their milky skin reminiscent of Saberi’s experimental leather processes. Berlin-based designer Julia Heuse has extended her moodboard for print research through natural decay into the gallery setting, accompanied by a short film entitled Der Katalog. From a morbid subject matter Heuse creates appealing symmetries, and adds proof to Goethe’s words, “There is strong shadow where there is much light”, as does the greater part of the exhibition – one held in celebration of fashion’s darker side.
Text: Dan Thawley
Photography: Rüdiger Glatz