11 March 2008

Some kind of thought process in fashion.

The following was written in response to questions asked by fashion student, Siobhan Farrar, in regard to two stories published in Vogue Italia, State Of Emergency in September 2006 and Make Love Not War in September 2007. The questions were about, amongst other things, whether these stories are art; whether the artists working on them intended to create controversy; whether they would have been received differently had they been in a gallery; whether there is a comment being made; and what role such fashion stories play in the fashion, art and commercial arenas as well as the world at large. Both works were photographed by Steven Meisel, with fashion editing by Karl Templer, hair by Guido Palau and makeup by Pat McGrath.

1) Would you say that the artists involved in the production of these stories viewed their work as a form of art? Or would it be more accurate to suggest that the artists viewed the work as a form of advertising?
I think those involved in these shoots would definitely see themselves as artists within the realms of fashion, but whether they deem these stories as works of art is debatable. I don’t think they would see these stories as advertising per se but certainly the basest premise of a fashion story is to sell clothes. That said, the nature of these images suggests it’s less about selling a dress than selling an idea. If the promotion of an idea or feeling is considered art then I would say these photographs are verging very close to it.

2) In your opinion, would the artists have been aware of the ultimate controversy that would be caused by these stories? And was this a factor in their production?
I doubt that the artists’ intention was to create controversy for the sake of it, but I believe there must have been a conscious art-direction decision to create images of this type; that are provoking and challenging and push the boundaries of what is considered a fashion story.

3) Would you suggest that the artists had poltical comments to make with these stories? If so, what are they?
There are definitely political comments being made in these stories. At what level and how serious those comments are is something that depends on the individual viewer’s opinion. Only the artists themselves would know what their real intentions were. However, in my opinion, there is a certain element of tongue-in-cheek political satire when it comes to both. Evidently, “Make Love Not War” is commenting on the war in Iraq and “State Of Emergency” on the increasingly prevalent ‘terrorist’ notion in day-to-day life. Both combine sexualised, glamourised images with very serious themes, creating a strong juxtaposition between theme and content. Thus, either the artists are suggesting these two issues need to be revealed to the world for what they really are - media conventions, token gestures, even issues which glamourise war or generate needless fear – or they are simply using very real and serious societal issues to create images intended, essentially, to sell clothes. This latter option would be the one which is most insulting and controversial to some people as it makes light of issues which have killed people. Nevertheless, I believe that the artists were very much in the former camp when it comes to their political comments and certainly weren’t out to create frivolous images which disrespect those involved directly in war (the soldiers, etc.) or effected directly by terrorism (e.g. victims of the September 11 attacks).

4) Would you agree that these images would have been recieved differently if they were presented in an art gallery? Would there have been as much controversy had these not been in a fashion publication?
These images would definitely have been received differently had they been in an art gallery, without a doubt. For me, these images are what they are because they are a fashion story and would not function nearly as successfully in an exhibition situation. Despite this, I believe there would have been much less controversy had these images been deemed ‘art’ from the very beginning, been framed, mounted and put in a white room for those interested to come and view. As it is, they are in a monthly magazine, whose function is to make money and sell these clothes. Hence, I think it is the idea of using serious, controversial issues for (basically) commercial ends - incorporating images of sex, drug-abuse and violence - which is controversial and shocking, not necessarily the images themselves.

5) Should the artists censor their ideas if it is thought that they offend certain people?
Artists should never censor their ideas for anyone!!!

6) Finally, what are your thoughts and feeling towards these stories, and is there anything you can add that may be relevent to my research?
I love these stories for the fact that they are deemed so controversial! I find it amusing that some people take it so seriously and allow themselves to be upset by it, it’s just fashion! That said, I really respect the idea of fashion images being able to make serious comments on society and there is no reason why people should be shocked when fashion artists attempt to do this. If fashion imagery has to stay in the limited boundaries of traditional editorials it will become increasingly incestuous. Fashion needs new ideas and new inspirations to survive; it needs to comment on the world around us. The idea that things like war and terrorism can be issues that everyone can make comments on except fashion is ludicrous. For me, these are beautiful images, but beauty is entirely subjective. No-one is forcing anyone to like these, or even to look at them, but the fact that they’re there is incredibly important.

These were not prepared responses in any way, just written as the thoughts came. I'd love to hear yours.

Pics: imgmodels.com (Hilary) and whynotmodels.com (Agyness).


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