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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Fashion in Motion at the V&A: KENZO

In the latest of a series of public catwalk events in the Raphael Gallery at the V&A, Kenzo's magical circus comes to town, via Sardinia…

Written by Matt Bramford

On the first cold Wednesday of November, for sale drugs my brisk walk up Kingsland Road was rewarded by ‘Small Things‘ a collective exhibition of photography at 67a Dalston Lane. The works on display are an exquisite foray (two of the four participants Annie Collinge and Amy Gwatkin contributed to Amelia’s Magazine whilst in print) into the possibilities of photography. Here the four participants, viagra Annie Collinge, Anna Leader, Bella Fenning and Amy Gwatkin discuss their involvement in the exhibition and introduce a few of the threads running through their work.

Annie Collinge’s tightly composed portraits documents the faces of four girls dressed as their favourite comic book heroines.

For the Small Things Exhibition, why did you decide to sidestep the girls costumes at the Comic Con convention?

There were a lot of people taking photographs there, so I wanted to take a different approach. I actually just used it as an opportunity to photograph strangers, because they were at the conference, they didn’t question why I wanted to take their picture. I actually shot a lot of men too but when I looked at the images, the pictures of the girls were much stronger.

How do you choose your subjects?

I picked out people that had a natural, though awkward, appeal which in most cases they seemed unaware of possessing. Those with the best costumes didn’t necessarily make for the best subjects

How did you become involved with Small Things?

I was a Brighton with Amy, Anna and Bella and they very kindly asked me if I would like to be part of the show. Having worked in editorial for a while I think showing personal projects is by far the most important thing so I am really pleased I took part in it.

Anna Leader documents the components required for an amateur science project.

What was the concept behind your latest photographic series?

The series was a reaction to the title of the show, Small Things. I explored something simple but wondrous, one of the first things we learn in science: light refracting through a prism and being broken down into its basic components that are usually invisible to the naked eye.

Placing a crystal and a spectrum side by side, prompts the viewer to remember this phenomenon of cause and effect. The rainbow was created in a controlled environment however, using an overhead projector, a glass of water and a piece of mirror, a man-made trick that I relate with the nature of photography itself, a mechanical tool making use of the elements of what we see and creates something beyond the realm of the immediately visible.

What I chose to exhibit therefore were all elements: the beautiful spectrum and the real device that allowed it to be visible, rendering the crystal inanimate. The consequence is a continual short circuit between the three images and between three versions of the same story.

What intrigues you about amateur or DIY Science Experiments?

Amateur or DIY Science Experiments contain some of our most basic questions regarding what makes up the physical world around us and the results obtained are a celebration of the answers readily available through patient observation and the desire to see. Photography has the same power. We try to grasp what we see and record it for the future, putting the documents into categories: aesthetic, informative, emotive and so on.

Bella Fenning Arrivals and Departures presented on a tower of Photo Cubes, invites the viewer to participate in the narration of the images.

How did the photographic series for the exhibition Small Things develop?

I’m really interested in how we experience or engage with photographs. I wanted to get away from the traditional hanging of images in the gallery space, and the fear of getting to close to the work on display. Audience participation, or being an active viewer, was an important aspect. I wanted to make something sculptural that combined the 2 different languages I work with (still and moving imagery), but was also tactile and had multiple viewing screens.

This idea of what you can hold on to and what you can’t is conveyed in the images through a series of events that are fleeting yet leave a lasting impression. I’d started thinking about photo cubes, which had been a popular display object to have in your home when I was growing up. I happened to find one at a jumble sale when I was on holiday in the midst of making the work and that became the base of this project.

What intrigues your camera when photographing a landscape compared to a portrait?

To me, landscapes and portraits are of equal measure – I see as much personality or character in the landscape as I do when photographing people. I’m also drawn to the intimacy of people in their domestic settings, which is a common thread throughout my work.

Who are your favourite photographers or filmmakers?

I would say John Cassavetes and David Lynch for the profound effect their films have had on me. Maya Deren for the wonder of her timeless, playful and experimental approach, and the brilliant wit and poinancy of Sophie Calle. But I never tire of looking at the work of Nan Goldin, and the poetic nature of Duane Michals and Doug Aitken. The list goes on……

Amy Gwatkin’s Nothing Happened, forms a census of men smoking naked or partially clothed in the photographer’s documentation of a mass performed individualised act.

By advertising your photography project on Craig Lists casual encounters (please correct me if this is the wrong title) there is an element of danger when meeting strangers who are willing to pose for you naked, what impact do you think this has on the outcome of the photographs?

I think sometimes it forces me to be very quick – encourages lots of preparation. It’s tiring too; no matter how sure I feel that I’m able to control a situation, there’s always an awareness of potential danger somewhere in the back of my consciousness.

It does mean that some of the sittings are better articulated than others. I approach each model with a ‘menu’ of 2 or 3 ideas I want to explore. As soon as i walk in the door i can tell that some will/won’t work. It also depends which advert they answered – the artists’ community one, or the casual encounters one. So in the latter case, often the model’s face has to be cropped out/obscured. I think I must enjoy the risk. Occasionally it makes the images harder to look at/edit, as you can get away with doing certain things with strangers that you couldn’t with friends.

Voyeurism forms a long and complicated chapter in the history of photography, what your relation or thoughts on the role or aspect of voyeurism in photography?

(Def: one who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means )

Although it is also officially classified as a term about sexual behaviour – I think now we’ve broadened it to include connotations of watching/looking but not participating; perhaps of being an outsider. Making a distinction between those who act/take part, and those who merely watch, getting a vicarious thrill. I think in the case of this project perhaps the thrill is in re-ordering/editing the images to create an impossible./untrue narrative. Is there something inherently sexual about the pictures? Yeah. Even though nudity doesn’t have to be sexual, sometimes it can just be beautiful, or vulnerable, or liberated.

Would you class these photographs as voyeuristic as they involved sitters with whom you know personally or who had agreed to be photographed naked, as the sitter themselves found the concept of being photographed naked intriguing?

I don’t know if I find the individual portraits voyeuristic – certainly the presentation of them is more so. Something about re-shooting the images from the screen before outputting gives them a contrasty, metallic edge – the moiré reminds us we’re looking at a screen, putting an extra distance between the portrait and the viewer. It looks like a surveillance image. But yes, my advert started with “exhibitionists wanted”, which I guess instantly makes them willing participants in a role-play in which I take the voyeur’s position behind the lens.

Small Things runs at 67a Gallery until 28th November.
67a Dalston Lane, London, E8 2NG
Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday, 1-6pm

Illustration by Darren Fletcher

Another Friday, order another weekend at the V&A. This time around it was to attend the latest event in the Fashion in Motion series, information pills which on this occasion devoted the catwalk in the overwhelming Raphael Gallery to the 40th anniversary celebrations of legendary Japanese fashion house Kenzo

What to expect? Well, huge queues, people scrambling for tickets and fights for the front row ensued. As I have a habit of saying at these things, it’s wonderful to see the diversity of people who’ll queue on the phone on that Monday morning like a rabid Take That fan desperate for tickets. The attendees ranged from young kids to glamour grannies, with Fred Butler and Erdem in between. I usually prefer the afternoon shows – they’re not as chaotic and the people are friendlier (at the last one, Osman, I got chatting to a pair of wonderful oldies who just LOVED fashion shows). This time around other commitments meant I’d have to attend the late show. I wasn’t disappointed – there’s a heightened sense of drama attending a show there in the evening.


Illustration by Antonia Parker

So what to say about the fashion? If you know anything about Kenzo and its creative director Antonio Marras, you’ll know it’s pretty zany. A mix of the grand label’s illustrious Japanese history and Marras’ Sardinian heritage, what prevailed was an ecectic mix of fabrics, cuts and lumps and bumps. We were promised a retrospective of the label’s forty-year history. I’m no Kenzo expert, but I’m pretty certain what we saw was from the last couple of seasons, generally. A bit of a shame, but a spectacle nonetheless.


All photography by Matt Bramford

Models teated on ‘shoes’ that bounced on the fine line between ridiculous and fabulous. Huge geometric-shaped heels and rounded fronts were just the start of these incredible creations to the sounds of rapid techno and classical piano. An unusual catwalk this time – models stepped onto an raised runway only to step down at the end and walk along the edge. Way to scare an audience, Kenzo!


Illustration by Faye West

Luxurious fabrics with delicate detailing and amazing embellishment followed. Insane graphic prints with nods to Japanese sub-cultures draped over the models, who also had mushroom-like headgear to deal with that cacooned their pretty little faces. Exotic bustiers made the most of their pretty little assets underneath, whilst translucent fabrics added a hint of eroticism.

The show came to a climax with all of the models filling the catwalk – the most I’ve seen at a show in ages, and it was a real fashion moment as they stood stock still to raputuous applause. Marras made an appearance at the end, too, boosting the applause to an almost deafening level.


Illustration by Jaymie O’Callaghan

Happy 40th Birthday, Kenzo – we salute you!

All photography by Matt Bramford

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