注册 登录  
 加关注
   显示下一条  |  关闭
温馨提示!由于新浪微博认证机制调整,您的新浪微博帐号绑定已过期,请重新绑定!立即重新绑定新浪微博》  |  关闭

Suman Gupta 看画随笔

small notes on Chinese art

 
 
 

日志

 
 
关于我

见首页。 http://sumangupta.blog.163.com/ http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/english/gupta.shtml

文章分类
网易考拉推荐

时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家(Quentin Shih and Dior's Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista)  

2014-02-17 20:53:18|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

  下载LOFTER 我的照片书  |
Small notes on Chinese Art(16)  Suman Gupta 《看画随笔之十六》 February 17, 2014

时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家(Quentin Shih and Diors Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista) - 甦曼 - Suman Gupta 看画随笔
Quentin Shih (时晓凡) /Dior, Shanghai Dreamers No.2 (2010)
C-print (see below for detail), 112cm x 112cm .



Quentin Shih and Dior's Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista
时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家
Small notes on Chinese Art(16)  Suman Gupta 《看画随笔之十六》   February 17, 2014


For the philosopher, the most interesting thing about fashion is its extraordinary anticipations. It is well known that art will often – for example, in pictures – precede the perceptual reality by years. It is possible to see streets or rooms that shone in all sorts of fiery colors long before technology, by means of illuminated signs and other arrangements, actually setting them under such light. Moreover, the sensitivity of the individual artist to what is coming certainly exceeds that of the grande dame. Yet fashion is in much steadier, much more precise contact with the coming thing … Each season brings, in its newest creations, various secret signals of things to come… – Here, surely, lies the greatest charm of fashion, but also the difficulty of making the charming fruitful.

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project,
Harvard University Press (1999), pp.63-4, 
(in Convolutes B, research notes from 1920s/30s).

The above is the second in the Shanghai Dreamers series of eight images (all can be seen on the artist's website ), which was first exhibited in May 2010 when luxury commodities firm Christian Dior reopened its boutique in Shanghai (originally opened in 1994). Artist Quentin Shih ( a.k.a. Shi Xiaofan) had introduced the series thus:

My inspiration came from a certain Chinese style of group photography but these ceremonial photographs mark a departure from a certain historical period and herald the future. I created some typical Chinese groupings; they replicate themselves, wearing plastic clothes. They stand on display in vast spaces or upon a stage – because they were, and still are dreamers. As China enters a new era, they begin to stand together upon a world stage, self-conscious and yet filled with power.

As finger-on-the-pulse fashionistas know well, the series proved controversial – let me quickly outline this controversy so as to be able to move beyond or around it. The Shanghai Dreamers series raise considerations of greater interest than that controversy.

The series offended fashionistas in China, and was much debated in blogs, fashion magazines and newspapers. The nature of the offence is best summarised by quoting a much-read Jezebel posting by Jenny Zhang (4 August 2010), who observed : “In the case of Dior's 'Shanghai Dreamers', the conformity and the old-fashioned appearance of the rows and rows of repeated Chinese faces and bodies only serve to constitute a visual record of the Western world's construction and affirmation of self through the racial and cultural other”. Zhang's argument was that this sort of cultural and racial stereotyping has been and is endemic in the haute couture industry, and this series is merely yet another instance of a broader phenomenon. However, it was particularly the racial dimension in specifically Shanghai Dreamers which fired up bloggers and the mass media: the replicated Chinese figures seem to be obviously contrasted against the individual, taller and white female models in each of the images. Shanghai Dreamers No. 2 was often replicated in the blogosphere because it rendered the contrast between the white female model and collective Chinese woman peculiarly sharp – at a sartorial-cum-racial level. In this image the ordinariness of working clothes and the extraordinariness of the model's garb seemed to accentuate racial difference, uncomplicated by gender difference (see below for a Shanghai Dreamers image with male figures) or awareness of sartorial conventions. At any rate, charges of racism levelled at Dior, one of the most powerful players in this industry, flew around. The recourse was obvious, and Shih's own Chinese ethnicity and role as artist came to Dior's rescue when he responded thus:

First, it's totally my art work supported by Dior. I mean, it's originally my idea and has nothing to do with Dior. In this series of work, I wanted to express a dialogue between Chinese fashion (60s to 90s) and Western fashion (Dior Haute Couture represents it the most). During that time, China was a country with socialism – people wearing all the same outfits and divided into different groups/identities like workers, students, intellectuals etc. That's the history. Comparing the two fashion styles and two histories (east and west) is interesting for me, and has some humor. I don't think the Chinese models are in some way demeaning. The Dior model for me is also a ‘model’ – I mean she stands there only to represent the clothes, not herself and not a western people. I was not lucky enough to shoot a Chinese model wearing Dior – if I did I would have put her in my work. When reading Chinese history of the last half century ... the objective reality is much more cruel than the 'daydream' harmonious group people shown in my work.

This exonerated Dior, shifted the ground from racism to socialist ideology and history, and disinvested the models of human identity. Dior's and Shih's reputations remained relatively unscathed by the controversy, which ultimately served to confirm the success of both.

These exchanges now seem interesting less because of the charge of racism and more because they gestured towards a complex issue: who is the artist here? Who takes responsibility for the making and content of Shanghai Dreamers? And behind that lurks another (and as it turns out, related) question: should Shanghai Dreamers be regarded predominantly as an artwork, which can be credited squarely to Shih, or as an advertisement, which would confer responsibility on Dior and make Shih a mere functionary? The word "collaboration" linking Shih and Dior as progenitors for the series muddied the waters, and aptly so: in fact, their joint "authorship" is difficult to pull apart.

Of course, Shih is the ostensible artist: he took responsibility for the idea and execution of Shanghai Dreamers, and offered insider interpretations of the images as intellectually redolent artefacts untainted by commercial motivation (interpretations imbued with his own Chinese belonging, speaking for Chinese history and experience and future prospects). By this artist's account Shanghai Dreamers presents a metanarrative on fashion and clothes at the junctures of “Chinese and Western” (that old duo) encounters and crossings, and does not participate in the fashion system on behalf of a magnum commercial player therein, Dior. But none of that can take away from Dior's artistic (in the sense of “authorial”) role in Shanghai Dreamers. And this role is not merely as a sponsor for Shih's work, i.e. as the holder of purse-strings with a significant stake in the Chinese fashion market. True, Dior has a substantial and long-drawn interest in tapping into Chinese design and investing in the Chinese market (an article in the Dior magazine lays out the history); and equally, over the last decade the Chinese market has been superlatively receptive to luxury brand-names like Dior (periodic “China luxury goods market studies” by Bain and Company attest to this). Under these circumstances, Dior can be expected to raise its profile in China by sponsoring artists and collecting art. But Dior's investment in that direction is considerably more programmatic and complex than simply sponsoring; indeed, such is Dior's penetration into courting, nurturing and shaping art in China that the programme goes well beyond sponsorship and self-profiling – it becomes a kind of infiltration and diffusion into art, an assumption of a supra-artistic (authorial) role behind a highly visible quantum of art production in China – not to speak of individual artists like Shih. For a significant number of noteworthy artists and canonised artworks and events in mainstream art institutions, Dior's involvement makes it difficult to tell where art begins and advertisement ends, where the artistic vision kicks in and the consumer-product pushing programme recedes. Art becomes a form of advertisement for consumer products and is thereby valued as art.

The moves in this programme are well-known to both artists and fashionistas (if they can be told apart). In 2006 Dior commissioned the art events firm Thinking Hands established by artist Huang Rui (黄锐) and curator Bérénice Angremy, to select and commission artists for an exhibition inspired by Dior products. The result was Christian Dior and Chinese Artists at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing 798 between October 2008 and January 2009, where, as the Dior magazine notice  stated, “Dior and UCCA co-wrote an original and unchronological script, interweaving the history of the House of Dior with the more recent artistic period”. Twenty artists featured in this, and their names are worth listing to register their current place in the art market and canon: Wang Du (王度), Zhang Huan (张洹), Huang Rui (黄锐), Li Songsong (李松松), Zhang Dali (张大力), Xu Zhongmin (许仲敏), Liu Jianhua (刘建华), Lu Hao (卢昊), Wang Qingsong (王庆松), Yan Lei (颜磊), Zhang Xiaogang, (张晓刚),Wen Fang (文芳), Shi Jingsong (史金凇), Wang Gongxin (王功新), Quentin Shih (时晓凡), Liu Wei (刘韡 ), Rong Rong and Inri (荣荣和映裡), Tim Yip (叶锦添), Qiu Zhijie (邱志杰) and Ma Yangsong (马岩松) – some of the resulting artworks can be seen here, and a glossy book was produced by Thinking Hands.  The careers of several younger artists were nurtured by Dior thereafter, offering extraordinary resources and international exposure – Shih was of their number, and a grateful account by another, Wen Fang (文芳), gives a sense of how this worked.  By 2013 Dior was squarely inside the heart of mainstream Chinese art institutions.  On 25 April 2013, Dior's inaugural show took place in the Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing – for the first time outside Paris. Between September and November 2013, the exhibition Esprit Dior took place amidst an expensive publicity campaign at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. Alongside exhibitions on Christian Dior and over a hundred Dior dresses, paintings by star Chinese artists featured, including Liu Jianhua (刘建华), Lin Tianmiao (林天苗), Qiu Zhijie (邱志杰), Yan Pei-Ming (严培明), Zeng Fanzhi (曾梵志), Zhang Huan (张洹) and Zheng Guogu (郑国谷) – all melding their artistic visions with Dior's fashion vision. Dior's supra-artist role was firmly grounded in the art establishment of China.

Moving on from these background matters, let me turn to Shanghai Dreamers.

To my eyes, the Shanghai Dreamers photographs are extraordinary in their knowingness, their acute sense of anticipation of not merely the consumers' gaze but of the critical fashionista's gaze – as if referring in advance to whatever conceptual equipment regarding fashion, displaying and representing fashion, grounding fashion in China that an informed fashionista may bring to critical appraisal. It is well-known among philosophers/theorists of fashion that though consumers are led to believe that fashionable commodities are materially vested with worth (the designer's genius manifested in the object, the implicit qualities of the material, etc.), the quality of being fashionable is a material void – an emptiness which is always filled with that quality from an ideational and idealizing superstructure, and that too transiently, momentarily, in a flickering way. The modus operandi of that continuous process of attribution and de-attribution and reattribution of what's fashionable is the stuff of conceptualizing fashion and its commodity forms critically; that inside knowledge is what critical fashionistas bring with their appraisals. There are several now-conventional lines of apprehending that process which are referred to scholarly efforts (fashionable theorists of fashion), and the Shanghai Dreamers series appears to knowingly gesture towards – anticipate the application of – most of them at once, indeed is an active invitation to critical appraisal.

The material void upon which the fashion system and the circuits of fashion are pinned appear to be gestured in the space upon which the figures in Shanghai Dreamers appear. The densely concentrated tableaux in the photographs appear at the centre, almost overwhelmed by a space that stretches to the remote framing; the frame seems disproportionately large and the central tableau proportionally diminutive. That surrounding space is not blank or empty: there is the merest shadow of a background scene of iconic Shanghai views (in Shanghai Dreamers No. 2 a view of the Bund) apparently fading in the background, as if ineffectively whitewashed or heavily befogged. In a way, that accentuates the transience of this surface, especially as it appears that the almost wiped out view is more proportional for the frame than the figures centred now – as if the frame for a different picture has been used to impose this one. And what's been almost wiped out is not irrelevant to what’s on it now; the void that is created by erasing something else does come with an impress of what's been erased, which is instrumentalized anew (a concept explored at some length in literary theorist Gerard Genette's Palimpsests, 1982). In a visually articulate way, the fashion image is obviously pasted upon this Shanghai-erased palimpsest.

The obvious sociological approach to unpacking fashion has been in terms of how it negotiates with, draws upon and penetrates social differentiations. Georg Simmel's pioneering essay “Fashion” (1904, available here) had described the social resonance of fashion in terms of imitation and individuation; and again, Shanghai Dreamers seems to explicitly refer to those terms. The replicated Chinese figures readily suggest imitation against the too emphatically individuated model. There is also perhaps a little gesture there towards Walter Benjamin's influential essay on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), but in a contrary direction from the essay. If the work of art is demystified and becomes accessible outside elite precincts in Benjamin's account of the age, in Shanghai Dreamers the mechanically reproduced figures seem to render art impossible and coevally render fashion impossible (here art and fashion are inseparable). This is underlined by the visual effect of the plastic apparel worn by the cloned figures (see details of images below) – their dress is not merely the same but emphatically industrial, not clothing at all in a natural and everyday sense, not of substance that suggests bodily ease. Fashion theorists who have explored various more nuanced lines of social differentiation (stratifications) and identity after Simmel's broad imitation/individuation – class, gender, profession, ideology, culture and, of course, race – are also variously referred within the Shanghai Dreamers series. These levels of differentiation and identification are each ostentatiously signified (available to perception) across the series, as if complicating or folding into the core binary of imitation/individuation.

Sociologists also reflect upon the staged performances of the fashion circuit (in publicity images, on catwalks, in celebrity events, etc.) which foreground some of the relations within the plethora of everyday social performances. What is fashionable at any given moment is announced, claimed and registered through such staging. Such staged fashion performances are akin to theatre in being aware of their staginess, albeit designed for the purpose of pushing fashion. We may think of such staging as extrapolating, idealising and thereby rendering opaque particular (elitist) facets of and relations in the vast range of everyday performances that constitute social existence (a la Erwin Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 1959). Indicatively, Shanghai Dreamers places its tableaux as explicitly staged, and in a recognizable departure from/reference to a standard format of photographic staging within the doings of everyday life: the institutional photograph (work unit, school, conference etc.), perhaps even the large family photograph (such as a New Year or wedding celebration photograph). Such staging recalls the professionally produced image in the everyday sphere (a studio photograph or a professional photographer's event-venue shot); and simultaneously renders the professionalism of the Shanghai Dreamers fashion image separate. There's a deliberate reference to and manipulation of the standard format to twist it out of its everyday grounding, to defamiliarize it so as to make the everyday format more grindingly repetitive than possible and the fashion icon in the midst fashionably not everyday. Equally, the professionalism of this fashion image itself draws away from that professionalism of ordinary studios, and becomes the enclave of an aestheticized constituting of fashion. However, the performance (and awareness of the performative) involved here may also be seen as a nod towards Walter Benjamin's sense of what makes fashion distinctive – i.e. its implicit performance of death, of lifeless bodies (as opposed perhaps to the livingness of everyday life, in factories and offices, on streets and amidst arcades): “For fashion was never anything other than the parody of the motley cadaver, provocation of death through the women, and bitter colloquy with decay whispered between shrill bursts of mechanical laughter. That is fashion” (The Arcades Project 1999, p.63). This might seem a somewhat jaundiced view of fashion, and Benjamin's sense of fashion was perhaps more fixed on females as consuming subjects and passivized objects than a present-day fashionista's. And yet, that thought does chime with Shanghai Dreamers: the fashion models are all female; and they are aggressively overdressed, made-up, rigid, angular, tall, on display – ultimately as alive as mannequins (“she stands there only to represent the clothes, not herself”, as Shih said). Whether they would look more alive if taken out of the photographs and put to perform on the catwalk is something my reader could judge herself – have a look at the photograph of the model in Shanghai Dreamers No.2 doing the catwalk thing below.

Stepping away from the sociological approach, Roland Barthes' semiological approach in The Fashion System (1967) has engendered a distinctive trail of theorizing – one which is particularly attentive to the visual (iconic structures) and written (verbal structures) networks of signs that constitutes fashion, and actually stays away from real clothing (technological structure) though Barthes paid lip service to it (his research corpus was after all drawn from fashion magazines). The semiological approach has been possibly the most effective demonstration of the material void upon which the fashion system is constructed and imposed. In Shanghai Dreamers, as I have observed already, it is the density and concentration of significations in the centralised tableaux against the excess of space around it which catches the eye first. The semiology of fashion is seemingly contained and discrete and self-referential in the series.

In numerous ways the Shanghai Dreamers series appears to beckon knowingly to the critical fashionista's appraisal, anticipates its conceptual grids, indeed offers a particular invitation – a sort of tacit private viewing – to such appraisal.

Finally, there's the critical appraisal that is grounded specifically in the social contexts of China. Along with evidence of a powerful desire to possess the insignia of affluence (luxury goods with famous brand names) among consumers in China, there is also an anxiety of identity at work, a desire to have a specifically Chinese imprint in such insignia, some expression of “Chineseness” therein. On the one hand, this is a spur to the employment of Chinese designers, artists, fashion gurus within the expansionist strategies of international fashion firms with an eye on the Chinese market; on the other hand, it also gives scope for a range of Chinese firms (dealing with textiles, marketing, product design, representing artists, etc.) to expand their operations outside China. The pressure to realise a distinctively Chinese imprint, and anxiety about the possibility of perceptible and manifest “Chineseness”, works in both directions – the pressure to burst out of, and anxiety about being held back by, the “blue ant” stereotype. Recent ethnographies and histories of fashion in China take note of this pressure and anxiety (e.g. Jianhua Zhao, The Chinese Fashion Industry, Bloomsbury, 2013; Juanjuan Wu, Chinese Fashion from Mao to Now, Berg, 2009); and a constant stream of histories of traditional Chinese clothing now feed and capitalise on the pressure and anxiety. Interestingly, the Shanghai Dreamers series refers very clearly to the “blue ant” stereotype and the contrasting foreignness of haute couture at the level of sartorial signification – it seems designed to sharpen anxieties and exacerbate pressures rather than assuage them, designed to rouse the hackles of critical fashionistas in this sense. Perhaps artist Shih and supra-artist Dior didn't anticipate (who knows?) that those roused hackles will find an outlet for that pressure/anxiety by focalizing racial stereotyping at the expense of sartorial preoccupations – the controversy I began with. But that this happened is not in the least surprising: it says something about the character of the pressure and anxiety in question. The construction of an essential “Chineseness” within fashion circuits, the will to present a distinctively Chinese imprint on fashion, is variously inflected by racial discourses. Indeed, constructions of “Chineseness” in any sphere of cultural production have a dangerously racial tinge. The racial quotient is generated in both directions: pressures and anxieties are both internal and external and feed each other, and the racial quotient is wedged in both the strategies of firms moving into the Chinese fashion market and of Chinese firms moving into global markets. And the markets on all sides consume the racial quotient along with fashionable commodities.

My main point here, though, is to register the extraordinary knowingness of the Shanghai Dreamers series, its multifaceted anticipation of – invitation to – the critical fashionista's appraisal. With such anticipation and invitation comes a neutering of the critical edge of critical appraisal; criticality is seemingly ambushed by being anticipated, and drawn into the purposes of the fashion system – much as a great deal of art is now. Critical reflection on fashion becomes subject to fashion, a dimension of its appeal, after the fact of its design, one of the coins of fashionable exchanges.

And, to tell the truth, in being written out thus the above critical reflections have also accepted the invitation and fallen into the ambush of the knowingness of the Shanghai Dreamers series. The fashion circuit's expansion and capture can only be checked if it were not noticed, treated with indifference.




时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家(Quentin Shih and Diors Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista) - 甦曼 - Suman Gupta 看画随笔
Quentin Shih (时晓凡) /Dior, Shanghai Dreamers No.4 (2010)
C-print (see below for detail), 112cm x 112cm .

时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家(Quentin Shih and Diors Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista) - 甦曼 - Suman Gupta 看画随笔
Quentin Shih (时晓凡) /Dior, Shanghai Dreamers No.4 (2010), detail.


时晓凡及迪奥的《上海旧梦》与心领神会的时尚行家(Quentin Shih and Diors Shanghai Dreamers and the Knowing Fashionista) - 甦曼 - Suman Gupta 看画随笔
Quentin Shih (时晓凡) /Dior, Shanghai Dreamers No.2 (2010), detail and the model.
  评论这张
 
阅读(1644)| 评论(7)
推荐 转载

历史上的今天

评论

<#--最新日志,群博日志--> <#--推荐日志--> <#--引用记录--> <#--博主推荐--> <#--随机阅读--> <#--首页推荐--> <#--历史上的今天--> <#--被推荐日志--> <#--上一篇,下一篇--> <#-- 热度 --> <#-- 网易新闻广告 --> <#--右边模块结构--> <#--评论模块结构--> <#--引用模块结构--> <#--博主发起的投票-->
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

页脚

网易公司版权所有 ©1997-2017