'Disobedient Bodies' at The Hepworth
This is a very belated blog post, and it's going to be image-heavy because I'm busy writing my dissertation, so I don't really have lots of spare time to write for the sake of writing. In a couple of weeks' time I'll be completely done with academia, which is thrilling and terrifying in equal parts.
A few bank holidays ago, I went to The Hepworth to see the Disobedient Bodies exhibition, curated by J.W. Anderson. Fashion exhibits are a strange beast; despite loving clothes, I've found it difficult to enjoy them in a gallery setting, because while, yes, fashion is art, it's also meant to be worn, touched, felt. If you're nerdy about clothes – I'm talking sumptuous, limited-run clothes, which stand out because of their craftsmanship – then you probably want to get up close to them to take in their craftsmanship, or touch them to feel the sort of fabric you'll probably never be able to afford. So there's something slightly off about hitting up a museum to look at some clothes, only to find them shielded by a glass screen – or, if they're barrier-free, to be told that you can't touch them. When I went to the Museum of Bags and Purses (yes, this is A Thing), they'd curated a wealth of styles, built up an impressive sartorial time capsule of styles, and then ruined it with lacklustre presentation, with everything sealed in glass boxes in rooms so dingy that it was difficult to read the object labels.
Those visiting Disobedient Bodies are encouraged to feel and, in the case of Anderson's 28 Jumpers installation, manipulate some of the clothes on display. Another plus point was that it wasn't just clothes – ceramics, art and design also featured – so even Dan thought it was a 'decent' day out.
The exhibit is vast (especially for something 'up north'), comprising over 100 objects that interpret the human body in different ways. The space is divided by cuts of cloth from JW Anderson's archives, allowing free movement between the 'rooms' within; such a set-up allows visitors to move freely through the exhibit, and leaves the pieces' underlying messages open to interpretation. Before visiting, I read somewhere that Anderson worked with architects 6a to create a space that eluded to a homely environment, so the curtains and the arrangement of the objects – which were clumped closely together – seemed to enhance this intimate feel.
We visited just before the MET Gala and, in line with this, I was in the process of writing a piece on Comme des Garçons and Rei Kawakubo's divisive designs. I've never seen CDG in the flesh (pieces from the Play line don't count, I don't think), so it was great to see such boundary-pushing works up close. I particularly loved the pieces on display from Comme's AW14 'Monster' collection which, featuring interlocking wool 'tubes', sat in contrast to the brand's AW12 '2D' pieces in saturated primary hues. Rick Owens's nylon duvet-based menswear from that AW17 collection was another highlight.