Hall Mirrors Looking Terrific: The Story of El Jay, curated by Doris de Pont. 5 June-17 July 2010 By Mike Atkins
Mirrors at a fashion show. Oh boy, are they asking for it. If a lazy writer wants a metaphor for superficiality, there it is, staring right at them. Oh god, and the exhibition space was very crowded too; when one looked into those mirrors, they saw a reflectively infinite sea of vintage dresses and coiffured human forms, some mannequins, some not. God I hope that a few of the writers there were willing to expend some mental effort, and not pick the low hanging metaphorical fruit.Â Although it would be fun to assume that the effects and implications of the mirrors were not considered, they must've been. Old Dresses, and people who like to look at old dresses form a symbiosis of interest. -neither would exist without the other. The audience were just as much elements of the show as the dresses, why shouldn't they be part of it.Â Of the dresses themselves, -few were fashionable, and even fewer were pretty. But they all came with wee providence cards telling their story. They were ethnographic artifacts of obscure import and meaning, thus rendering those to
took aesthetic pleasure in them of equal import and meaning. -Though not to denigrate them, I must say «of import and meaning, nonetheless». It was asked, and will inevitably be asked again, «what does it say about the state of art in New Zealand if a fashion show at an art gallery results in said art gallery being fuller than it's been in memory. Well, fashion is populist, and history is populist, art is not. What it means is an open and shut case. However, for anyone who is not satisfied with that rather glib answer, it doesn't take a great deal of mental acrobatics to see this as art. There is off course the involuntary, but strangely unimposed audience participation, but there is also the fetishization of these objects. They are simultaneously sacred and profane, -simultaneously above and below aesthetics. The pieces were not about aesthetics, because some of them were quite horrendous. They are living history, -with stories, like the people in attendance. If you follow this line of thinking, you might see the opening night as a sort of performance art piece, it was a unique event, it was experienced, and it was never to happen again.