In the métier of making cuts for clothes, one differentiates between the French, British, and German method of industrial patternmaking. All three stem from the development of mass textile production in the 19th century and differ in matters such as slight measurements, proportions or different chronologies in their respective drawing conceptualizations. Normally, one starts by drawing a parallel line to one side of the paper sheet onto which different measurements are applied to and graded on the preferred scale.
These may be the apex, the armscye, the bust point, upper and lower back length, hip line, length of garment and so on. This first drawn line often represents the center axis of either the back or the front of a garment, presuming it lay on a flat surface, often marked as CB or CF1. A few extensions, placement lines, balance points, formulas, curvatures, and contours later and the base cut for a shirt, skirt, dinner jacket, coat or pair of trousers is finished. The cut must be further graded, modified, corrected, extended, shrunken and readjusted depending on the specific requirements of the model and design. Developing patterns on paper is flat in more than just the literal sense – it is rigid, often nonsensical, repetitive and absurdly intricate. Things may be molded, but spontaneity is fatal: every millimeter counts. Regardless of how fashionable, unique or aesthetic the finished garment may look like, its pattern will always betray it as a commodity and will shamelessly attest to the calculability, repetitions and requirements of typification within our consuming bodies.
As the unavoidable byproduct of the manufacturing process, patented and hidden away from consumers and competition alike, the patterned cut fungates as an analogy for what Michael Newman describes as an object ‘becoming vernacular’, disappearing into type.2 And while Newman’s analysis addresses the post-Conceptual art object as accommodating and utilizing the materialization of genericism, this exhibition concerns itself with the interwovenness of iconography, body and sex as types; as signifiers and patterns alike.
Patterns infiltrate, inform and sustain the works exhibited. Untitled (2020), presents a sporadic constellation of flat iconographic historical motifs which at first glance simulate the look of a wallpaper-(pattern) yet lack any tangible report.
The painting, which also consists of a transparent ‘Manual of Viewing’ hung next to the canvas, takes an ironic and literal twist in attempting to command methods for approaching its agglomerated content. It operates like a tangled textual piece in need of footnotes and contextual precisions, aspiring to a pseudo-pattern of viewership. Included in this are iconographic ‘tokens’ suggested by the three figures portrayed in Mia, Moonman and Tenwi (all 2019). These ‘tokens’ seek to compensate for the pictorial objectification of their beholders with signifiers they themselves claim to feel represented by. In their respective portraits, each of the three wears custom-made (including patterns) garments printed with a mash-up of homoerotic Instagram photography: sexualized cutouts of bodies starkly different than their own. These confuse the eye’s distinction between foreground, background, person and image. The unedited portraits become as flat as their painterly counterparts, embedding the individual in a kaleidoscopic collage.
Despite their subordination to what they wear and where they stand, the figures pose, their self-awareness transcends. This particular brand of self-awareness borders on what, in a recent interview, Cecilia Bengolea recollected during her years of pol dancing: “Becoming objectified by the situation of exciting the viewer in a very codified way gave me distance of my own self and allowed me to enjoy this new perspective.”3 She relates this feeling to Spinoza’s Ethics, a passage where he postulate that more resources and a richer capacity for acting with others springs from an individuals actualization of his/hers or their capacities to compose, in other words perform, self-objectify, become flexible within and outside their own physicality.
Sex (2020) capitalizes on the ambiguity of its tag and emphasizes the libidinous subtext of the exhibition. Reviewing the pharmacopornographic4 multiplicities of gender, sexuality, and associative dress-codes, Gen Z and Alpha are afforded as tools for self-actualization: at what stage do the cracks bare open the patterns which lay beneath? When does the subject disappear into type?
1 Center-Back/ Center-Front
2 Michael Newman: “After Conceptual Art: Joe Scanlan’s Nesting Bookcases, Duchamp, Design and the
Impossibility of Disappearing”, in: Jon Bird and Michael Newman (ed.): Rewriting Conceptual Art, Reaktion Books Ltd., London, 1999.
3 Elenora Milani: “Transitional States: From Body to Object, From Object to Body. A Conversation with Cecilia Bengolea”, in: Flashart, summer edition 2021, nr. 335.
4 Paul B. Preciado: Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, Feminist Press at NYU, New York, 2013.
Text by Daniel Moldoveanu