CAA 2009 Los Angeles (and fashion)

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer 1997. Photo Paolo Roversi.

The recently completed College Art Association Annual Conference had a surprisingly small numbers of papers which could fall under the fashion history and theory heading. More numerous were papers revolving around the theme of craft, ornamentation and the body.

I spoke on Rei Kawakubo’s collection from Spring/Summer 1997 titled “Body Meets Dress,” and her subsequent collaboration with Merce Cunningham for a dance of the same year, Scenario. The paper was part of a panel organized by Victoria Rovine and Sarah Adams titled “Clothing, Flesh, Bone: Visual Culture above and below the Skin.” The papers presented in this stimulating panel ranged the gamut from architectural history—how German Körperkultur translated into architecture—to participatory art practice—the work of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica —to medical science (i.e. discussion of reconstructive plastic surgery).

Merce Cunningham, Scenario, 1997. Photo courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Archives

Unfortunately, I missed a panel organized by Alla Myzelev of the University of Western Ontario dedicated to the convergence of fashion and furniture, as well as a panel on ornament organized by Patricia Flores, which included a paper by Glenn Adamson, currently at the V&A. However, the latter’s work seems to have inspired a very interesting and lively panel on Queering Crafts, which featured mostly practioners’ presentations. Among the most interesting papers was Jesse M. Kahn’s. which introduced a range of queer practioners’ work, including his own. Among them were Bren Ahearn—who seems to be commenting both on gender and labor processes, by carefully embroidering the word “manmade” on cheaply mass-manufactured goods.