A Vogue Idea /

On Fashion’s Runway / Kunsthalle Bern

The origins of the fashion show reveal a constellation where the body, commerce, and modernity converge. Described as a theater without narrative, fashion’s runway illuminates the paradox of irrational mutability and mechanical standardization.

The “first” runway could be understood as the practice of couturiers sending living mannequins (what we now call models) into the public boulevard sporting new designs, eliciting shock and photographic dissemination. This animation of bodies performing novelty in urban life foregrounded the format we know today: models passing along a strip flanked by their consuming onlookers. Runways express the formaldehyde of a culture in flux. While technological treatments of the runway have modified since its emergence at the turn of the nineteenth century, its underlying edifice has remained largely intact. Despite this ongoing scenographic sameness, various designers have explored the runway as a discursive site to interrogate the mechanics of fashion’s circulation. These runway experiments reconfigure the relations between audiences, arrangements of space, the carnivalesque body and the haunting of its commodity form. Leaping from Paul Poiret’s epic 1911 “A Thousand and Second Night,” the designers exhibited at Kunsthalle Bern have approached the runway-as-medium to extend and challenge ideas within their own practice as well as the fashion system at large.

Passageways curates videos of runway shows by designers that have reimagined the catwalk as an exploratory performative tool to produce fashion. Also exhibited are outfits by some of those fashion designers alongside a series of commissioned replicas that rewrite new histories of the runway as a suspension of fashion-time.

BLESS, N°0-4, Alexanderplatz, 1998

Commissioned for the Berlin Biennale, Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag of BLESS staged a “living commercial” in Berlin’s large public square, Alexanderplatz. Everyday people as models walked past an inconspicuous CCTV camera wearing pieces from collections N°0-4.

BLESS, N°25, Uniseasoners – Life vs. Consumption, 2005

For N°25, Uniseasoners – Life vs. Consumption guests were invited to a restaurant on rue Portefoin, Paris, to enjoy a light meal served by waiters wearing their latest collection. In a convivial and discursive setting, the waiter-models explained the pieces they were wearing to their guests, foregrounding the relational and everyday codes of their clothing.

BLESS, N°32, Frustverderber, 2007

Taking the form of a soccer match, BLESS left the show’s unraveling completely up to chance. Friends were invited to take part, some more active than others. Delicate objects were placed in one goal, and whether or not these would be hit and subsequently broken was not choreographed or planned.

Helmut Lang, Séance de Travail FW93/94, 1993

“I called the presentations seances de travail instead of fashion shows, as I really wanted to stress another reality on the runway and also allow myself to sometimes transfer an element from one show to the next, leading to something new in a more elaborate manner. The séance de travail concept made sense to me, as it was set up for the press, buyers, and other attendees. I introduced it by eliminating the elevated runway, promoting all age groups of models, supermodels, and friends, sending them on a ground-level runway that, rather than being center stage, had a square-shaped path with two extensions and different exits. This allowed a fast and interactive flow similar to a public space, where some models rotated one time and others walked the circuit two or three times. It was always at random and a decision I took the second I sent them out. I consider these sessions as performances because I did not only want to convey modern clothes, but also a feeling and mood of a moment in time, which, in combination with men, women, speed, and the unpredictable synergy, created a different dimension for most spectators. I consider this approach a countermovement to posing, and the press in a way defined the events at Rue des Commines as cult-like events (for lack of a better word).” — Helmut Lang quoted in Not in Fashion: Photography and Fashion in the 90s, 2011

Maison Martin Margiela, FW97/98, 1997

“For his Autumn-Winter 1997–78 collection, free promotional maps of Paris with three locations and times for the show were sent to journalists, many of whom threw them out, thinking they were junk mail rather than fashion show invitations. At 05.00 hours on the morning of the show, a bus carrying thirty-five brass band players left Brussels for Paris where it met another bus that carried thirty-five models to their first destination. This was an abandoned covered market, La Java, at Belville, at 10.30 hours. The second, at 11.45 hours, was a glass-covered loading bay of the huge Le Gibus building at Republique. The third, at 15.00 hours, was a 1930s dance school, Le Menagerie de Jerre, at Parmentier. At each venue the audience watched the models and band get out and then followed them into the show space as the band played a slow march. At the third, however, instead of going into the building the models simply paraded through the streets mingling with the public. They were accompanied throughout by Margiela’s assistants clad in white laboratory coats, a tradition borrowed from the couture ateliers. By departing from his pre-planned itinerary and allowing his models to ‘drift’ through the city streets rather than model on the more conventional catwalk, Margiela evoked two related tropes from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the flux of the crowd that was central to Baudelaire’s city imagery and the Situationist concept of dérive.” — Caroline Evans, Fashion at the Edge, 2005

Walter van Beirendonck, W&LT SS98, 1997

This show, titled “A Fetish for Beauty,” explored the carnivalesque nature of gender roles, commencing with a humorously camp male line dance and ending with a dystopic re-imagining of a 1950s ball.

writtenafterwards, SS18, 2017

The two runways exhibited by writtenafterwards use the runway for narrative storytelling more than showcasing discrete collections. In these lengthy shows, makeshift props and ad hoc costumes are used in performances orchestrated by acts. The designer, Yoshikazu Yamagata, also runs an alternative open-ended fashion school, Coconogacco, which, similar to these runways, focuses on fashion as an expression for performance.

 

“Passageways: On Fashion’s Runway, curated by Matthew Linde, is on view at Kunsthalle Bern through December 2, 2018.

A Vogue Idea is a column by Matthew Linde exploring contemporary fashion practice.

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Ghost:2561 / Bangkok

Instead of wall text, the inaugural Ghost:2561 — a new video and performance triennial in Bangkok curated by New York–based artist Korakrit Arunanondchai — deployed a team of human “storytellers” to talk about each work.

In the month preceding the October 11 launch, these storytellers attended workshops, at which they were introduced to some of the participating artists and deconstructed various texts — including essays by Hito Steyerl and Édouard Glissant, and a tale by the nineteenth-century Thai poet Sunthorn Phu — from an ontological perspective. On completion, they were then tasked with serving as “neither exhibition guides or didactic machines” but enablers of a discursive structure. “They are mediums for the work,” explained Korakrit, standing amid the burnished teak and Burmese nat (spirit) statues of the city’s famous Jim Thompson House, and as Jon Wang’s You Belong two Me (2018), a site-specific commission, played out on two screens. Here, at this top Bangkok attraction, the tour guides who work there did the explaining, but elsewhere visitors might encounter a storyteller upon exiting a video installation. Sometimes these interactions led nowhere, but other times conversations that helped guide the viewer down a path of meaning were struck.

Ghost:2561’s storytellers were not the only mediums in attendance. From the eerie promotional video to Korakrit’s curatorial letter (“Dear Ghost, Welcome to my body…”) and the performers (Boychild, Ashland Mines and Thanapol Virulakul), everybody and everything channeled something during this two-week event. Some of the ten venues even took on a spectral quality. This was most evident at Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Gallery Ver, within the N22 warehouse gallery enclave, where flames gently kissed the walls as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s phantasmagoric short Blue (2018) crackled into life. Next door, a more discombobulating immersiveness was achieved by Lumapid Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise, 2016), Stephanie Comilang’s sci-fi-inflected documentary about three Filipina migrant workers. In a room lined with cardboard boxes, three screens concurrently played mobile-phone footage of them spending Sundays, their only day off, socializing amid cardboard cities in downtown Hong Kong. “I am the transmitter… they are stored in my cache,” muttered the deadpan narrator, a drone voiced by the artist’s mother, as images gamboled frenetically around the room.

 

 

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Just as Korakrit hoped his storytellers would smooth the introduction of video art, most of it theory-driven and hailing from outside Thailand, to Thai audiences, Ghost:2561’s animist conceit was intended to foster comprehension and engagement with new modes of narrative. “I wanted to bring things together using a metaphor that felt local and somehow naturalized,” he told Garage magazine before the opening. Often this metaphor was quickly effaced, the dialogue at talks stumbling into the realms of structural critique, object-based ontology, and Derridean concepts. At one of three curated screenings, for example, curator Aily Nash spoke about the hauntology of cinema, namely its temporal and spatial boundlessness, and introduced three films, including Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History (2009), that navigate embodied and disembodied experiences, and physical and psychic spaces. A few hours before, at the Thailand Creative & Design Center, Monica Narula from the Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective and Amalia Jyran gave an elegiac lecture-performance that, through fragments of film, images, and letters, seemed to both bend time and long for a future that never arrived.

All the work, Korakrit explained, was about “renegotiating our relationships with data, whatever that data is,” and, while the tone varied from snarky to contemplative, it was hard to disagree — slick attempts to parse the contemporary condition, to reveal the hidden and shadowy, were everywhere you looked. The prospect of data as people, for example, was brought to a heightened level of consciousness by Ian Cheng’s Emissary Sunsets the Self (2017): a towering AI simulation wherein primitive races compete to assert their authority in a mutating dystopic ecosystem. Also at Bangkok CityCity gallery (the co-founder of which, Akapol Sudasna, co-initiated Ghost:2561), Jon Rafman’s Deluge (2018) found visitors queuing to experience a serpentine VR landscape that felt like a portent of what may come. Other dense, rewarding works included a send-up of modern life’s free-associative onslaught of imagery knitted together out of Hokusai Tumblr memes, spoof weather reports, and Bruce Lee sound-bites (Hito Steyerl’s Liquidity Inc, first shown at London’s ICA back in 2014); an unsettling fever dream from a posthuman future, the narrator of which pondered “the weight of a soul, measured in terrabytes” (Metahaven’s Information Skies, 2017); and a transmigratory romp through the evolution of the spiral motif that culminates with an advert for a rejuvenating snail gel (Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s Golden Spiral, 2018).

Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Golden Spiral
Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Golden Spiral. Courtesy of the artist and Ghost Foundation.

Known for his histrionic Gesamtkunstwerks comprised of trap music, portentous spirituality, action painting, denim, drone footage, and madcap assemblages, Korakrit’s first curatorial endeavor offered cerebral escapism — and a certain subcultural cool quotient — at a time when much of the city’s art scene was in the thrall of a less cogent and more conventional spectacle. Timing Ghost:2561 so that it overlapped with the opening of the public- and private-sector-backed Bangkok Art Biennale was a deliberate move on his part, as he hoped that the context provided by a standard biennale format would throw its elusive conceptual form into sharper relief. And so, at times, it proved.

A few days before Ghost:2561 concluded, an evening of screenings, talks, and performance at Beam nightclub, in Bangkok’s Thonglor neighborhood, offered the most dissonant experience of all. After screenings of short films from New York’s DIS Edutainment Network and a discussion with two of its founders, a live performance by DJ-artist Ashland Mines did something unexpected — hypostasized the collective consciousness of America’s “Black Identity Extremists,” to coin a heated FBI term, in an unforgettable manner. In the twenty-minute Pit Saint, a furious collage of juddering imagery and looped audio snippets, sourced from internet recordings of black American spirituality, accompanied a sexually charged one-man show that was part live-cam BDSM fantasy, part explosion of Dionysian energy. It ended with a nightclub full of people staring up at a bondage-gear clad figure standing, hands cupped in prayer, on a speaker. Of Ghost:2561’s many acts of possession, its attempts to “give form and presence to invisible systems,” this was, to put it mildly, the most confrontational.

by Max Crosbie-Jones

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Jesse Darling Tate Britain / London

Jesse Darling’s sculptures at Tate are injured. They are suffering. Bent aluminum mobility crutches buckle under their own weight; the legs of cabinets collapse; Band-Aids are stuck onto glazed surfaces. Anthropomorphic, they suggest fractured bodies struggling not only to move and carry on, but also, to be. Although they are macabre in this sense, they seem playful (little birds perch on the end of wires, severed fingers are also scribbly pens): bodies working it out as they go, trying to find some joy in the journey.

In Regalia and Insignia, a corpus is fragmented, reduced to broken bones and severed fingers arranged within bondage packs and hung from butcher’s hooks. Elsewhere, the two Sphinxes of the gate (both 2018) barely guard the entrance door. Trapped within glass vitrines, the jesmonite faces of these lions are affixed to a bare skeleton armature; one is bound with a dog gag, the other sucks from a surgical pack. Taking its cue from the exhibition’s title, “The Ballad of St Jerome”, the sculptures acknowledge the story of Saint Jerome, who when confronted with a ferocious lion acknowledged its pain, removing a thorn from its paw and gaining a lifelong comrade. These sphinxes are counter to their usual sign of strength: now vulnerable, they need help — not necessarily straightforward in a society that has disdain for weakness, or uses and abuses it to strengthen tainted power structures.

Some of the works are installed up high by the skylight windows, attempting structural escape. Icarus bears the standard (2018) comprises a feather pillow strapped around a flag bracket with strap-on and dog harnesses. The phallic protrusion of the bracket is smothered with the cushion, which bulges where the black straps have cut into its softness. Each material component is constrained. Icarus’s bold quest for freedom when flying toward the sun (though ultimately doomed) morphs into one of bound subjugation, complying with restrictive standards that have been imposed upon it — in this case by the artist, but when taken as a symbol for repressive gender roles, the rules of engagement are socially constructed and perpetuated. Sometimes we must fly and fall to really know ourselves.

Darling deconstructs identity using this mix of theology and mythology, stories becoming a methodology through which to unravel contemporary attitudes toward gender, sexuality, and selfhood. The lion and batman in the garden (temporary relief) (2018) sees these two eponymous characters drawn into aluminum foil using pencil and ink — though it is the debossed impression left by the pencil that is prominent — and framed like an altarpiece. The parenthetical title has two meanings: one suggesting the momentary analgesia of pain relief substances, the other highlighting the nature of the drawing itself, which could — if the artist wanted to — be gently smoothed out with attention not to tear the foil’s surface. After all, anything can be re-worked, re-envisaged, and understood anew with a bit of care and compassion. Considered relative to the lion, we just have to look past the surface to see bodies for what they really are: flesh that is easily wounded, though which finds new life if nurtured.

by Louisa Elderton

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Long Slow Accelerations

In 2013, a mostly full audience at the Hammer Museum watched ITSOFOMO (In the Shadow of Forward Motion), David Wojnarowicz’s 1989 collaboration with the composer Ben Neill.

The projector screen was broken up into four rectangles, staccato video clips filling each one. They were exemplary Wojnarowicz images: animals fighting, swooping close-ups of books, ants running wild over objects. The oppositions and matches made between the four different channels are slippery and forceful, the film nearly ungraspable but deeply resonant. I liked it, but I was stuck on the soundtrack. Wojnarowicz’s voice, a dry-throated whisper, opened the piece, a straight line cutting through an uneasy, ambient soundscape. I remember almost straining to keep within comprehension of his words, when a thunderous drum hit cut through, startling the whole room. The music stretched and careened through defiance, tenderness, and rage. Before long, the latter of these moods took over, an onslaught of sound, Wojnarowicz’s full-throated voice hammering through the text. It was a powerful, familiar kind of music, but hard to locate in the late 1980s it emerged from, feeling closer to the skinless, patient humanity of post-Y2K omnivores like Xiu Xiu or Blood Orange. I thought about the music for a few days before attempting a furtive internet search for a bootleg of the video, thinking I could scrape off the music the same way I recorded Sub Society and Operation Ivy songs off skate videos as a kid.

So, I was surprised to discover a CD of ITSOFOMO, released by an Italian label in 1992. I spent too much on a secondhand copy via eBay and listened to it for a full year before reaching out to Ben Neill to see if he’d be interested in working on a reissue of the CD. I thought an LP would be a nice nod to the era it was made in, and hoped that breaking up the five movements across two records would give the listener some breathing room. After four years of discussion, tape transfers, lost masters, and occasional dismay at the continued relevance of Wojnarowicz’s indictments, ITSOFOMO came out on October 22, 2018. Ben and I spoke about the original piece and his perspective on it now.

Ethan Swan: We just made an LP record of ITSOFOMO. The piece was first presented at the Kitchen, a live performance with dancers and video and props. There was a CD in 1992, and there’s a version that’s shown as a screening, which is how I first saw/heard the work. Is there one that feels like the definitive version to you? 

Ben Neill: I feel like the definitive version was the one performed by David, percussionist Don Yallech, and me along with David’s four videotapes. The original Kitchen performance was cut back for both aesthetic and practical reasons: David was not happy with the dance and theatrical elements, and it was impractical to tour with the sculptures/props. The trio was more like a rock band with the four videos; it was more visceral and direct and seemed more suited to the content. I also performed the piece with David a few times without the live percussion, but the trio with the live music and video was definitely the most complete realization. The CD was a multitrack recording of a live performance, which captures the audio very well, but I think the four-video version with the recorded music that I created in conjunction with the Hammer Museum a few years ago is the fullest representation.

Rehearsal for ITSOFOMO performance at The Kitchen, New York
Rehearsal for ITSOFOMO performance at The Kitchen, New York, 1989. Photo: © Andreas Sterzing

ES: Sylvère Lotringer did that great interview with you that untangles the history of the piece, how you and David had worked together on the cover of your debut LP, and, when you subsequently had an invitation to perform at The Kitchen in New York, you asked David if he wanted to be part of it. Did you know David had been in 3 Teens Kill 4? What led you to making that invitation? Were you surprised by his performance?

BN: David mentioned that he had performed with a band in the past, but I never saw any of their shows. The performance idea was a natural outgrowth of our conversations once we realized that we had a lot of common ideas. I didn’t know what his performance would be like, but as we started developing the piece, I could see that he had an extremely strong presence as a performer. His voice was incredibly rich and he utilized it fully, literally going from whispers to screams during the performances.

ES: What about your own background, and how it led to this piece? Before you moved to New York you were involved in punk and new wave scenes in Ohio, and after you arrived you connected with Jon Hassell and La Monte Young. I think about the harshness of ITSOFOMO and its tension and its force. I can imagine you felt at home in all of that, but I can also see it all as very challenging. Did you feel ready to make this piece? Did this collaboration push you into new places? 

BN: My background as a musician was as a trumpet player. I had a classical training, but I was also very passionate about popular music and also had a strong interest in the visual arts. Writing my own music was kind of a reaction against my classical training. I was interested in doing something musically that was more connected to the cultural milieu of my own era, and classical music seemed too limiting. The punk/new wave scene of Northeast Ohio was the first context where I created my own music and started working on what became mutantrumpet [a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument invented by Neill]. When I moved to New York in 1983 I decided to focus on developing a solo composer/performer project centered on the new instrument that would bring these two disparate sensibilities together. Robert Moog was assisting me with the electronics — he was a great supporter — and Jon Hassell’s work had been a big inspiration to me for years. I contacted Jon through his record label and we started getting together. He introduced me to La Monte Young and Rhys Chatham, who were both important in my development. I started studying with La Monte and performing his music, and also played in Rhys’s guitar ensemble. Rhys was very focused on the idea of merging classical avant-garde ideas with the energy and volume of punk, which reinforced my creative instincts. As I worked more with La Monte I got a better understanding of just intonation and frequency ratios, and I started incorporating those numerical structures into my pieces based on a concept I called rhytharmonics. Basically the idea was to apply the ratios of just intonation to all aspects of a composition rather than just pitch: rhythm, duration, tempo, and large-scale form. All of my work in the ’80s was blending these numerical, conceptual structures with rock and later dance music using the mutantrumpet as the performance vehicle. ITSOFOMO is probably the most complex piece I’ve ever created in terms of its numerical structure, and also perhaps the most visceral, so I would say it really drew together the two sensibilities that I had been working with for about a decade. I had huge respect for David’s vision and ideas, and I think the tremendous depth and scope of his work pushed me to be more ambitious and expansive in our collaboration.

 

ES: You sent me a 1993 review of the CD published in Variant magazine which describes the piece as “exhausting yet exhilarating,” and another time you mentioned a review that describes the record as having “a real sense of physicality.” Don’s percussion plays a role in this, but I think the whole piece is built to keep the listener very present. Does that grow out of the initial discussions you and David had about “forward motion” and how to enact it in the piece? I also wonder if this plays into bigger themes you’ve explored throughout your life, like the support you’ve given to Hyperdub and this kind of electronic music that uses volume and bass to create a physical connection to the body.

BN: I think the physicality stems from several places, the most obvious being the powerful content of the texts and the way David delivers them, particularly in the last section. The overarching concept of ITSOFOMO was the idea of acceleration. We wanted to implement that structure on many different micro and macro levels with the hope of generating a strongly physical experience for the audience through the combination of text, music, and video. One of my main reasons for working with just intonation and frequency ratios was their power to create stronger physical sensations and psychological states. The resonances of whole-number ratios are powerful, and I was implementing them across all of the aspects of composition with the goal of generating more visceral experiences. The instrumentation reinforced the sonic physicality; the large percussion battery with timpani was powerful by itself, and the electronics were all live, run from an Atari 1040 ST computer. The timpani were set up to trigger electronics, and David, Don, and I all had individual control of processing our sounds with upward glissando effects, which were another manifestation of acceleration through increasing frequency. There are a lot of long, slow accelerations throughout the piece that are pushing forward almost subliminally, as well as other points where the increasing speed becomes more frenzied. These phenomena are demonstrated in the music as well as the video, and I think this creates a sense of engagement, of being pulled forward by the piece. My subsequent involvement with various popular electronic music genres such as illbient, drum and bass, breaks, and dubstep certainly connects to the kind of experience that we were exploring in ITSOFOMO. I have become even more focused on the visceral side of things in recent years, not as focused on complex numerical systems as before; although there is always something of that structure, it’s not as rigorously implemented.

ES: In Cynthia Carr’s biography of Wojnarowicz, she mentions a last-minute addendum to the program for ITSOFOMO at the Kitchen, which added facts and statistics about AIDS. What was it like making art in that context? Did it feel constructive? Cathartic? Part of a bigger program?

BN: The time leading up to the premiere was a whirlwind. I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but David had been diagnosed with AIDS, the Artists Space catalogue episode was in full swing, and generally the AIDS crisis had reached a fever pitch. ITSOFOMO felt like a very cathartic experience that was channeling all of that energy — it was kind of dizzying. Going back to my experiences in punk rock, I had always been interested in creating art that had strong social relevance for its time, and ITSOFOMO definitely had that more strongly than anything else I’ve ever done.

Ethan Swan is the founder of Jabs Records.

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Julien Ceccaldi Kölnischer Kunstverein / Cologne

In Julien Ceccaldi’s comic Solito, published to accompany his solo institutional debut at Kölnischer Kunstverein, an androgynous thirty-year-old, jobless and stagnating at home, ejaculates, in a penetrative fantasy, on their doll-cum-confidante, Marie-Claude. Rats gnaw the doll’s face while Solito drifts to sleep. Miraculously, this reveals a door to an Elysium of candy meadows and strawberry milk rivers. Here, the virgin Solito slides into a hazy love triangle with Marie-Claude and a hulky, sensitive cadaver named Oscar. Like all arrangements based on unobtainable projections, it ends achingly.

Ceccaldi’s an intrepid chronicler of the isolations of unrequited desire. While his comics, with their deft, sensitive lenses upon the injustices of gender and identity, teeter along pleasingly humorous arcs, his artistic installations, of which this exhibition comprises the most ambitious to date, eschew narrative. They share Roland Barthes’s understanding of the discomposing and histrionic nature of love’s discourse: his intuition that, in love’s agonizing phantasmagoria, “the end, like my own death, belongs to others.” Across three floors, the artist extracted and exaggerated scenes from the print publication, as if yearning his characters into the real world, or seeing them in every surface. Works on canvas, utilizing the cel technique of traditional hand-drawn animation, floated intricate illustrations over pastel backgrounds, though I wondered if they’d gain depth through more catalytic layering. Murals developed a logic of, ahem, misery-en-scène, gestural brushstrokes evoking a vulnerability that bled into the gallery through readymade props. Affect was enhanced when artworks overlapped. In one constellation, framed ink drawings hung over a mural depicting a sickly, pining Solito. In front, an expressively torqued sculpture of a wigged, wood-stained corpse gazed skyward, like an anatomical skeleton moonlighting within a Bernini altarpiece.

Solito acknowledges diverse influences, from drag to the mangas of Kunihiko Ikuhara and Riyoko Ikeda, blending these into an affirmatively strange vision of the languorous subject. Its psychological debt is to Hans Christian Andersen, referencing The Little Match Girl (alongside other fairy tales like E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker), and Andersen’s vivid diaristic accounts of masturbation.. Stained cartoons on large PVC sheets filled the Kunstverein’s windows, blocking the Cologne cityscape while broadcasting Ceccaldi’s wicked compositions streetward. Capturing the psychic split between interiority and exteriority, these showed the disreality of queer life in a heteropatriarchal world.

by Harry Burke

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G.B. Jones Cooper Cole / Toronto

Black spray paint collects gorgeously on the wall, constituting the curvaceous outline of an Ionic column. Reappearing throughout the basement and mezzanine galleries, these architectural interventions mark G.B. Jones’s first exhibition in her home city in over a decade.

The image references her legendary post-punk band Fifth Column (1981–2002), and helps trace a line from her work during the band’s era, which includes films, zines, and music, to her ongoing and equally formidable body of drawings, the best known of which is the “Tom Girls” series. In the latter, Tom of Finland’s iconic muscular men are replaced by a world of women, reproduced with the same taut lines and shading style to capture voluptuous details of bodies foregrounded against detailed cruising sites. In her new series of modestly scaled graphite-on-paper drawings, the lines are much looser and yet their subjects remain louche: a gathering of real and fictional witches.

The exhibition title, “What’s Next is Close at Hand,” evokes the latent threat of an inevitable fate, and can be traced to the text scrawled beneath Jones’s portrait of Barbara Steele, recognizable for her roles as a witch in such Italian horror films as The Long Hair of Death (1964). Her cutting eyes look to our left, and amid the shading on her shoulder a faint coffee stain can be seen. The mark suggests a working routine that doesn’t separate art and life, where any casual surface can become a studio.

G.B. Jones Barbara Steele as Mary from "The Long Hair of Death", 2017
G.B. Jones, Barbara Steele as Mary from “The Long Hair of Death,” 2017. Courtesy of G.B. Jones and Cooper Cole, Toronto

Although Jones sketches both Sybil Leek and Kim Novak as Gillian Holroyd from the film Bell, Book and Candle (1958) alongside animal companions (a perched bird and an embraced cat, respectively), the rest of the subjects are striking for their sangfroid and solitary stance. The one significant exception is the drawing of Eleanor “Ray” Bone, the British Wiccan. Brandishing a sword in her right hand and with her left-hand index finger extended, these two points frame her skyward gaze. Seven figures emerge from behind deep vertical lines that shade the space around her. Their features are muted, their names unknown. Like the infiltrative strategy after which Jones’s band was named, they too are columns: poised to maintain a struggle out of the spotlight, all in the name of support for one another and strategies of subterfuge yet to come.

by Jacob Korczynski

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