The first iteration of
features charcoal drawings and video documentation of the performance by artist Elizabeth Jameson (Germany/U.S, born 1962), in which the artist wore a garment with forty-foot sleeves and went on a walking journey through Vienna, Austria.
Below is the featured commentary by University of Washington faculty that accompanies the installation.
You came here from somewhere else, and now you are looking at a wall. Eventually you will leave. You shall drag these encounters with you: inside you, and outside you (check your shoes). You're probably unaware that the world is pressing itself upon you right now, like clothing against your skin.
Fashion armors, but it also connects us to the world. We don't notice this most of the time, but Elizabeth Jameson wakes us up to the uncanniness of the sartorial. Sigmund Freud describes the uncanny [
] as the blur between inorganic and organic ("That dress is so you!"), and the familiar becomes unfamiliar. The native is foreign. Jameson's work gives us two different ways to understand clothing and (as) art. First, her charcoal drawings bespeak anxiety, and how clothing functions as ghostly—historical, disembodied—armor. Second, her film stages the woman as an out-of-place fashion spectacle. In this second medium, the model moves through foreign spaces, which include a museum. Passers-by register the spectacle— the dress, its female inhabitant—with a mixture of polite incredulity, constrained hilarity, and civilized suspicion. Its uncanny excess (those sleeves!) is the point at which the dress comes into contact with the street, and connects it to its viewers—one of which is now you. The woman is Jameson, dragging stares and detritus behind her as she ambles about Vienna, a city in which she does not live. Freud did. She is the artwork. And now so are you. Dress accordingly.
Hidden or Protected?
-Sarah Nash Gates,
My responses to Elizabeth Jameson's work are based in my work with historic western dress.
The first things I see are her quotes of four different historical silhouettes for women where structural garments (corsets and hoop structures) or quantity of fabric impact or distort the natural body shape. The woman with circular lines is inspired by early Spanish Renaissance shapes, and the small girl is straight out of the seventeenth-century Spanish court and the paintings of Diego Velásquez. The long hanging sleeves are seen widely across Western Europe in the early fifteenth century, and the mother and child are in a pose and garments typical of the eighteenth century.
Perhaps Jameson is offering us a meditation on past ideals of beauty or sexuality? Over many centuries humans certainly have passed through many different iterations of what is attractive for both men and women. However, all of the historic garments have been modified to cover all skin and faces. All of these women are anonymous, not individualized. Or is the individual protected by being hidden? Are we defined by our shape? Do hoods or head coverings and gauntlets offer us some protection of self—or do they deprive us of identity? And why heavy, industrial mitts rather than gloves? Do we need that much protection?
Perhaps we have that much hard work ahead of us.
-Caroline Chung Simpson,
Elizabeth Jameson's subjects in these charcoal sketches don't so much offer themselves to us as they demand something from us. The clue is in their poses. Each pose is familiar, so much so that Jameson relies on us to fill in the missing scene. The scene is, after all, the story.
might be a designer's sketch. It is customary in such sketches to omit the features of the face, and, here, the head itself (the latter, a practice carried over in dress forms and department store mannequins). The dress, its work on behalf of the body, is everything. Note how it elongates the leg, lengthens the arms. That those might in fact be arms, and not simply sleeves, slowly liquefying under the weight of fabric, congealing in bands, like poured, cold molasses? Well, try not to notice.
Jameson offers a dark restaging of the iconic Madonna and child image in
Historically the centerpiece in religious panel paintings, the Madonna and child ought, properly, to command the dutiful attention of figures in the outer panels. Each must be turned toward the scene of the redemptive birth of Christ, bearing witness to the promise of eternal release from the burdens and worries of earthly life. No such witnessing happens here. The luminous miracle of a divine but still human body, capable of transcending death, is met with disbelief. Best to be armored and outfitted against today's manifest certainties: contagion, infection, and corruption.