Monday, September 14, 2009

Walter Benjamin & Fashion

Passage des Panoramas, Paris

German writer Walter Benjamin concentrated on cultural theory. In the late 1920's, he began researching the Arcades, the glass enclosed shopping areas of Paris. Some of his research influenced his essay on Paris and the 19th century but the project as a whole was never completed. Tigersprung by Ulrich Lehman addresses the Arcades Project in detail and gives light to Benjamin's interest in fashion as a cultural phenomenon. More on Benjamin, fashion and the Arcades here.

In 1936, Benjamin wrote a fundamental text called "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." For Benjamin the value of some thing as art was related to its original unique context in time, as well as its relationship to the passage of time. Mass production and reproduction provide some benefit by creating more access to goods and with photography, a more clear vision. But Benjamin proposes that with mass production art loses its “aura," meaning it ultimately becomes less special.

Today we live in a world of mass produced items where we personalize the mass produced. We accept the copy as valid in the case of the art edition, and even more so with the movie, music and other goods that maintain social aura through unique fame. In fashion, ready to wear is accepted as original whenever it is marked by a label but only haute couture qualifies as one of a kind authenticity.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres' art work was contingent on mass produced elements.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (North), 1993, at the American Pavillon, Venice Beinnale, 2007

Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1991

Read about Rei Kawaakubo's creativity in mass produced apparel and brand dispersion

Commes des Garcons Play

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