Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

TULIPOMANIA, A raging fever for a flower that turned men crazy.

An  essay based on the book The Tulip,  Anna Pavord's book, (1999).
Marc T.

Passion for flowers is a true sign of devotion for nature in Western culture, and early in history, this passion was expressed in the creation gardens to idealize nature and  in collecting exotic plants by the aristocracy.
Why flowers and what is the secret behind flowers that can turn men and women crazy.What is the hidden link with  flowers that is inspiring an outrageous behavior. This essay is travelling us back to the Golden Age in the Netherlands, between 1634 and 1640. During six years the Dutch were literally captured by a fever with a never seen equivalent in history. What happen to the Dutch aristocracy during the Golden Age is still unknown.Centuries later the phenomenon was still in the memories also outside Holland. 
In 1841, the Scottish journalist, Charles Mackay wrote in  "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" "...12 acres (5ha) of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb..." Mackay in its book claims that "many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock". 
From a biological approach, flowers are the sexual organs of a plants, and maybe this is explaining why we are attracted by  flowers, revealing hidden sexual phantasms and fantasies in a subtle interaction between  smells, colors and forms.  We can observe how delicately we manipulate flowers, it is an almost sensual gesture and is evoking amazing sensations often close to love emotions.In other cultures its symbolizes fertility and sometimes also the evil. In some African tribes some flowers are attributed to the bad evil, while other flowers are used to protect the villages. In all cultures in the world  flowers are an integer part of cultural and social life. 
Flowers are  important actors in  exchanges and relationships between persons, with no difference if it concerns men or women, differences in age or cultural background. In  Romantic England and Victorian period, young lovers were communicating their devotions through flowers, giving a rose was a demand, separating the petals from the flower was a refusal.  Flowers contributed to an extraordinary epithet of desires and seduction.
The high society made of proud of  to posses the most spectacular gardens with plants coming from all over the world. The gardens were places to meet or to invite,  to hide lovers and mistresses, it was and still is an ideal location to exhibit wealth and power.
Some flowers have an incredible, almost magical and even mystical, attraction and ,  for still unknown reasons, some flowers can have such an impact that it changes dramatically our lives. We know the story of roses in perfume making, the unbelievable magic power of the Rosa Damascena used in the most exclusive fragrances.
"Malle wagen"(Dutch for the foolish charriot) Hendrik Gerritsz Pot 1640.
Allegoriy of tulip.
"Flora" the Godess of flowers, is blowing by the wind and rides with a tippler, money changers and the two faced Godess "Fortuna". The y are followed by dissolute Haarlem weavers, on their way to destruction in the sea

The Tulip is another of those flowers that had such a impact. Why  men turned absolutely crazy for this plant, was it  unlimited love or an evil magic power. In the 17th century the Tulip was ruling Kingdoms, was making fortunes and unfortunately it was also creating catastrophes and disasters amongst rich people getting bankrupt by a simple flower growing in Turkey mountains and became a never seen power.

"Flowers in a glass vase"   Ambrosius Bosschaerts The Elder 1573 - 1614.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium and living in The Netherlands, Ambrosius Bosschaerts the Elder was one the Great masters  in still life painting in the Dutch Golden Age.
National Gallery London.

The tulip does not disappoint. Its background is full of more mysteries, dramas, dilemmas, disasters and triumphs than any besotted aficionado could reasonably expect. In the wild, it is an Eastern flower, growing along a corridor which stretches either side of the line of latitude 40 degrees North. The line extends from Ankara in Turkey eastwards through Jerevan and Baku to Turkmenistan, then on past Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent to the mountains of the Pamir-Alai, which, with neighbouring Tien Shan is the the hotbed of the tulip family.
As far as Western Europe is concerned, the tulip's story began in Turkey, from where in the mid sixteenth century, European travelers brought back news of the brilliant and until then unknown "Lils Rouges", so prized by the Turks. In fact they were not lilies at all but tulips. In April 1559, the Zurich physician and botanist Conrad Gesner saw the tulip flowering for the first time in the splendid garden made by Johannis  Heinrich Herwart of Augsburg, Bavaria.

The Swiss physician and botanist Conrad Gesner ( engraving unknown appr. 1550)

He described its gleaming red petals and its sensuous scent in a book published two years later, the first known report of the flower growing in Western Europe. The tulip, wrote Gesner, had 'sprung'  from a seed which had come from Constantinople or as others say from Cappadocia'. From that flower and from its wild cousins, gathered over the next 300 years from the steppes of Siberia from Afghanistan, Chitral, Beirut and the Caucasus, came the cultivars which have been grown in gardens ever since. More than 5500 different tulips are listed in the International Register published regularly since 1929 by the Royal general bulbgrowers's Association in the Netherlands. Holland was the setting for one of the most strangest episodes in the long mesmerising story of the tulip. The 'Tulipomania' that raged in Holland between 1634 and 1637 has puzzled historians and economists every since. How could it have ever happened that single bulbs of certain kinds of tulips could change hands for sums that would have secured a town house in the best quarter of Amsterdam? How was it possible that at the height of the tulip fever, a bulb of Admiral van Enkhuysen weighing 215 azen, could sell for 5400 guilders, the equivalent of fifteen years' wages for the average Amsterdam bricklayer?
Certain facts are brought forward to support less certain theories. the setting up of the Dutch East India Compagny in 1602 and Amsterdam increasing importance as a port, marked the beginning of an era of great prosperity for the Dutch. merchants became rich, and in their wake, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and jewellers did too. Adrian Pauw, Lord of Heemstede, Keeper  of the Great Seal of Holland and envoy of the States General to various foreign courts, was one of the directors of the new East India compagny. his  house, which was just outside Haarlem, stood in magnificent gardens where tulips grew clustered around a mirrored gazebo. The mirrors gave the ilusion that the hundreds of blooms were thousands, for  even Adriaen Pauw could not afford to plant thousands of tulips.

Adriaen  Pauw Lord of Heemstede, Keeper of the Great Seal of Holland (1581 - 1653) 
portrait  by Gerard ter Borch (1617 - 1681)

For rich merchants, fountains, aviaries of rare birds and temples in the Greek style were standard accoutrements of the garden. But the tulip was the ultimate status  symbol, the definitive emblem of how much you were worth. In the 1980s the City traders' Porshe performed the same function, though  in a cruder way. Among the many rare tulips in Pauw's garden was the entire known stock of 'semper Augustus', the most beautifully marked of all the red and white sriped tulips of the early seventeenth century.

Pamphlet  from the Dutch Tulipomania printed 1637

Admiral van der Eijck, from the 1637 catalog of P.Cos, sold for 1045 guilders on 5 February 1637.

A note belonging to Admiraal Liefkens with the weight and prices of the tulip bulbs.
probably from the Alkmaar auction February the 5th 1637.

In the planting season of 1635, as prices began to rise, there was a fundamental change in how bulbs were traded in the Netherlands. increasinglu, they were sold by weight while still in the ground, with only a promissory note to indicate details of a bulb, including its weight at planting and when it would be lifted. the bulbs, themselves, the delivery of which was months away, were not sold, only these paper promisses. Weight was measured in aasen (azen or aces), an extremely small unit equal to approximatively 1/20 th of a gram. Although paying by weight was more fair way to asses price, an immature bulb costing less than a more mature one, it also increased the price of the heavier bulb. And, because a bulb planted in September or October likely would weight substantially more when lifted (after blooming) the following June or July, it encouraged speculation. Even if the price per aas did not change, the price of the bulb, itself, could increase three to five percent on the nine months, depending upon weight. heavier bulbs, too, tended to flower earlier and have more offsets, which are the smallest bulblets attached to the mother bulb.

By the 1640's, when tulipomania was officially over, there were thought to be only twelve bulbs of Semper augustus' still in existence, priced at 1200 guilders each. This was the equivalent of three times the average annual wage in mid seventeenth-century Holland, more or less 480 000  shekels.
If you could not afford the flowers themselves, you commissioned an artist such as Ambrosius Bosschaert or Balthasar van der Ast to paint tulips for you.

Balthazar van der Ast (1593/4 - 1657)

Balthazar van der Ast (1593/4 - 1657)
Flowers and insects

The  grand master in flower painting, the Dutch Jan van Huysum
portrait by Arnold Boonen 1720.
Even the grand master of Dutch flower painting jan van Huysum, could rarely command more than 5000 guilder for a painting. But a single bulb of the tulip 'Admiral Liefkens' changed hands for 4400 guilders at an auction in Alkmaar on 5 february 1637, while 'Admiral van Enkhuijsen' was even more expensive at 5400 guilders. The last of the big spenders bid at this auction of tulip bulbs ninety-nine lots which realised 90 000 guilders, perhaps as much as 36 million shekel in todays money. Because the sale was held in February, while the bulbs were still in the ground, each was sold by its weight at planting time, the weight recorded in azen.

 Jan van Huysum (1682 1749)

Jan van Huysum (1682 - 1749) 
detail. from Vase of Flowers 1722.

But a single bulb of the tulip "Admiral Liefkens' changed hands for 4400 guilders at an auction in Alkmaar on  5 February 1637, while 'Admiral van Enkhuysen' was even more expensive at 5400 guilders. the last of the big spenders bid at this auction of tulip bulbs ninety-nine lots which realised 90 000 guilders, perhaps as much as 30 million shekel in today's money. Because the sale was held in February, while the bulbs were still in the ground, each was sold by its weight at planting time, the weights recorded in azen. Offsets carry the same characteristics as their parents. That is why they were valuable.
In the end, there is no way to explain why tulip fever affected the solid, respectable burghers of Holland in a such an aberrant way. During a few years between 1630 until 1640 the Golden Age in the Netherlands was possessed and obsessed by a single flower called, tulip.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

NO COMMENT: Mila Huber, movement 2007


A short history of sharp dressed men and moral anxieties
photo research , captions and commentaries by Marc T.

The following analyse is from Rebecca Arnold, senior lecturer in cultural studies, fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and design in London. The article is a clear historical overview and the most complete study, concerning the ambiguity in the relation between men and dress. 
Since the history of dress and the establishment of dress codes, society had a dramatic impact on how men and women have to dress. The dress is much more than a protection against natural aggressions, it is an extremely coded item that has to reflect differences between sexes, social levels and appurtenances to social groups. The dress is also the ultimate way to expose and to underline cultural differences and to visualize subcultures or counter cultures. 
Since masculinity is held up as a signal of the 'norm' in Western culture, any deviation from conventional male attire is viewed with great unease. Exaggeration within the dress of those men who wish to step outside these somewhat rigid definitions has a long history, and exaggeration itself need only be slight to provoke moral anxiety. This is perhaps because to question masculinity within a strictly patriarchal society threatens the existing balance of power. Traditionally, men who blurred definitions of masculinity by expressing an overt interest in fashion were viewed suspiciously within western culture. They undermined stable ideas of men as workers and providers and slipped instead into the 'feminine' realm of sensuality and adornment.

  Oscar Wilde, a late 19th century dandy was a more flamboyant and sexualised creature, who rejected the Puritanical strictness of George Bryan "Beau" Brummel era.

During the 18th century and 19th centuries, groups of men like the Macaronis and Swells in England, the Incroyable in France, and the Dudes in America, sought to distinguish themselves through exaggerated and elaborated dress. They threw open the masquerade of masculinity, showing it to be another cultural construction rather than a given.

French Incroyables

The Maccaroni, mezzo tint by Philip Dawe 1773

In the middle of the 18th century in England, a Maccaroni was a fashionable young men who dressed and even spoke in a outlandishly affected and epicene manner. The term pejoratively referred to a man who "exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion in terms of clothes, fastidious eating and gambling. 
The following 1770's description of a Maccaroni, in maccaroni verse style is mixing Continental affections with English nature, laying himself open to satire.
"...There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male or female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately stated up amongst us. It is called a Maccaroni, it talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion..."
Young men who had been to Italy on the Grand Tour had developed a taste of macaroni, a type of food little known in England, and so they were said to belong to the Maccaroni Club. They would call anything that was fashionable or a la mode as "Very Maccaroni".Similar subculture was developed in France under the name "Les Incroyables, the incredible's" and in America the Dudes. 

An extravagant English Macaroni posing for an artist

American Dudes

Masculinity was so firm a foundation of contemporary social and political institutions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that any transgression was seen to be a betrayal of manhood, and a threat to the status of the country. Although masculinity was equated with 'culture' and femininity with 'nature', there was a very real fear of 'unnatural' masculinity. While it was accepted that gentlemen needed to demonstrate good etiquette and social poise, there was great unease that this could tip over into effeminate vanity. Any hint of exaggeration was deeply mistrusted because it was seen to indicate a subversive nature. A careful balance had to be struck between being overdressed for particular occasion and under-dressed, since slovenly costume was viewed as a symptom of indolence and immoral conduct. In the nineteenth  century, European empires grew and the thrusting explorer, soldier or industrialist was worshiped. These elements were reflected in the proliferation of uniforms in male dress during that period. While there were deviations in the style and cut of men's attire during the period, the repressive silhouette of the three-piece suit was ever present.
The dandy of the early nineteenth century, as personified by Beau Brummell in London, subverted these meanings of masculine sobriety.Instead of using overt exaggeration and elaboration to signal differences

George Bryan "Beau" Brummell. engraving by John Cook 1805

as the eighteenth century Macaroni has done, the dandy revered plainness and neatness in dress. Every detail of the dandy's dress must be perfect: dark fine wool coat, starched white linen shirt and cravat, buff breeches or pantaloons, hessian boots and soft yellow leather gloves. Dandies represented exaggerated sobriety rather than flamboyance in their dress.

"Le Dandy Chic", Robert de Montesquiou, Giovanni Boldini oil on canvas 1897.

Fashionable  young men were absorbed by inconspicuous consumption, which required close attention to, and knowledge of the quality of fabric and cut. The dandy's over-emphasis on the exterior was felt to break the Puritan ethic of humility. The sober tones of his dress only served to complicate the signals it gave off.. Dandies seemed respectable yet were obviously outside the accepted ideas of masculinity, Beau Brummel, who defined the dandy, was from a trade or service background and used fetishised neatness and plainess as symbols of restrained good taste and control. His dress exemplified the ease with the non-aristocrat could pass for his betters. He was an austere aesthetic that the upper classes followed and relied upon self-respect rather than respect from others based on rank. Dandies were sexually ambiguous, more interested in the approval of other dandies than the attention of women. Thomas Carlyle mocked them as part of a pseudo religion, playing upon religious severity and stress on a strict ritual of cleaning and washing - seemingly virtuous yet founded upon vanity.

 Thomas Carlyle 1795 - 1881
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist,  historian and professor at the Edinburgh University, he  was known as a controversial social commentator.

He wrote: "... And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognize his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflects rays of light..."

Oscar Wilde's late nineteenth-century dandy was a more flamboyant and sexualised creature, who rejected the Puritanical strictness of Brummell's era. The aesthetes' love of style for its own sake was a direct attack upon conventional masculine models, and reinforced Carlyle's concerns.

Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900) photographed in New York  by Napoleon Sarony  1882

Dress was yet to be acknowledged as a means of resistance, a visual insult to stiffing norms. During the last years of the nineteenth century the concepts of both homosexuality and feminism were crystallised, and although they were unrelated, they were viewed as a joint assault on contemporary manhood: 'The challenge to young men of the turn of the century was not only to adapt successfully to the pressures of modern urban life, but to adjust to these changing standards of feminity (Barraclough Paoletti J. - Ridicule and role models as factors in American men's fashion change 1880 - 1910 in costume no19-1985.)". The line between aceptance and rejection of the "norm" was and remains thin. Certain acts of flamboyance are countenanced within male dress codes, context and tradition is paramount. Post - war youth cultures successfully lifted the mask of masculinity, by revealing that the uniformity and anonymity of the suit was itself a construction, that it was a costume which was consumed like any other, and had been perfected to the point of inscrutability by ruling classes, who visually asserted their power through their "respectable" dress, setting an example that the lower classes were to aspire to in their "Sunday Best". In the twentieth century, the groomed image of the bowler-hatted city gent sits on the 'right' side of 'gentlemanly' while the mod's obsession with detail smacks of vanity and a lack of concern for the things that are deemed to matter. Masculinity rests upon unwritten acceptance of paying attention to dress only within certain arenas, where it can be read as a sign of duty, discipline and devotion to a just cause. Concentration on style within youth cultures seems to speak of concerns with leisure, and loyalty to groups of friends, rather than to the wider concerns with which men are meant to align themselves. The mods '...seemed to consciously invert the values associated with smart dress, to deliberately challenge the assumptions, to falsify the expectations derived from such sources..(Hebdige D. The Meaning of Mod in Hall S. & Jefferson T. eds. Resistence through Rituals, Youth subcultures in Post War Britain, London, Routledge 1996).
Mods' Italian -style suits, individualy tailored and smartly accessorised, were intended to impress upon the onlooker the mod's imagined status, rather than his actual social position.

The Beatles in 1963

Neatness was a symbol of middle-class morality, yet the mod was usually working and keen to subvert his immaculate image with gestures of insouciance and defiance. Groups like the mod's and Teddy Boys before them, took the leap of imagination to construct their own status and visual code, through a spectacularised version of their dress of their supposed 'betters' . Teenagers had increased spending power by the 1950's and their role models were from the glittering world of rock' n' roll. The fashion agenda was set by those who were supposed to blindly follow, as in the days of the original dandy. Masculinity, so long the 'norm' was fragmenting images of maleness, drawn from ideas of power and status, as as the fictional and visual representations of the 'hero' had constituted, as Graham Dawson noted in the Blond Bedouin, Manful Assertions, (London, Routledge 1991): " ...An imagined identity - which -  is something that has been 'made up' in the positive sense of active creation...It organizes a form that a masculine self can assume in the world (its  bodily appearance and dress, its conduct and mode of relating), as well as its values ans aspirations, its tastes and desires...".

A London mod and his motorbike 1960's

The new role models of the post-Second World War period also challenged moralists keen to reassert the respectable heroes of sport, the military or politics. Writing just before the Second World War, designer Elizabeth Hawes had despaired of men ever dressing in a way that allowed for more individuality and self-expression. She acknowledged that men's business suits were functional and easy to mass-produce, but she felt that men could wear lighter clothes in summer and brighter clothes for parties. However, she recognized that the average man was highly suspicious of any significant change in dress, fearing above all that he might be made to look ridiculous, and the easiest way to look foolish was to show too much regard for fashion.

Elizabeth Hawes 1903 - 1971, 
 Alexander Calder, Lynn Fontaine and Katherine Hepburn were E. Hawes favorite clients.

Hawes echoed the opinion of many when she wrote in Men Can Take It: "...With all my desire to see men comfortable, I would like everyone to understand from the beginning that the very last thing I should like to see is the introduction of fashion into men's clothing. fast becoming one of the greater ills of our time."
Fashion brought with it not only the devil of consumerism, but also the threat to stability contained in the notion that masculinity was off-the-peg , in the same way that vain femininity was. As the century progressed this challenge to masculinity became more acute, having to search for new constructions in response to feminist, gay rights and black civil rights criticism of its bias towards white, heterosexual, middle-class ideals. Shifts in work patterns have also undermined the stoic strength of tradition. The workplace has been opened  up to women and to people of other ethnic groups. Work itself has changed, shifting away from the heavy industries towards those based on technology and public services, requiring different and less physical skills as well as different attitudes.
By the end of the 1960s, the subverted suiting of the mods was being overtaken by the decadent styles of the hippies and the psychedelic unisex of stars like Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones

 Jimmy Hendrix burning his guitar on stage, it was a "psychedelic" sacrifice of the establishment.

Mick Jagger, photographed on the set of Performance 1968 by Cecil Beaton 
Performance was a British film directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, this cult film was witnessing the 1960s.society changes. 

Mick Jagger's dishevelled bohemian style was portrayed in the 1968 film Performance and was disturbing not only because of the star's careless narcissism, but the drug-induced haziness of the masculinity that he embodied. He was heterosexual, yet flaunted long hair, and a skinny androgynous body. He was shown in Cecil Beaton's photograph taken on the set of Performance thrown back among a confusion of glittering, jewel-coloured cushions and throws, a studded leather wristband the only (albeit rebellious) emblem of masculinity.
The notion that straight men might wear frilled and colorful clothes was decried in the press. In Britain, David Bowie's mercurial image proved the definitive icon of maleable gender identity, inspiring the sparkling hedonism of glam rock. The confused messages given out by such ensembles were to cause unease on both sides of the Atlantic. In "The Morality Gap, 1976", Mark Evans claimed that such images had promoted a 'warped and perverse culture'. He saw  the use of such unisex styles as an example of how: " In recent months, rock audiences have become so accustomed to the sick, the bizarre, the violent and the obscene, that promoters  are forced to seek new depths of depravity in order to hit the Top 40(quoted in Nature Boy, The Face vol 2 no 14 1989). He expresses the long held fear that such transgressive dress will  only lead to worse affronts to morality, that visual differencesis one step away from physical protest against the status quo. Since fashion and youth culture continually need to push bounderies further, each challenge to masculinity compels the next subversion and blurred gender divisions can never be clarified again. What Evans failed to realise was that antagonising the establishment was a means to assert difference as something positive rather than frightening. Gremaine Greer in the "Female Eunuch" wrote of such young men; "...Their long hair was a sign that they did not accept the morality of the crop-haired generation of bureaucrats which sired them..."

David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, shaking morality and confirming a new era, the 1970s.

By the 1980's the notion that masculinity was as much a masquerade as femininity was represented in the flamboyant costumes of clubland once more. The New Romantics theatricalised cross-dressing for men and women. They wore elaborate combinations of real and imagined past styles, painting their faces to enhance fantasy and artifice, their escape from the natural. Vivienne Westwood's Pirates collection of 1980 epitomised this post-modern pastiche of the past as gender playfulness rather than restrictive traditions. The unisex designs combined references to real seventeenth century dress in the convex seamed breeches and square - toed  boots, with the glamour of the Hollywood pirate, dishevelled and battle-torn, in bright red and gold layers. The so called 'gender bending' of pop stars like Boy George, who drew upon this eclectic dress code, was sufficiently mainstream by 1985 for mass-market cosmetics line Boots No7 to use a male model i

Boy George, lead singer from Culture Club 1980.The multicultural statement in dress and society.

in full, pearlised make-up for its advertising campaign, with the line 'Looks  better on a girl', the ironic pay-off.
The realisation in the 1980s that there is no single stereotype of gayness had enabled gay style to be used in more areas of fashion. Also, focus on the male body and voyeuristic depictions of it reinforced the attack on a single view of the masculinity. The exaggerated style of the Buffalo Boy, and Herb Ritts' and Bruce Weber's objectification of the male body, showed that the men were increasingly required to consume to maintain a sense of their masculinity.

Bruce Weber for Calvin Klein, new visions about what is a man. 

Herb Ritts "new" men, the Buffalo look

Advertisements reinforced people's need to acquire the right 'look' to meet contemporary expectations. Ray Petri's styling of the Buffalo look was important because it encapsulated the contemporary approach to masculinity, bringing together cult icons of 'classic' maleness, using for example, cowboy, Native American and boxing motifs, which had strong associations with childhood dressing up games as well as their cultural resonances. It also constructed the club uniform of customised MA1 jacket, Levi 501 jeans, Dr Martens shoes and white T-shirts, garments which again present a heady cocktail of functional anonymity in their military/workwear history, stylish transcendence of 'mere' fashion and acknowledgement of current gay subcultural dress. The images he created with Marc Lebon and Jamie Morgan  for magazines like i-D and The Face were highly influential, opening up market for later men's magazines like Arena in 1986. All focused on the same concerns of though, sports-inspired style, with the emphasis on the 'design classic' creating new options for masculinity. As Jamie Morgan wrote of Petri's style: "...His  images were strong and sensitive - they showed you didn't have to drink beer and beat people up to be tough. He gave men a sense of pride in the way they dress which was hugely influential..."
This look certainly had more impact than the more extreme experiments of the time. Female designers like Katharine Hammett, who produced fluid parachute silk shirts and trousers in the mid-eighties, and Vivienne Westwood, who favoured rich fabrics and decoration in her designs, offered more sensual and playful types of menswear, but it was Jean Paul Gaultier whose gender games became the most notorious. His male sarong skirts and knee length  kilts of the mid-eighties were seen to be too direct a challenge to masculine power.

Jean Paul Gaultier mixed it all up and creates confusion..

His aproach highlighted the role playing that is the basis of the masculine (as well as the feminine). By exposing masculinity as artifice, the lie that masculinity is natural and fixed collapsed under his stylised examination. However, it was his faux gangster-style double-breasted suits that were the dominant look of the aspirational male, and only the bravest would attempt one of his beaded matador boleros. Public unease meant that the male skirt was the reserve of the nightclub fantasy. In 1995 a man lost his case against Hackney Council in London, which had banned him from wearing a skirt to work; this challenge to the official 'norm' had proved too disquieting. In order to maintain the status quo, the dress codes assigned to the masculine must not be subverted in a manner that cuts through the discipline and lack of emotion implicit in traditional styles, in particular at work. it is notable that this is also the last place in which women are often made to wear skirts, a throwback to older ordering systems. Employers are reluctant to admit that fundamental changes in gender definition and women's status have taken place.
Although there may be more scope in women's dress for subversive signals, since femininity is not traditionally so important in the power structure, both the presentation and design of menswear became more spectacular in the last 30 years of the twentieth century. Ambiguity causes insecurity because definite understanding cannot easily be reached. This detracts from the neutral status usually accorded to the masculine. In the second half of the twentieth century it was recognized that society is multicultural, that there is increasing equality of the sexes and sexuality's. This acknowledgement forced masculinity to take part in the gender debate rather than to define it, and this in turn naturally led to anger from traditionalists, who longed for a monolithic past that never really existed.

From Fashion Desire and anxiety, image and morality in the 20th century by Rebecca Arnold, Rutgers University Press.

Ike Ude,  artist and publisher Arude Magazine New York
self portrait

Ike Ude incarnates the absolute of the contemporary dandy,

 Hamish Bowles, European editor at large at Vogue Magazine,, 
is considered as the world's best dressed man.  

Hamish Bowles or the contemporary "chic"

Monday, 12 September 2011

PHOTOGRAPHY: Polaroid visions of Shiraz Grinbaum

Marc T about Shiraz Grinbaum

Susan Sontag said about photography that it is, first of all, a way of seeing and  not seeing itself and that it is an ineluctably "modern" way of seeing - prejudiced in favor of projects of discovery and innovation.
Photography is a mental journey,  a supreme form of travel, and it is the principal means for enlarging the world, the world around us, our inner world and the visible world. John Berger in Ways of Seeing wrote:
"Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world". .John Berger underlines the interaction of seeing and being seen as an active way of communication between people. Oscar Wilde believes that the painted portrait is in fact the portrait of the artist himself. He wrote in The picture of Dorian Gray in 1891: ' every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. the sitter is merely the accident, the occasion."
The photographs from Shiraz Grinbaum are taking us to that mental journey and interprets the subtle variations of seeing and being seen to a personal style of creating an imagery that is liberating us from any preconceived concepts of what is photography. With her vision she is oscillating with 17th century  light, that we know from Vermeer's painting and from the Flemish school, with the use of Polaroids  giving to the image a retro , almost a  vintage feeling, and brings us back to the 1980s New York, with  Maripol's SX70 Polaroid  photographs and with her great capacity of creating a contemporary concept of beauty and aesthetics.

photography: Shiraz Grinbaum, model Esther

 photography: Shiraz Grinbaum, model Esther. Esther in a Carmen Marcus Valvo lace dress New Nomad NN5

 photography: Shiraz Grinbaum, model: Esther. Emanuel Ungaro dress, Mikaelle Assouline hat. New Nomad NN5

 photography: Shiraz Grinbaum, model Esther. Mikaela Assouline hat. New Nomad NN5.

photography: Shiraz Grinbaum, model Esther. Mirit Weinstock dress New Nomad NN5

Sunday, 11 September 2011

GLAMOUR OF THE DARK, Gothic in fashion: Marc T.

"Gothic" is an epithet with a strange history"

The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel. Louis Daguerre, oil on canvas 1825.

Gothic is evoking images of death, destruction, and decay, It is not just a word that describes something, such as a Gothic cathedral, it is also inevitably a term of abuse, implying that something is dark, barbarous, gloomy, and macabre. Ironically, its negative connotations have made it, in some respects, ideal as a symbol of rebellion. It is a subculture.
Art history has many literature and studies about Gothic in art, cinema and architecture, while there is a limited literature about Gothic style in costume or fashion.

Hans Holbein The Younger  1498 - 1543

 Hans Holbein "The Dance of the Death - woodcut circa 1530
Hans Holbein the Dance of The Death circa 1535.

Hans Holbein The Younger was born in Augsburg, Germany in 1497/8. He was known as Hand Holbein The Younger because of his father, Hans Holbein The Elder, a well known and accomplished painter. 
The young Holbein moved early to Basel, Switzerland, were he established a reputation as an internationally demanded artist. His influences were a rich accumulation of diverse styles; Late Gothic, Early Italian and French Renaissance as well his father's German Gothic and Netherlands styles of painting.
In 1526 he went to England were later he was awarded with the official title of Court Painter.  
Hans Holbein left an important collection woodcuts and book illustrations on the theme of Death.

 19th century "Bat Costume" illustrations  

Gothic is an important theme in contemporary fashion and not only in the Gothic subculture. Many high end designers as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Rick Owen, Olivier Theyskens or Yohji Yamamoto introduced Gothic themes in their collections.  Haute Couture did not accept to be labelled as Gothic because it is connected to morbid and to kitch.

The English Romantic poet Lord Byron 1788 - 1824 was the inspiring source behind John Polidori and Mary Shelley.

The first Vampire story in English was John Polidori's The Vampire 1819. John Polidori was a personal physician to Lord Byron and was touring Europe with lord Byron. During their journey  they met Wollstonecraft Godwin and her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley. Byron had an idea for everyone to write their own ghost story, after the group had to read aloud from the collection of horror stories. The end result was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and john Polidori's The Vampire.
The story was first attributed to lord Byron, but both Byron and Polidori asserted that the the story was Polidori's.

Gothic derives from the Latin "gothicus" meaning pertaining to the Goths (Gothos) a nomadic warrior people living in the forests of Northern Europe in third century AD. The Romans regarded the Germanic tribes like the Goths and Vandals as barbarian. This image was definitely established when the Visigoths sacked Rome in AD 410, triggering the fall of the Roman Empire. Later the Ostrogoth's, repeatedly invaded Italy, destroying the aqua ducts and decimating the population. The English author and philosopher Edmund Burke wrote in 1752:
" carrying Destruction before them as they advanced, and leaving horrid desserts every where behind them" This quotation of Edmund Burke implies that in the eighteenth century there was already thought to be something "sublime" about the wild and dangerous Goths.
The Gothic story flourished again in the Middle Ages in Europe. A new style of  art and architecture was developed. The Gothic cathedrals were characterized by soaring spires, pointed arches, fluing buttresses and stained glass windows. Medieval masterpiece buildings as the Chartres Cathedral, was retroactively termed The Gothic, from the Italian gottico meaning rough and barbarous, because it was different from both ancient classical architecture and the modern Renaissance aesthetic. Bodies, like buildings, were gothicized. As depicted in medieval art, the Gothic nude had a slender, elongated body, quite unlike the classical nude that inspired Renaissance artists. This stylization of the body in art reflected the lines of medieval fashion.
The European Middle Ages saw the beginning of fashion as the term is generally understand today - as a regular pattern of style change. Traditional costume historians use the term "Gothic fashion" to describe northern European medieval dress from the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries. Gothic fashion was exaggerated with long trailing sleeves and extraordinary head-dresses.

Medieval dress from 13th century

Ladies dresses featured shockingly deep decolletage, while young men wore skintight leggings, long pointed shoes and short doublets decorated with pinking, slashing and lacing. The medieval art was not all chivalry and elegance. When the Black Death decimated the population of Europe, it spawned a macabre obsession with skeletons and rotting corpses. The era of Dark Ages is entering history with the rise of the Enlightenment, the entire medieval period is characterized by superstition and religious fanaticism and fears for witchcraft, sorcery and satanism. The dark period was  a source of inspiration for some cultural outsiders, such as the homosexual aesthete and art historian Horace Walpole who built his little "Gothick" castle  and wrote the very first Gothic novel "The Castle of Otranto" in 1764.

Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, England. (1717 - 1797)

Strawberry Hills, Horace Walpole's Gothic reconstructed  castle 
The Nightmare, oil on canvas 1781
The Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) was responding to Walpole's  Gothic weirdness

In the middle of the 18th century Goth had a revival and a vogue of melodramatic horror literature such as The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Architectural ruins became the perfect settings for the new taste of Romantic backward looking thoughts.
Tracing back the gothic sensibility leads one down peculiar historical pathways, where "fatal" women and "corpse passions" of the Romantic and Decadent movements take on a new life. Iconic English novels from Mary Shelley Frankenstein (1818), Bram Brooker Dracula (1897), Wuthering Heighs (1847) and Jane Eyre (1847) established an enduring neo-gothic genre featuring dangerous yet strangely attractive men who threatened innocent young women. The genre will inspire French Decadent Literature, German Expressionist cinema, and Hollywood horror cinema. The Hollywood cinema was crucial in imposing the visual iconography of the Goths.
The association of fashion and death is central  to Gothic style, but death is allied to fashion more generally. "Fashion must die and die quickly, in order that it can begin to live" declared Gabrielle Chanel. "The more ephemeral a fashion is, the more perfect it is. You can't protect what's already dead". The French poet  and close friend of Chanel Jean Cocteau joked: "One must forgive  fashion everything, because it dies so young". Paul Morand compared fashion to Nemesis, the Goddess of destruction. Fashion is somehow destructive and centers on changes; what was in yesterday is out today.Although fashion is the modern measure of time, it also exists outside  the organic cycle of birth, death and decay. the human body may age and die, but by celebrating novelty and artificiality, fashion promises seasonal renewal and eternal youth.
Philosopher Walter Benjamin observes that death lies at the heart of fashion, because unlike the living and dying body, fashion is neither alive nor dead. According to Benjamin, the essence of fashion is fetishism, because sex appeal derives from the inorganic clothing and jewelry. even the face is covered with cosmetics. Benjamin  concludes that the living person becomes a kind of mannequin,  a gaily decked-out corpse.
The corpse, or the body transformation influenced the collaboration between fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The Skeleton dress, a black rayon dinner dress with the bones outlined in padded embroidery was inspired by a circus sideshow freak, the Skeleton Man.  The dress was showed  in Paris on February the 4th 1938, concurrent with the Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme.

The Skeleton dress, Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali 1938.

The most important contemporary manifestation of the Gothic is the Goth subculture in the 1970. The goths were associated with a new style of dark music and  overwhelmingly black dress style.The London Gothic scene was merely represented through music groups and in a specific club circuit. The most authentic and the first goth club was The Bat Cave in London. The Bat Cave was founded by Anna Goodman in the early 1970's.

Anna Goodman founder of The Bat Cave, London

Jonny Slut,  leader of the London Goth Punk subculture.

The Bat Cave
death punk band at The Bat Cave

Goth girls at The Bat Cave
 Goth girl

 Halloween at the Bat Cave

The Bat Cave was the meeting place for the London subculture. most of the dresses were purchased at flee markets and in hype shops like Hyper Hyper. The dresses were merely Victorian and composed with corsets, lace stockings and bodies and with an accentuated pale make up underlined with contrasting black eyeliner and lipstick. The clothes were self made and composed with different parts

The British  post-punk  rock band Bauhaus understood the power of image. The first album released in 1979 "Bela Lugosi's Death"  was not naive. The band was aware of the movements associations and translated its visionary ideals into a music revolution of their own.  album cover designed by Peter Saville and photograph of Bela Lugosi in Dracula.

The Joy division  1980 album cover "Closer" was designed by Peter Saville and martyn Atkins. The subject was inspired by a Gothic theme. The photograph was completely styled as a 18th century classic painting. Photography Bernard-Pierre Wolff. 

Pandora Gorey Harrison grow up in Buffalo, New York and moved to London in 1984 after High school.
Her  High School Classmates  were into heavy metal and rock but it is through her interest in Victorian dresses that she found at the flee market that she began to be interested in goth music and goth subculture and was attracted by the romantic Victorian Goth style.
Pandora Harrison likes to define goth as following: " you can be a goth on the inside because you like Edgar Allan Poe, or you can be a goth because you like the music, even though you just wear a T-shirt and black jeans and boots, or you can be into fashion and make-up. You don't have to be miserable and preoccupied with death, although I've always loved Victorian funeral customs".
Pandora created her own version of goth style, both inspired by Victorian romanticism and  fetish.
Contemporary goths tend to be much more dialectically engaged with the past than is typical of most youth subcultures. Not only do they draw inspiration from subcultural antecedents, such as punk or glam rock, they also draw on an eclectic historical canon of literary, aesthetic and philosophical traditions. 

The  Queen of Goth, Pandora Harrison

Pandora's invitation for her 30th birthday

Pandora Harrison Gothic eroticism

 Pandora Harrison motorbike Gothic style

In marge of the contemporary subculture environment, Goth style was maybe the most explicit in cinema, Hollywood was a great contributor in diffusing the goth visual iconography.  The Japanese costume designer, Eiko Ishioka. Born in Tokyo in 1939,  Eiko Ishioka won an Oscar for the costumes in the Dracula remake in 1992. Eiko Ishioka created her particular style that she recalls as "Horror Aesthetics". The  style is based on surrealism and apocalyptic themes mingled with Victorian and Japanese elements of the Samurai traditions.

Costume designer Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka "Horror Aesthetic" series. Featuring Grace Jones in the Hurricane Tour.

  Eiko ishioka

 Eiko Ishioka

Gothic fashion, like the gothic novel, tends to be obsessed with the past, often a theatrical, highly artificial version of the past that contrasts dramatically with the perceived banality of contemporary life.
Gothic garments tend to articulate the body in particular ways, emphasizing themes such as imprisonment, spectrality, haunting, madness, monstrosity and the grotesque.Gothic fashion  is also linked to a particular sensibility, usualy a kind of dark romanticism. it has its own visual vocabulary which evolved from a set of narrative associations evoked by gothic literature of terror, from its origin in the eighteenth century to its contemporary manifestation in vampire fiction, cinema and art. In the world of fashion, the gothic look is perhaps most clearly expressed in photography.
Catherine Spooner as quoted in Goth ( page 154,Goodlad and Bibby) is an excellent definition for a particular style in contemporary fashion.    "Within gothic discourse, the clothes are the life: gothic chic is not a false surface for the gothic psyche, but an intrinsic part of it. Surely, therefore, within the world of fashion, it is this enduring potency of gothic images for imaginative self-identification that leads to their perennial revival"


Alexander McQueen

Ricardo Tisci Gothic evening dress for Givenchy

 Olivier Theyskens
Olivier Theyskens
Olivier Theyskens

Dai Rees, milliner

Dai Rees, milliner

Dai Rees, milliner

Dai Rees, milliner

Comme des Garcons

Comme des Garcons

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto wedding dress

Yohji Yamamoto

In the streets

Victorian Gothic girls  

Gothic Couple

 Victorian inspired Gothic girl at a railway station

Gothic wedding dress