"If I could, unless we"
A Nightwalk through Manifattura Tabacchi
a cura di Linda Loppa
Manifattura Tabacchi is revealing its nocturnal side. The exhibition If I could, unless we, curated by Linda Loppa, has opened the doors to the Manifattura’s fascinating industrial spaces with a night walk. This is no casual stroll around the site, but a journey into the minds of the designers/artists working within the world of fashion, all of which have made the most of this opportunity to show the extraordinary depth and originality of their work.
The exhibition coincides with Pitti Uomo 96, setting up a dialogue with Pitti itself, deepening the creative processes involved with fashion through their work in visual arts. Linda Loppa and the 7 artists/designers guide us through their vision of fashion and contemporary art with a journey made up of images, sounds and emotions, where you can leave the everyday behind and enter into the extraordinary. Each work transmits a different sensation, strongly tied to the perception of the artist.
The night walk begins with the world of Lara Torres, whose video installations show unique and unrepeatable performances in which her subjects’ clothes disappear the moment they make contact with water, or which slowly melt away from the body of the performers, leaving them naked and exposed, posing a question of whether we should buy less and buy better.
Making clothes with the sole purpose of destroying them is a clear reference to the ephemeral nature of fashion, and it is also a metaphor for the speed of modern fashion processes and their rapidly changing trends.
In the next room is the installation Reflections on Rorschach by Armando Chant composed of a side-by-side projection of two identical films, but with a contrasting monochrome that is reconfigured by reflecting and reuniting, creating forms that continually fold in on themselves.
Thanks to the design of this digital mirroring and projection, the known becomes unknown, breaking down the body into a pure image.
In the following room is Linda Loppa’s INTERLUDIUM. Straight away you can see a looped projection of white sentences on a black background, reflections, in sequence, like a stream of consciousness.
Inside the room an iPhone transmits videos in a continuous sequence: memories of fashion shows, moments of memory made indelible and infinite, like in a diary. Taking the phone in your hand you have the feeling of looking inside Linda’s mind, into her thoughts, into her creative intimacy: moments of her lived experience.
Before ascending to the first floor, you are invited to sit and listen to the first part of Clemens Thornquist‘s work, a reading that speaks about creative methods, like a podcast to inspire and induce the process of creation which is the foundation of every new project.
Arriving at the second floor you can still see the old signs of the Manifattura hanging on the doors, for a moment transporting us back in time, only to be fired back into the future as soon as you enter the large room that houses the video installations of Bart Hess.
He is able to combine the real with the surreal, translating emotions and tensions into technology and taking them to a world in which textiles are living entities, creating new bodies. The design work of Bart Hess seduces, disturbs, attracts and repels. Looking through the eyes of Bart Hess is like looking into the future. The videos play one at a time, in sequence, in order to completely capture your attention, the combination of sound and these perfect and unsettling visions hypnotising the viewer.
Moving on from this dreamlike and dystopian vision of the future, the attention is captured by a kind of stage that houses a painter and his model. This is the installation by Moses Hamborg in which both he and his subject of his portrait are the protagonists.
The performance aims to question the analogous relationship between the painter and the photographer: both look at the model in front of them, capture the light, the expression on the face, the body language. Both the photographer and the painter are in action, moving, walking, thinking, taking photos, walking, running, concentrating, walking away, approaching, arranging a detail, portraying it and interpreting it. The outside world disappears; only the painter and the model remain, hypnotised by one another, capturing the attention of the spectator.
Continuing along the route we find the installation by designer Bernhard Willhelm, composed of photographic panels and basketballs. Bernard Willhelm believes that in dark times, fashion is more deeply felt in terms of transition and movement, both of which become exaggerated.
People who are always happy make us feel uncomfortable, they provoke an anti-reaction, as seen in politics and consumerism. His collection expresses a symbolic vision, considering the relationship that links innovation to consumers and creators, and studies the impact on the present and future state of humanity and the world.
Towards the end of the night walk, you encounter the second part of Clemens Thornquist‘s installation, 159 A4 printed sheets that speak about the creative process of a fashion designer.
They represent an unusual design method that Clemens describes in his book Artistic Development in (fashion) design. Simple as a written concept, complex in its contents, and brilliant in its simplicity in illustrating “the art of giving shape”.
The last work takes the form of a room filled with strobe lights, moving in time with the powerful and rhythmic audio, in an adrenaline-filled and unnerving crescendo. The work of the sound designer Senjan Jansen puts sound at the centre of the scene and accompanies it with flashes reminiscent of cameras during a fashion show. We follow the evolution of the installation throughout its cycle, with exactly the same feeling of suspense we experience before the start of a fashion show.
Every part of the exhibition, curated by Linda Loppa, puts us inside the minds of those who create fashion, even before they begin to create it, and being fashion, like art, the visual representation of society brings these designers/artists to look to the future for the things that will one day represent the present.