Tuesday, May 27, 2014

the meta dialog of project runway

Shortly before its December 2004 premier I distinctly remember seeing an advert and thinking to myself , "...you'd have to tie me to a chair and put tooth-pics in my eyelids before I could ever watch this sh**." Further I went on to speculated that "A reality show about fashion would be the ultimate epitome of a culture gone very, very astray.." Now, Fast Forward >> to the morning of September 25, 2013 where I've been waiting in line for the past 12 hrs with an impressive array of designers from all corners of the globe, all vying for a spot on Season 13, of yes, you guessed it... Project Runway.

To understand the 'meta-dialog' I speak one must first look at the 'nature' of competition, itself. As far as I can remember, I have always loathed everything/anything to do with 'competitive' sports. This distaste, I have come to realize, is less about the traumatizing cliche of my 'always being picked last on whatever team I was playing', and more about a cognitive distain of an exclusive 'win' or 'loose' senario being permanently affixed to the core 'idea' of what competition is all about. There are actually three distinct narratives, which, as best I can tell describes the nature of competition.. these are the 'win''win' – the 'win''loose' – and the 'lose''lose' scenarios. What I can't imagine is why the hell we are not all vying to be on the 'win''win' team?

First in line: Defne Husrevoglo and Mark Ezra
NYC Open Casting – September 25, 2013 

As a young artist, I was deeply concerned with my 'idea' of artistic purity. The artist, as far as I could tell, was the most responsible for the preservation of the highest ideals of all man/ womankind, the priestess-king, poet-warrior, and purveyor of truth and beauty. In my mind, the artist was the only antidotal response to our worlds failed instituions. Likewise, I believed nothing embodied their enslaving principles and false ideals better than the fashion industry. Fashion, to me, represented everything that 'art' wasn't. Those who created it were suspect, their motivation no doubt nothing less than egotistical glamorization of greed. Nothing good could come of it, this I was certain. Yet, unlike the enduring distaste of professional sports, there were time to time, in my mind, exceptions to this rule.

The first 'fashion designer' that I ever made any kind of cerebral connection with was Jean Paul Gaultier.  Leigh Bowery, a figure I assume we will never fully grasp, yet what I saw of his work accomplished everything I believed was good and healthy about the artist's own meme and yet did everything right in my eyes concerning all things fashion. Striking a simular and particular peculiar cord in my heart, Little Edith Beale completed my unholy trinity of fashion icons [ could I be the visionary I suspect; see Galliano 2008]. Yet, the more I ponder my development in these years, the more I sense fashion's influence seeping out into my inspiration. Case in point, the 2004 painting series, Woman Standing in Garden, attempts my abstract realization of the life and work of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Isabella, one could say, was the Heidi Klum of her time. She, herself could have coined the phrase "Fashion Forward" in the 19th century by defying conventions and ushering in her own infectious sense of style. Whether we care to acknowledge fashions impact, or not, the industry, its history, and its designers reach everywhere and touch everything. This insight, despite my personally held prejudices, would appear to be, sometime later, as plain as the nose on my face.

Woman Standing in Garden - oil on canvas - 2004

After my staunch boycott of its first two seasons, I was hooked. Two years later designer and friend, Sigrid Lium (whom I relentlessly cajoled to apply to the show), strongly encouraged me to examine this growing obsession, and dared me to ask the question – was there a latent designer somewhere deep inside of me? It would be another two years before I answered that call and put my lingering suspicions to the test. On April 23, 2010 I turned the sewing machine on for the first time and created what is still fondly referred to by my dearest of friends as "Krazy Kimono". Fast Forward >> present day and I've spent the past four years honing my design skills, creating customized and one of a kind pieces, and educating myself on the key players and practices that does a successful designer make. Without hesitation, if there is any one person that I can accredit to the impetus behind this transformation, undoubtedly that person would be, Tim Gunn. A read through his "Guide to Style" or "Golden Rules" offers a refreshingly enlightened antidotes to the fashion world's persona non grata. At the heart of my fascination lies an unbridled enthusiasm for what this man does, and how he does it! Make it work, that is.

When opportunity knocks, and if intuition listens, inspiration may open a door. I've always hoped that with age, comes wisdom. Now, somewhere in my late 40's if there's a lesson to be found I would say it's this – hedge your bets wisely – determine your strategy quickly and stick with it. There are times, yes – when risking everything in order to go all in and shoot for pie in the sky seems the only real choice to make. Yet, how many times can one afford to loose everything? Like every good obsession, insight wears down until it starts to continuously grind against introspection. And it's after you've listened long and hard enough to this noise,
that a possibility of catharsis appears. At this moment the calculated risk now appears to be the soundest of all bets. The connections I choose to foster therefore lie within my immediate environment, as everything I could ever want is here already. The metaphor at work is plainly obvious: problem solve your little heart out; and then seek every opportunity to fix your mistakes. And this just the tip of what begins the upheaval of an assumed point of view. 

When the idea of competition becomes an internal measure, one of stamina, creativity, and resourcefulness – the conflict with the other as the antagonist who determines ultimate failure or success – is resolved. Folks are often surprised and even resistant to following a logic that suggests Project Runway in fact presents a 'win''win' brand of competition. If I imagine a litmus test of this senario, it might look like this: The 'win''win' acknowledges compromise, degrees of flexibility, and the inherent unevenness of the playing field on which we all compete. It compensates for this unevenness by allowing as many variables as possible to achieve success while imposing set standards and parameters aplicable to all. Subjectivity is necessary to define meaning, assess outcomes or their relevance. This is no a three strikes and you're out ballgame –  there's nothing to lose, really, but everything to be gained. It's about how far you can make it, who goes with you, and why you might want to bring them along. A dialog that presents the 'win''win' as a viable competitive scenario, even when that model is fueled by the agenda of popular media, may garner enough momentum to finally pushback against outmoded paradigms which demand compliance to a dysfunctional status quo. Yet the world around us changes relentlessly. What once was an idea of artistic purity I now understand as an imperative to nurture the most instructive and constructive opportunities already about us. And when we finally embrace lasting and enduring change, wholeheartedly – it is because this change is good. And I can't think of anything to be more excited about.    

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