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Took place: February - April, 2004   [ Photos ]

Artists were invited to respond to the curator's collection of suits in the form of a show constructed for a context echoing Marcel Duchamp's "mile of string" installation, made for the exhibition First Papers of Surrealism, held in New York in 1942. The work will be displayed at ®edux on the evening of 14th February 2004.

Reza Aramesh / Mark Brogan / Justine Daf / Adam Dant / Marcia Farquhar / Urban Drift / Francesca Ferguson / Simon Ford / Elizabeth LeMoine / David Mollin / Toby Mott / Makiko Nagaya / Clunie Reid / Deborah Rigby / Giorgio Sadotti / Bob and Roberta Smith / Sophie Smith / Peter Suchin / Jessica Voorsanger / Lucy Wood / Elizabeth Wright, curated by Peter Lewis.

Press Release 
The Suit after '68 - the Politics of Revulsion

Gustav Metzger has written on an aesthetic of revulsion in avant-gardism that had informed the scandal of Dada and Surrealist polemic, in prose as disarming as an exquisitely dressed corpse.

To salute that destructive polemic, do we hack off the arms of the suit that once draped the cadaver of the Modern, or donate it to Oxfam? Or do we don its ripped jacket, as a trophy if it fits with our slogans and designer Kalashnikov? Can we appropriate the supernatural power of Bush or Blair, or Bill Gates by wearing it sleeveless, or by burning it alongside the American flag?

The Situationist International had moved the violent imaginary of Dada and Surrealism into the '60s rhetoric of political suppression at a time when youth movements such as the Red Guard in China were also captured by a generational radicalism. The Red Guard's attire is the more strikingly beautiful, although Guy Debord looks stunningly intellectual in his black and white overcoat. Whose spectacle frames does Malcolm X wear? They're good, but Martin Luther King's suit, frames and overcoat are the real winner. I am a Man placards neatly set off the suits for a rally. [1] They photograph extremely well.

Is not a young, pregnant, female Palestinian "suicide" bomber (veiled and modestly dressed in the conservative costume of the black Burka, proudly carrying a powerful machine-gun) not unlike Sophocles' Antigone, the inheritance and proof of the enthusiasm for sacrifice, embedded for us in the photograph's aesthetic address. The snapshot homage to the power of sartorial formality is also a sign of ambivalence. Is not her arrogance precisely geared to trigger disgust? How dare she affront decorum armed with the Real?

Mao wore a well-cut jacket named after him, neatly selling more Maoist ideology in the West than in the Beijing of '68. Other well-dressed icons, Patty Hearst, Baader and Meinhof, or Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde, signal, in our collective memory, an indiscreet and self-destructive elegance. One dare not ask how the 9/11 terrorists were dressed during the fatal flights. There are no photographs this time but it is more than likely they went unnoticed. Perhaps they chose to wear something "sharp" modelled from TV characters caught in the endless contradictions of the fictive image.

Walter Benjamin defines fashion as "the eternal recurrence of the new". [2] The latent disagreements between fashion, disgust and auto-destruction anticipate, as Metzger suggests, the potential of symbolic violence.

To have efficacy as critique, fashion's ambivalence toward dominant ideology must be taken fully into account. Fashion is a powerful simulacrum in the cause of the destruction of the Real, recuperating the material subversion of all ideology, truth and representation, art, politics, history, whatever, to the energy of Capital. It reappears ad nauseam as the phantom community made up of costumes, masks and fables, infinitely dissociated from the scandal of Surrealism or its Other, that we call society.