19 November 2007

Killer Threads - Clothing That Harms

Having recently been hospitalized due to an unfortunate incident with a waspie, my thoughts turned to harmful clothing.

Most bewitching were Gordon Savicic's 'Constraint City - The Pain of Everyday Life' and Stahl Stenslie's 'Walker'. Stahl references suicide bombers and a culture in which death is aestheticized while Savicic focuses on (painfully) mapping digital technology's new arenas and interactive spaces on the body. Both projects fetishistically engage and update the tropes of clothing as shelter for the body and of corsetry immobilizing the wearer.

The Walker, a "suicide corset", is a corset placed around the waist that tightens itself a little bit for every step you take - until it is so tight that the wearer suffocates.

'Constraint City' is an urban project, in which a subject dons a corset equipped with servo motors. As the wearer walks about, the corset picks up digital signals in the environment, which reveal their strength by proportionally tightening in the chest of the wearer. Wireless networks spread all over the urban territory are then mapped onto the wearer's own body.

Clothing typically functions as protection for the wearer, and influences how the wearer experiences movement and expresses identity in her personal, social and political environments. These themes have been explored in Comme des Garcons' "Body Meets Dress" at LA MOCA's 2006 'Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture' and Mauro Taliani's titanium weave men's shirt "Oricalco" at New York Cooper Hewitt's 2002 Skin: Surface, Substance and Design.

With the advent of feminism the constricting buckles and laces of corsetry came to be vilified. Corsets were accused of sexually objectifying the female wearer and rendering her immobile, thus restricting her from the public spheres of politics, religion and business.

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