Alessandro Gocht’s master’s project examines contemporary fashion structures using the example of the VOSS (2001) show by Lee Alexander McQueen. Fashion shows have taken a “performative turn” since the 1990s, i.e., they are viewed as theatrical events, their staged uniqueness becoming much more than the pure format of showing and presenting.
For the VOSS spring/summer collection shown September 26, 2000 in London, McQueen had a box-like catwalk built with walls of mirrored glass where the audience was forced to face their mirrored selves, creating a kind of self-confrontation. It was only after an hour that the lights in the hall went out and the cube began to glow from within. In this moment, the mirroring switches to the inside of the cube and the setting inside becomes apparent: a White Cube of sorts, resembling a psychiatric institution with white tiling on the floor and white padded walls. In the middle is another white cube of a much smaller volume and not insightful. In this showcase, seventy-six models were presented in fifteen minutes. The classic principles of a runway show are rejected. Indeed, the audience could expect a jumble of bodies and clothing.
At VOSS, the models’ narcissism was on display on the mirrored walls. An ambivalent gaze developed where on the one hand, the young women watched their reflection, and on the other looked through it. They were conscious of the gaze of others (of the existence of the watching crowd) and behaved in visual correspondence with the audience who became voyeurs at McQueen. In this way the fourth wall disappeared, sorting the non-artificial space from the artificial as an imaginary component, ensuring that everyone remains in their own world. As soon as an interaction takes place, the exchange between actors and audience increases, because what is inherent in the performance - the dissolution of division between production and reception – becomes visible.
The mannequin body is more than a body shaped by clothing and more than just a carrier at VOSS. This is due to the fact that the models are allowed to act, which counters a reserved presentation. Facial expressions and gestures come to the fore, as does the fact that no walk was like another. In this context one can speak of a performance of subjects. However, as we are still dealing with fashion, the focus remains on clothing and not its wearers. This focus requires partial de-individualization achieved through standardization. The main symbol for this can be seen in the headdresses: the heads of the models are bandaged, framing their faces and hiding their own hair.
After the fashion show ends, it becomes dark in the outer cube. A light suddenly flickers, referring to the presence of the inner cube. Then the light in the outer cube is reactivated and the six glass walls of the inner cube unlocked. They fall to the ground and shatter. This action marks the climax of the destruction at VOSS (by this time the models had already destroyed their clothes) and visualized the present absence of what was initially invisible: a bared woman; her head masked and connected to tubes through her mouth. The unknown person lays motionless, presenting her body; a body that has far more volume than the models. “In the (non-existent) coexistence of body and dress,” according to Gertrud Lehnert, this closing act marks the non-fashion body. In nudity, there is no dialogue partner. According to Roland Barthes, the reclining figure is subsequently not about the mannequin. "As naked, abundant and inert flesh, this body stands in sharp contrast to the ascetic, ecstatic, constantly moving model - a clothes rail whose only job is to (...) wear clothes without flesh." (Barbara Vinken, Angezogen – Das Geheimnis der Mode, 2013)
Tutors: Prof. Dr. Matthias Bruhn, PD Daniel Hornuff