Feel & Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion is an innovative and surprising exhibition that considers fashion not only as mere clothing, but as a conceptual art form and creative language. The exhibition was first conceived and shown in Japan in Tokyo and Kobe by the Bunka Fashion Institute, and it travels to Sydney as an initiative of Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, who have brought over five of the original ten exhibiting designers. Feel & Think is presented over two sites, with the National Art School Gallery (NAS) hosting five fashion installations and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF), hosting workshops, a pop-up shop, discussion series, runway show and an film festival.
Feel & Think asked fashion brands to consider the question of what fashion means, particularly in the sparkling megacity of Tokyo. The results are diverse, thought provoking and multidisciplinary, drawing on fashion history and modern styles. If you are expecting an exhibition of garments presented on mannequins, you will be pleasantly surprised at the complexity and diversity of the works on display, which combine fashion with music, installation, and art to create installations that not only address issues of fashion, but also its role in contemporary culture and life.
The works on show at NAS include a larger-than-life sculpture of an ox by SASQUATCHfabrix covered in a patchwork of black leather, a room of taxidermy animals working on a loom by writtenafterwards, as well as an installation of a mock-shop complete with clothing displays and a cash register. This last installation by Theatreproducts invites viewers to interact with each fashion object, as the electronic scanners react with the barcodes on each item to produce different musical numbers and sounds.
My favourite display however is the installation by ANDREALAGE, which presents two rooms filled with the designer’s garments side-by-side. Although the items are the same, in one room each object is stretched vertically and in the other horizontally, producing a visual effect reminiscent of distorting carnival mirrors. However it is no visual illusion – each object, from striped shirts, shoes, mannequins, even the wall paper and the carpet are created in this way to create a strange, surreal version of the brand’s designs.
Feel & Think is an exhibition that invites viewers to experience contemporary fashion from Tokyo in an unexpected and thought-provoking way. The show presents five brands that not only produce cutting-edge fashion on the runway, but also use fashion as a creative language to respond to contemporary issues. Many of the works on display defy conventional definition, and challenge viewers to re-think what fashion can mean in today’s society.
Originally published on ArtsHub Australia 9 July, 2013