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Shifting Perspectives. Karl Lagerfeld and his Marie Antoinette Moment.

Here is my major work for last semester - a response to a brief called Shifting Perspectives which required a little bit of activism really - art as a vehicle for persuading the audience to think differently or just creating a new awareness in your audience. My particular work , which I titled "Let Them Eat Cake"  was inspired by by a comment from Chanel fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld that went something like.... "This is how to spend your money, but spend it in style. There has never been so much money around here as there is at the moment" as he sent models down the catwalk in outfits decorated with real diamonds ("This is the time of day when you can tell the real from the fake, no?") which had me wondering at the insensitivity of a comment like that when half of Europe is beleaguered in debt crisis. And thats to say nothing of the millions in the developing world just struggling for subsistence. It put me immediately in mind of Marie Antoinette's infamously insensitive line "Let Them Eat Cake" which set me off on this path of taking a fashion magazine focused on luxury and then satirising both it's text and imagery. Fashion shoots set in a Darfur refugee camp featuring military chic for example. $48,000 Dior bags juxtaposed with sweatshop districts. You get the idea...

I've long struggled with my love of fashion from a creative point of view and it's role in allowing people to think it's okay to spend $28,000 (even $1000 really but where do you draw the line?) on a handbag when there is so much genuine need in the world so this felt very cathartic.

The historical context I positioned this work in was key. I painted Karl Lagerfeld as King Louis the XVI for the cover of my magazine (which I called RICE) because its interesting to me that we have no problem judging this historical excess (Marie Antoinette et al's lavish lifestyle as peasants starved outside the palace gates) while today priviilged pockets of society continue to live lives of obscene extravagance generally uncriticised. Maybe we are a little disgusted when we hear the details but generally we are are too busy aspiring to a bit of luxury ourselves to condemn it with any real meaning (the revolutions in history for example). And I guess that is where the magazines come in selling us this aspirational lifestyle which only makes us complicit. At least the peasants new their place in life.......As a self confessed magazine addict you can see a little of my conflicted heart in this work!

Probably the funniest part of all this work was when I presented it to a panel of art/design industry professionals. I was told later at the exhibition opening by one of the panel that as they were discussing my work and deciding my grade one of the others had said "But did you see she was wearing Prada glasses?" Oh the hypocrisy!!! Like I say, my conflicted heart...

A couple of nights before I was ready to present I was all photoshopped out and desperate to use my hands making something so I used one of the cover posters to make a basic zine which I then stitched bits of satirised text and imagery, also from the magazine, into and slipped in between the pages of the main magazine as one of those annoying extras that fall out of a magazine when you open it up . It ended up being my favourite part of the work.


Murgatroyd said…
Great concept and very cathartic to do I imagine. Good luck with the final grades :D
Kylie Hunt said…
Fantastic work Jo. I totally understand your conflict too. We do all get drawn up into this maelstrom of consumption. I guess I separate things in my mind by looking at the nature of the consumption... do you buy something for its exquisite design and use it / treasure it always, or do you have a throw-away attitude / move on to the next fad approach... At least that's how I justify my purchases - they are for life as far as I'm concerned.
I've always thought Karl was an intelligent man... was he subtly parodying these uber-rich himself by saying they should wear their ostentatious wealth ? Maybe not ... I guess he can't afford to put off his bread and butter clientele!
Anyway, love love love it! You are such an uber-star yourself babe :) And yes, really love the zine idea too. Kx
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Luna Landing said…
Yes Kylie, I agree. There is an element there of Karl saying 'Well if you're going to spend sickening amounts of money at least look good for it". But it is his bread and butter. Good points all round - and thank you!
Anonymous said…
Completely understand this conflict too! Just last night I took a walk through a couple of shops as mum and I are on the hunt for her next handbag. We were talking about this exact topic as we were quick to overlook perfectly good quality alternatives because they didn't include a heavyweight brand printed inside - it's funny how we can justify things, really. I'm in no way a label-donner. in fact, I couldn't think of anything worse. But I do like quality. I agree with Kylie too. I also look at the quality and beautiful design in something I'm after rather than shopping with the "throw away attitude" she mentions. Nicely put Kylie.

Great work Jo and best of luck for the grade! Let us know how you go. Maria x
p.s. let me say again, it's so great to have you back in blogland!! :D Love coming by your blog.
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