Unfolding Gender

SIKI IM PAVILLION, ARNHEM MODE BIENALE 2011

SIKI IM PAVILLION, ARNHEM MODE BIENALE 2011[1]

During Wednesday’s Fashion Cultures lecture, fashion designer Siki Im (I would rather call him an artist who just happens to use fashion as a medium combined with architecture and music) introduced his pavilion project for the Arnhem Fashion Biennale 2011 at the beginning of the presentation. Im explained to us that he wanted to create a physical space, which allowed him to evoke intangible spaces. The spaces and emotions have the same sensibility and quality that Im hopes his fashion designs conjure and inspire. This concept certainly resonates in his spring/summer 2015 collection Human/Machine, which was inspired by his love of robots. As stated by Jean Baudrillard in The System of Objects, “they [the robots] become things of which I am [Siki Im is] the meaning, they [the robots] become my [his] property and my [his] passion.”[2]

Further, Im highlighted that “the blazer is probably the most complex and most time-consuming garment made in menswear. It has history and it has future. It is contemporary and very relevant, worn in any part of the world by any person, no matter what gender or what social background.”[3] As an audience member, I see his work, such as outerwear with zip-off sections and tops that featured uneven triangular cutouts, could be worn by both men and women. It reminds me of the interview with fashion designer Telfar Clemens a few weeks ago, as he emphasized that his collection is made for both sexes. Unlike Clemens, Im did not mention the idea of gender-neural at all during the presentation. Instead, Im said, “Fashion is emotional. Fashion is imperfect. Fashion is free.” Interestingly, he goes beyond creating new norms and leaves his work unfixed as liquid for us to reimagine.

Why don’t we try to unfold gender? According to Gilles Deleuze in The Fold, the unfold is certainly not “the opposite of the fold, nor its effacement, but the continuation or the extension of its act, the condition of its manifestation.”[4] Unfolding gender from a historical perspective, clothes were not limited by modern gendered norms of masculinity and femininity. In ancient Egypt, there were tunics, robes, skirts, and shawls, all of which were worn by both male and female members of Egyptian society.

Image 1 Ancient Egyptian Costume

Ancient Egyptian Costumes[5]

When we unfold gender in the current system, it normally means men taking on femininity and women taking on masculinity. The gender-neutral phenomenon transgresses boundaries on a surface level because designers create so-called non-gendered collections just for commercial purposes. It is a fashion trend rather than a revolutionary concept; it is a business strategy rather than an artistic decision. Ironically, clothes are still always sold as menswear or womenswear. Hence, I want to propose the idea that we should have the right to self-identify and become however we wish. There are no gender police and no social constraints – nobody to tell us and no rules to limit what we are, who we are, or how we are supposed to be. There are as many ways of experiencing and unfolding our gender as there are people.

[1] http://www.archi-tectonics.com/projects/siki-im-pavillion-arnhem-mode-bienale-2011/construct#

[2] Jean Baudrillard. “The Non-Functional System or Subjective Discourse”, in The System of Objects translated by James Benedict. (London: Verso 1996), 1.

[3] Archi-Tectonics, SIKI IM PAVILLION, ARNHEM MODE BIENALE 2011, http://www.archi-tectonics.com/projects/siki-im-pavillion-arnhem-mode-bienale-2011/construct (Accessed 04/23/2015)

[4] Gilles Deleuze. “The Fold”, in Baroque Topographies, ed. Timothy Hampton, Yale French Studies 80, (New Haven: Yale University 1991), 243.

[5] http://kendallredburn.com/plates1.html

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2 responses to “Unfolding Gender

  1. Neil, this is such a wonderful post. I am so glad you brought up “unfolding gender”. If time, space, shape and form are all fluid, gender should be too.

    “Unlike Clemens, Im did not mention the idea of gender-neural at all during the presentation. Instead, Im said, ‘Fashion is emotional. Fashion is imperfect. Fashion is free.’ Interestingly, he goes beyond creating new norms and leaves his work unfixed as liquid for us to re-imagine.”

    I think it’s important to remember that gender does not have to be situated on polar ends: the masculine and the feminine. Gender is emotional. Gender is imperfect. Gender is unfixed. Gender is free.

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