Performing Fashion

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Performing Fashion

On Sunday, as the 2012 Whitney Biennial entered its closing week, the museum’s fourth floor performance space transformed into a catwalk for artist K8 Hardy’s Untitled Runway Show.

blog-k8-hardy-04.jpgHardy’s Untitled Runway Show

Tropes of the fashion industry have long underwritten Hardy’s art. Since arriving in New York eleven years ago from Ft. Worth, Texas, she’s worked as a stylist and published FashionFashion, a Xeroxed zine in which she models satirically provocative, auto-fetishized looks. Her photographs of shoe concepts, included in the biennial, riff on merchandizing and other languages of editorials and advertisements. These divergent projects have made her into a cult figure, and this weekend’s show was a high-production culmination of some of her most fun, repellant and tragic visions.

blog-k8-hardy-03.jpgblog-k8-hardy-02.jpgUntitled Runway Show at the Whitney Museum

Once guests were corralled into their places, the house lights flared and the spectacle began. The indispensable DJ Venus X mixed archival gay pride parade broadcasts and YouTube-sourced beauty tutorials with slowed down reggaeton, techno and southern rap beats. As the first girl came out, art world front-rowers played their parts and scribbled in their notepads. The choreography called for odd walks: backwards, leaden, or otherwise marked by cadences of discontent. At the end of the runway each model turned to ascend its elevated extension: a menacing sculpture made by Oscar Tuazon, for which he cannibalized segments of his wood and iron maze installed in the lobby gallery, and reconstituted them here as a bridge flanked by two flights of stairs.

The lifeless glaze of the make-up—orange, red and blue on the face, lips and eyes—seemed lifted from cheap mannequins, but the hair by Duffy may have stolen the show: huge stork’s nests coated in paint and chemical detritus, recalling Amy Winehouse and hyperbolic online memes like “Helicopter Hair.” The outfits had a thrift store sensibility in keeping with Hardy’s aesthetic. Some were crude juxtapositions of culturally antithetical apparels sutured together, like a matronly slip with a thuggish shirt. “There’s also kind of a paint story happening here,” Hardy mentioned before the show. Indeed, inky, dripped stains foreshadowed a great, big, phallic paintbrush cartoonishly affixed to the final look (a canvas sack). One of the most memorable ensembles was a spliced together pile of bras. “I burned all those bras, or tried to. We were torching some that were flame retardant and they just gassed.”

blog-k8-hardy-finale.jpgK8 Hardy

Asked whether this was the birth of the house of Hardy or its fall, she conceded, “I’m going to re-stage this show at the Dallas Contemporary in October, but I have no desire to create another one. Maybe in ten years. Not because I didn’t totally enjoy making this show, it’s just not my primary form of working.” After the last model left the stage, the designer came out in a disheveled, red-tie, red-blooded man look. “The inspiration was Wall Street banker. I didn’t want to compete with the show or be incorporated.”

Photos: © Paula Court. K8 Hardy, May 20th, 2012 at 2012 Whitney Biennial.

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