Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

Interview with Alison Kubler, Curator & Writer, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

0 Comments 17 March 2016


Interview by Vanessa Gerrie

Alison Kubler is the ultimate multi-tasker; admirably balancing being a curator, writer, art consultant and Board Director of the Museum of Brisbane as well as co-author of the Thames & Hudson published Art/Fashion in the 21st Century amongst a multitude of other roles. In the midst of Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival I managed to steal a little of her time and wealth of information to chat about the collision of art and fashion and the beautiful work by artist Chantal Fraser she curated for video space PLAY, as part of the VAMFF Cultural Program [read Vanessa’s review of the PLAY exhibition here].

Alison, you are a writer and curator amongst many other things! How did your interest and focus on fashion come about in this context?
I have a degree in art history and I have always worked as a freelance writer about art. I have always had a strong interest in fashion too, and did some fashion studies as part of my art history degree, but I have increasingly been working across the disciplines more actively. I am very interested in how art and fashion are closely aligned – commercially and intellectually. I have been writing about this for some time, and then in 2013 Mitchell Oakley Smith and I published a book entitled Art/Fashion in the 21st Century through Thames and Hudson UK that has since been published in several languages. It was a solid two year project and involved a great deal of research but I have been collating this information for about 15 years so I was ready to write!

You curated PLAY, which is exhibiting a video work by multimedia artist Chantal Fraser, for the VAMFF Cultural Program, how did this collaboration come about?
PLAY is a great initiative to shine a light on one of Australia’s best ARI (Artist Run Initiatives). It is really wonderful that VAMFF has a willingness to make their cultural program reach out to the broader artistic community. It also recognises that art and fashion are regular collaborators and that they share a significant audience.

It Hangs with Rattlesnakes and Rubbish looks at identity through clothing and subverts cultural stereotypes and makes us question why we have these assumptions, it is a really powerful piece. Can you discuss this intersection of cultural identity and clothing/costume and how it is referenced in the film?
It seems obvious, but we do forget the potency of the clothing we wear. Most of us make arbitrary decisions about warmth, coolness, comfort, or what we feel is acceptable. Fashion as a definition does not factor for many people, in that they don’t wake up and think I must wear something that is in ‘fashion’. This too is a loose concept as one person’s fashion is another’s out of fashion. I think Chantal’s work makes interesting analogies with costume and artistic identity – she uses clothing and costume to analyse perceptions of race and colour and gender, all things we make snap judgments about, but also she does this is in a particularly poetic way. The work is beautifully fluid, very elegant. It contains ideas that are gently embedded.

This work shows what a powerful tool clothing really is within our culture and how it can connote a lot about one’s personality, cultural identity and situation in time. This is what I love about fashion, as well as the frivolous side of course! What do you love about fashion?
I love being able to express something about myself through fashion. I think you make a good point – fashion can be very fun but it can also be serious and intellectual and make us question ideas of identity and our humanity as well. This seems like a lot to ask of fashion! But fashion is so deeply connected to history and the history of the world that it would be incorrect to dismiss it as frivolous because if we look at the passage of time, clothing can tell us so much. In this era of fast fashion I often wonder what will endure and which labels we will value.

Art and fashion are so inextricably linked, however often people make the assumption that art gives validation to fashion, what is your take on this? And do you think fashion’s fast pace and commerciality contribute to this thought?
I think the relationship between art and fashion is mutually beneficial. Because fashion is so fast and changing and cyclical the engagement with art affords it a longevity and legacy that it might not otherwise enjoy. In this regard art lends fashion a gravity it has been perceived to be lacking. Art benefits from fashion by virtue of the exposure the relationship garners. There is no doubt that fashion’s love of art has exposed the careers of some artists in a manner they would never have anticipated.

It Hangs with Rattlesnakes and Rubbish is showing at PLAY until 27 March 2016 at BLINDSIDE. More details here.

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