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Designer Becca McCharen is the creative brain behind Chromat, a NYC fashion label that artfully merges fashion, design, architecture and — more recently — technology. Chromat’s designs are more conceptual than practical, but still beautiful and wearable: steel dresses, caged masks, and coiled skirts are but a few examples from the label’s fascinating repertoire. Driving Chromat’s unique look is McCharen’s background in architectural theory and urban design. During her studies in architecture at the University of Virginia, she became very interested in scaffolding and building exteriors, especially those whose structure or wiring was visible on the outside (Paris’ Centre Pompidou is one such example). Wanting to experiment with art, fashion, and human “architecture,” McCharen moved to NYC in 2010 and began her “structural experiments” for the body. (Source)
Caging, straps, and corset boning have always been integral to Chromat’s work, but for Autumn/Winter 2014, the design company introduced another element into the art/fashion/architecture triad: robotics. Their new line was called Bionic Bodies, inspired by a love story McCharen envisioned between a human and a robot. The result? Bodies scaffolded like bionic arms and exoskeletons, chromed ribcages studded at the seams, and, most strikingly, faces and bras illuminated with blue LEDs. When the lights are off, the cyborg effect of the LEDs is eerily sexy; have a look at Chromat’s runway video above and see for yourself.
What McCharen and the Chromat crew are creating is more than just experiments in fashion and architecture — their work is fascinating from a theoretical perspective, as well. Absorbed in our daily experiences and emotional lives, we forget that we are, in fact, bones wrapped in muscle and flesh, propelling ourselves through space by the miracle of physics. By engineering such structures on the outside of the body, Chromat celebrates such functionality and mechanical perfection. The parallel between structural facades and fashion is interesting, as well, if we understand fashion as a way to construct our identities and shift the way people interact with us. Like the exterior of powerful structures, Chromat’s revolutionary works exude strength, self-assurance, and impermeability — hence the eerie power and unsusceptible beauty of McCharen’s cyborgs.
Check out Chromat’s online store here. VICE conducted a fascinating interview with McCharen about her Bionic Bodies line. For a discussion of Chromat’s upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 line, read The Glass Magazine’s article.
Credits: A big thank-you to photographer Koury Angelo, who let me share his incredible pictures from the MADE runway show.
Born in Bavaria, Southern Germany, photographer Elena Helfrecht taps into the dark stormy mood often connected with the painter Caspar David Friedrich and the German poets writing about the emotions of the human condition. Her images have a beautiful delicacy to them, heavy with reflection and contemplation as Helfrecht tries to make sense not only of the world around her, but also the world within herself. In her series Little Stories, she compiles photographic narratives of moments that are intensely personal to her.
Including close ups of her hands covered in blood, her feet poised in front of freshly picked flowers, her stomach cradling a pigeon, she uses her own body to visually express her inner thoughts and emotions. Helfrecht reflected on the series:
I think the most intense one for me has to be “Farewell” [the pigeon narrative]. I often think about death. I really fear what comes afterwards – the ending of consciousness, where nothing is left (at least this is what I can’t stop believing). When I went to work and just came out of the station, a pigeon fell down right in front of my feet and died there after a short cramp. I was shocked. I didn’t expect something like this to happen and I was deeply moved. I even cried. It was like a metaphor how quick everything can be over and what is left of it – nothing but an empty shell. We live and rush around without cherishing what we have, and then it will be simply over.
This series is about the one issue which bothers so many of us: the matter of life and death. In the pictures the shown human body is alive, but one day the images will show something which is no more, like the bird. Still I believe something will stay in this world after we die: Memory. This is what the photographs itself stand for (for me they are a tiny piece of hope).
Moving through a macabre world of paper mâché, clay and other assorted materials, Roxanne Jackson creates a gnarly wax museum population. In it, her themes of death, extinction and transformation mold into a still menagerie of Jungian imagery where half man/half animal, sleeping snakes, faceless figures and scary kitties are the norm. Her lot of decaying citizens become eerily alive as they slither, gawk, and snarl at the world. In them, a dark vanity is present, fulfilling our every need for gratuitous horror. In her Death Valley, Jackson uses familiar themes associated with the place that run parallel to her own work. Built around a faceless couple’s camping trip, we witness as they encounter human skulls, fateful hands, swans and Harpy; the half man/half bird creature who embodies the real and imagined shamanistic deities we often think of in these environments. Akin to a carnival master readying props for the eve, its outright Jungian excess takes us down a path which challenges expected norms. In Feed Me Diamonds, Jackson focuses on another transformative creature in the form of a mermaid. Except this pretty thing has a bullet in her head and seems to be drowning in a pool of debauched excess. In her hands, a pair of dice and a deck of cards tell us she’s playing with fate. In her mouth, a set of diamonds? Just another example of the grisly world Jackson inhabits which fronts as a pit stop for twisted redemption.
If you’re local to, or find yourself in New York City during January, head to Times Square to witness artist Sebastian Errazuriz’s site-specific installation. Titled A Pause in the City that Never Sleeps, it’s a black-and-white video featuring the artist slowly yawning multiple times throughout its 11:57PM to midnight timeslot. There isn’t any fancy editing or motion graphics in Errazuriz’s video – it’s just him that dominates approximately 50 electronic billboards that are central to the city’s hustle and bustle.
If you’ve ever visited Times Square, or even just seen pictures of it, you know that it’s a crowded frenzy nearly all times of day. There are hoards of people, bright lights, colors, and jumbo-sized advertisements that are on a continuous loop. Errazuriz’s moment-of-zen video stands in stark contrast to what we’re normally used to seeing. It’s unhurried, hypnotic, and contagious. Visitors might feel the urge to yawn after watching it.
About the project, Errazuiz says, “I hope that the video can offer a brief moment of pause that can remind us of our urgent necessity for free space and time that can allow us to recover a stronger sense of awareness. (…) I am yawning at everything and all of us; we need to wake up.”
Find A Pause in the City that Never Sleeps from 42nd to 47th streets between Broadway and 7th Avenue until January 31. (Via designboom)
Bara Prasilova‘s photography is both playful and disturbing. She uses soft pastels with pops of neon color to evoke feelings of nostalgia and innocence; simultaneously, she hints at themes of restraint and constriction. In her project for the Hasselblad Masters Book, she’s chosen to explore the theme of “evolve.” Her prop of choice is hair: a natural material that she portrays in a surreal and absurd fashion.
In one photograph, a woman jumpropes with a long Rapunzel-esque whip of hair; in another, a thick braid wrapped around a woman’s neck looks suffocating yet elegant. Prasilova explains:
“Through my photographs, I have been trying to understand human relationships and connections: long hair symbolises the invisible strings we use to strap somebody to us or, perhaps, the opposite, to let somebody loose. They are the threads of our emotions, worries and fears that we are afraid to loosen like hair.” (via I Need a Guide)
Photographer Ben Hopper‘s “Transfiguration” project transforms his subjects into living sculptures. Each photo is charged with kinetic energy, only heightened by the bold streaks of body paint and splatters of white powder.
“Like a mask, the layers of body paint and powder disguise the identity and release something animalistic from within,” Hopper says. “It also creates a sculptor / painting looking figure, more abstract and less human.”
For his subjects, he chose to work with dancers and circus artists whose athleticism and grace enabled them to contort themselves into the surreal shapes needed. Some of the photographs look like cubist paintings because of the contrast between black, white, and human flesh along with the seemingly impossible angles and feats of flexibility performed by the subjects. The body paint looks almost like strokes of charcoal, creating depth while also the illusion of two-dimensionality.
DI$COUNT UNIVER$E is a Melbourne-based brand that combines art and eccentricity in the creation of a highly successful (and undeniably unique) fashion line. Enter their webpage and you cross the threshold from dull reality into a psychedelic circus full of fashionable madcaps donned in acid-bright garb. DI$COUNT founders, Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James, describe their aim at the crossroads of art and fashion:
“[DI$COUNT is] a culmination of ideas, imagery, the dialogue between us and the world, the desire for transformation and evolution; it’s about personality, spontaneity, humor and irony, cliché and imitation. It’s our art!” (Source)
“Culmination” and “spontaneity” are indeed the perfect words to describe DI$COUNT’s designs. The fabric is bestrewn with sequins, glitter, and studding, and the graphics include sparkling and bleeding eyeballs, open mouths, and disembodied, groping hands. Radiating with humor and seemingly random absurdity, the hyperbolic strangeness of these styles pokes fun at the highly conventional and artistically-vacant designs that dominate the popular fashion industry.
Both graduates of RMIT University, Napreychikov and James began the company “with little business experience, no capital and no intention of taking out a loan” (Source). Their solution? To turn to the internet and foster a cult following using platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, and their blog. This way, they were able to connect with other people who view fashion as a potential form of alternative art and social satire. Visit their website and Facebook page and follow them as they explore the capacities of art, creativity, and social wit to explode the limitations of the fashion industry. FELLT also features an interesting interview with Napreychikov and James about their brand.
Credits: Photography from the Penthouse Mouse Midmouse Runway (March 2012) by Meagan Harding.