Fashion stylists and designers aren't the only ones that borrow from the past. Artists do as well. For this edition of Retro Looks in the Modern World, I am featuring an artist that does it very well, Yinka Shonibare MBE. I went to his exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum yesterday and was very intrigued and delighted by the installations, videos, and photographs by this British-Nigerian conceptual artist.
The installations feature headless mannequins that are clothed in colorful Dutch wax print fabric in elaborate costumes from either the Victorian era or the Pre-French Revolution era. Dutch wax fabric is typically known as a West African fabric but is actually made in Dutch and English factories for the West African market and inspired by the traditional Indonesian batik technique. While the gorgeous prints suggest an African identity, they are strongly connected and reliant on the Europeans. Showing these European costumes from the time of colonization in these fabric connect the viewer to the complex connection between cultures on a racial, economic, political, and sexual level. I was left with the feeling that the idea of modern globalization is not all that modern. We are in effect all connected and dependent in one way or another and always have been.
If you are in Brooklyn, run don't walk to see this exhibit! It closes September 20th.
Photos via brooklynmuseum.com