Today, for the first time on this blog, I am going to talk about a personal project. Spending most of the summer in London, I was, back in June, looking for a original project to work on. I wanted to develop my practice but also, mostly, to have fun (it was the summer after all). There is a display case in the entrance corridor at London College of Fashion, John Prince’s St, which is now offered to the students of the MA Fashion Curation (which I did) to give them the opportunity to practice their discipline. It’s totally open and the professor and staff who manage it really encourage and support new ideas.
One day, with a friend, we talked about it. Emilie Fregerslev-Larssen also studied at LCF and now works as a curator. In June, she was already working on an installation for the display case for the month of September – an important period as the Fall semester starts (it is now on display at the university). She told me that nobody was doing the period from mid-July to the end of August and, because it was the summer, something quite unusual could be done – there is less activity in the building. I had found my fun project! So we brainstormed… and quickly noticed : the case looks like a fish tank. Let’s create a fashion aquarium!
The next day, we started researching. We knew what we wanted the case to look visually (cf the drawing), but we needed some content to back it up. When I work on a project, I often start with the visuals. Then I do some research. Both feed on each other and at the end, the development of visuals and the theoretical research have an equal impact but they come at different time in the process.
We quickly found a connection with sustainability. It is no secret that the fashion industry pollutes. We thought we could talk about it. The fish of our aquarium will be replaced by items produced by the fashion industry so as to talk about waste in the oceans. We faced one problem though. Our first idea was to create a very kitsch environment with bright plastic plants to catch the eye. The case being in a corridor, we needed to find a way to make people stop. But, as our representatives noted, it wouldn’t, in itself, be sustainable (lots of plastic). We struggled with this for a while: how can we talk about sustainability if the display itself is not sustainable? But then, we realized we needed to focus of our first idea. We originally wanted to create an aquarium using an in-your-face style to make people stop and wonder. Therefore, the solution was actually simple: we are going to use this idea to talk about sustainability; it does not mean that our project needs to be sustainable. We present a problem, we do not give a solution. The objective is to make the viewer realize there’s an issue to work on.
It was then time for installation. We had sand, wood, plastic plants, plastic (dead) fish, plastic bags, make-up products, items from our own wardrobe, etc. We put all the elements together, creating levels with small stalls and hanging elements from the sealing, giving the feeling of a ‘real’ undersea environment. We finished by writing sentences such as ‘80% of waste in the ocean is plastic’ directly on the glass so as to introduce the viewer to the subject. We called it Too Many Fish in the Sea.
As we were installing, a student passed by. She introduced herself and congratulated us for the display. She was involved with Greenpeace and explained her connection to the subject matter. She thought our initiative was inspiring. That moment made my day. I felt thrilled. If I can have a positive impact and foster change, being involve in larger debates, exploring subjects I love and care about, I would be very proud. She reminded me why I make exhibitions.
The display is not on anymore but I hope these images will give you an idea of how it looked. Now you can see the display of my friend Emilie who worked with me on the fashion aquarium; and she’s making living plants grow inside the case …
Entrance corridor, London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s St, Marylebone, London W1G 0BJ, UK.