Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time Bandit


Before I even saw her birth date, I had this very strong feeling that Hally McGehean HAD to be a Sagittarius like myself.  Her work is just way too diverse and consistently clever.  I was right: December 18th.  She also makes films, but was displaying work at the show under the company name Belles Lettres.

My impression of her work is that it mostly deals with the concept of Desire: materialistic desire, desire for status, desire for beauty, desire in the form of hunger, and of course, lust.  In each manifestation, the pieces confound their ability to satisfy the desire they create, in most cases by being no more than a superficial representation of what's being sought.  In this way, in her work as a whole, she's making a very profound statement about the consumerist machine, an endless downward spiral of supply and manufactured demand with an empty promise of personal satisfaction that it almost but never quite completely delivers.  It's at the very core of our consumerist way of life, because it's the aspect of it that's evolved in the interests of its own self-preservation.  In other words, if a consumer were ever allowed the possibility to think "okay, I've got every appliance and houseware and linen and garment and gadget I could ever possibly need, they'll last forever and they're doing just what they were advertised to do," the whole capitalist system would completely collapse.

So beauty first or perhaps the lure of traditional, dressy formality, here's a corsage/ boutonni√®re:

It's a photograph of a rose, laminated in plastic, to wear on your lapel.  It won't ever wilt, which is a good thing, and you won't have to keep it in the refrigerator.  But what's also interesting here is that it has no fragrance, since the wearing of a fragrant flower at this location on the body has its roots in a time when bathing wasn't as common.  But even if the wearer doesn't have B.O., it's still nice to lean in and smell.  What I think would be really interesting here is if she were to give this piece an aroma, but not that of a rose.  Not something specifically unpleasant, either, but something not particularly pleasant or interesting either, like the scent of grass (not marijuana, you druggies, just ordinary lawn grass).  I happen to love the scent of grass, but the idea being something common and ordinary instead of the sweet fragrance of the flower one might be hoping to smell.

Sort of combining more specifically fragrance with questions of Status this time are her "Grazie Miuccia" nesting dolls:
Miuccia, of course, being the designer's first name, for anyone who doesn't keep up with that stuff: they're all Prada.  The thing I love about the nesting dolls here is that the very thing that makes them delightful is the same thing that makes them useless.  They take the form of a container in which one could store things, but the only thing they're really intended to contain is themselves.  It's about the single most self-absorbed, self-centered group of objects one could imagine.  While I'll fault no one ever for wanting to smell nice, the purchasing of perfume--a product intended to be consumed for no real practical purpose (though some of the bottles have been shown to have lasting monetary value)--could be viewed very similarly. At the same time, the potentially infinitely repeating series of identical but larger figures is timelessly haunting.  They also connote hierarchies in a single family and other concepts that one could attach to class divisions based on economic levels and so on, like the fragrances of varying size--and therefore price--the images of which she's applied to the outside of them.

For Hunger, a bacon bracelet:
Speaking of smells, oh boy, do I ever love the smell of bacon in the morning!  I just think this is a hilarious idea for a bracelet, anyway.  What's also interesting is that real strips of bacon are practically two dimensional already, and if it weren't so gross, you could conceivably wrap one around your wrist and wear it.  But in light of some of McGehean's other pieces, I'm tempted to consider our culture's obsession with weight.  For anyone even slightly concerned with their diet or their weight, these fat-loaded strips of mostly nutrition-free yumminess would be about the very first thing to go, second only perhaps to those big rich, gooey flourless mmmmchocolate cakesmmmmmmmmm...sorry, got carried away there...after dinner.  The other thing is, you're wearing the perfect symbol for unchecked weight-gain on your body, but on your wrist, possibly the last place on anyone's body that would attract fat cells, instead of your hips or gut or butt or wherever.

Then we get into the true status symbols, the jewelry:

I'm immediately reminded of some of the jewelry pieces by Mike & Maaike.  But while they do speak of questions of value, M&M's pieces are printed on scored leather.  So they're not the quadrillions of dollars of the originals, but they aren't all that ridiculously cheap, either.  M&M deal with other issues: originality and reproductivity, technology, ownership, and fame.  McGehean's pieces, on the other hand, deal with economic barriers and perceptions of beauty, status and consumerism.  The images she's chosen aren't of one-of-a-kind, famous or infamous pieces, necessarily.  Tiffany, Cartier, whoever, probably make them by the hundreds.  It's only the ridiculous cost of them that prevents most people from being able to own them.  Her, as she calls them, "fake" versions, in great contrast, are priced to be ridiculously affordable: the earrings $10, the bracelet $20.  Coming full-circle with delicious irony, despite being so reasonably priced, most of her "fakes" are one-of-a-kind.

And the watches, they're all ridiculous, like $50,000 watches:

Pictures of them, laminated in plastic: watch bracelets.  AWESOME.  She reminded me that they're correct twice a day.  She said I think it was her brother who's really into high-end watches and gets all these super thick, glossy watch magazines that cost $40 and come out quarterly.  When he's done with them, he gives them to her, and she uses the images for these.  I couldn't resist them, and they're also terribly inexpensive, I got this one for $15:
This one, in part, because she said it was the only vintage watch image left, likely from an old Playboy magazine--she ransacks a lot of those.  I love it.  Now it appears they're on sale for $10, so even luckier for you.  Anyway, same sort of thing as the jewelry here, but I said to her what I'd discovered long ago about watches: even the cheapest watches, without any diamonds or gold-plating--that is, moderately nice ones that aren't Swatches or whatever--are hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  I don't know.  I was surprised by that, considering that I know people who think spending more than $50 on a shirt or pair of pants is clinically insane.

Interesting factoid about high-end watches, though, like Rolexes, for instance: they're said to be an extremely good investment, because they hold their value very solidly not only through time, but also geographically.  That is to say, if you found yourself in a financial emergency just about anywhere in the world and had a Rolex on you, you could get a very fair price for it.

Here's another fun fact: I'm not sure if all computers now are set up to do this, I'm on a Mac because I'm artsy.  But go to the website for the Greenwich Atomic Clock, which is like the most accurate clock on the planet or something and the standard on which world time is based.  Then set your computer's clock to show seconds.  I was very impressed to discover that my computer was matching the time down to the exact second shown by Greenwich.

McGehean has also made a dress of 196 watches called "All the Time in the World":
That's Hally McGehean herself, by the way, modeling it.
It's a rather pricey dress, but it took her a very long time to create it.  She pointed out that detail at the bottom, with all the smallest watches.  Even so, it's 196 of them, so obviously it took quite a bit of patience.  Come to think of it, I can't imagine a more wonderfully perfect thing to wear to a fabulous New Year's Eve party than a dress made out of expensive watches.  Seriously, can you?  Unfortunately, I'd be shaving and waxing from now until next New Year's before I'd be ready:
OW!  Get that wax away from me!

This is really shockingly incredible, the "Dirty Dirty Dress":
It's a slinky, sexy mini-dress that shows off all the very best, most tantalizing parts of the woman wearing it, but it's made out of pornographic images of men, some of them quite explicit indeed.  Please be warned, the detail shot is not suitable for younger viewers.  This is absolutely brilliant, and for that gutsy, horribly hip celebutante, showing up at the latest MoMA or Barbara Gladstone opening night party, this would be an absolute sensation, hands down.  

The fact that the dress itself is so provocative is twisting the gender of the Gaze back and forth in the most confusing and argumentative ways.  Who is being objectified here?  Who is the dress sexualizing and who is it empowering?  The stereotypical sleazy guy presumably wants to objectify the wearer, but is confronted by the objectification of himself, his own maleness, simply by looking.  It's questioning and contemplative of profoundly interesting issues, but then, at the same time, it's just fun.  It's sexy and screams freedom.  I told McGehean that very few people could get away with something like this, and I think that's true.  For anyone with the ovaries to buy and sport a dress with this much behind it with your head high and your feminine powers proud, I whole-heartedly salute you with a tall glass of champagne.

Cheers to a great New Year!

©2008, Ryan Witte

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