A fascinating cerebral yet colourful philosophical reflection on garments as an expression and manifestation of happiness, within the context of mass satisfaction and fulfilment. Far from being a spoiler, this is intended as a useful pointer for those struck by the title of the exhibition with which the Moscow Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is launching its autumn season, and are keen to check it out. The artistic approach to this international project exploring clothing and its wider context is devoid of any fashion connotations. The exhibition showcases works by more than forty artists, including representatives of historical avant-garde movements, exponents of the Soviet and Brazilian arts scene and new generations of performers from Russia, Japan, the United States, Zimbabwe, and many other countries.
Geographically, the exhibition retraces the 21st century silk roads, from the areas producing the raw materials, the fabrics and prêt-à-porter garments, along the intercontinental trade routes. Built on a series of research trips carried out by the curators, from Sweden to Bangladesh, taking in Ivanovo (Russia) and Biella (Italy), The Fabric of Felicity is the result of a thought experiment. What happens when we take fashion out of the conversation between garments and art? What happens when there is no longer a common ground for exchange? The show is based on the metaphor of clothing as a real, tangible, material avatar. In many ways, a person’s choice of avatar/garment amounts to a political, economic and cultural act that is beyond their control, inevitably connecting them to industries whose products sway the destinies of entire communities. The importance and social significance of garments thus always come through quite clearly in this project.
The philosophical foundations of this experiment are drawn from the German sociologist Georg Simmel’s essay On Fashion (1905), in which he describes two different types of garment - one that makes for equality, and the other unity. The title of the exhibition is taken from An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1780) by Jeremy Bentham, according to whose utilitarian philosophy happiness was a societal condition produced by rationality and law, and who used “fabric” and “textile work” as metaphors for social life (docet Plato!).
Curated by Valentin Diaconov, Ekaterina Lazareva and Iaroslav Volovod, The Fabric of Felicity aims to uncover variations and paradoxes within the dichotomy of anonymity and personality, uniforms, work clothes and non-professional dress.
The Fabric of Felicity
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
9/32 Krymsky Val St., 119049
12th September 2018 – 27th January 2019
Opening hours: open every day from 11.00 am to 10 pm