In some sense, art and fashion are similar, considering that some artists, both globally and in Pakistan appear as fashion models, or a number of fashion designers take their inspiration from the works of art, especially traditional practices, and particularly the Indian miniature painting.
On another level movements of art are akin to trends in fashion, as every new epoch demands a different line of production. And like brands and labels from the realm of fashion, works of art are also recognized by the style and trademark of an individual artist. There have been a number of writers, cultural theorists and critics, who dealt with art, literature and fashion in their texts, such as Roland Barthes, with his books on literature, semiotics, art, and fashion (The Fashion System, and The Language of Fashion).
Another writer, Ingrid Sischy, wrote extensively on art, fashion – and photography. A recently published collection of her selected essays brings forth her ideas of and encounters with these areas of creativity. Ingrid Sischy was a “South African-born American writer and art critic”. She was “the editor-in-chief of Artforum from 1980 to 1988, the editor-in-chief of Interview magazine from 1989 to 2008, a consulting editor at The New Yorker from 1988 to 1996, and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair from 1997 to 2015.”
It is the remarkable tone of her comments and crticism that distinguishes her from a number of others. Writings on artists such as Francesco Clemente, Keith Hearing, James Rosenquist and Jeff Koons, along with designers like John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, and Calvin Klein makes the book an important document to discern the currents of our times. Sischy’s main interest seems to be the art of photography, since a number of essays are devoted to this subject (a genre that in an uncanny way blends art and fashion!).
In her brilliantly penned Forward Laurie Anderson recalls an incident of visiting Venice Biennale in 1982, and being refused entry to a party, so Sischy, instead of showing panic, calmly went back of the building with her, climbed the wall and jumped through first storey window – and was in the party, where she “did some brisk and intense networking”. The example illustrates how daring, unusual and unexpected she was in her approach while pursuing her subjects. Similarly, the formation of her sentences includes a personal point of view, yet her analysis astonishes a reader due to its insight and uncommon phrases. Anderson informs that “Nothing Is Lost highlights Ingrid’s mix of savvy erudition and playful archaic slang like ‘hoi polloi’, ‘bombshell allure’, and ‘the big kahuna’. She had an ear for the expressions of her artist and designer subjects, and always let them speak for themselves”.
Truly. Because when they speak, they talk in most profound manner and intimate tone, for instance during an interview Francesco Clemente expressed: “You have to remember that I am from a country where artists were once the equivalent of the prostitute or the drug dealer”, and while answering the reason for his becoming an artist, Clemente stated: “Because I am heartbroken”.
Her essays not only discuss an artist or a fashion personality, but these also contribute towards invoking philosophical questions about the structure of art. For instance, writing on Clementina, Lady Hawarden, the photographer who was discovered several years after her death and her work is now part of V&A’s collection, Sischy reflects “How many artists have passed through the world without being noticed? How many got a flash of attention, and that was it? Over and over, we hear about the same artists, but what about all the others–the unknown, uncelebrated ones, who far outnumber those whose work has stayed visible and valued? Among the uncelebrated ones, how many never had a chance, just because luck wasn’t with them–because they weren’t in the right place at the right moment, or they weren’t the ‘right’ sex or the ‘right’ race?”.
In fact, the volume seems to have published at the right moment, since it provides a vision inside the minds, studios and lives of creative individuals. She has connected art with larger issues of life as well; while talking about photography, she recalls a major incident in world history, and in the arena of image making, “I think of September 11 as the day photography got back one of its most important jobs, the day it regained its potential. Now let’s watch it go to work as we try to stop the world from blowing up”
What she wrote about art and its relation to world illustrates and illuminates her own essays, “The notion that art speaks for itself is appealing but unrealistic. To get into circulation and to achieve some kind of status, art needs believers, defenders, interpreters, dealers, collectors and museums”. And in the words of Laurie Anderson “she herself was a deep believer, consummate defender, and brilliant interpreter”.