Creative Process Journal: The Uncanny

Viktor and Rolf L'Hiver de L'Amour 1994
This post marks the beginning of a new creative project - that I've tentatively titled The Uncanny. The spark of inspiration for this project comes from a passage I read in the book Adorned in Dreams where fashion scholar Elizabeth Wilson considers the unsettling feelings created by the haunting spectre of costumed mannequins within a museum setting:

The living observer moves with a sense of mounting panic, through a world of the dead…We experience a sense of the uncanny when we gaze at garments that had an intimate relationship with human beings long since gone to their graves. For clothes are so much part of our living, moving selves that, frozen on display in the mausoleums of culture, they hint at something only half understood, sinister, threatening, the atrophy of the body, and the evanescent of life. (Wilson 1).

The element of the uncanny reminded me of the Viktor and Rolf retrospective exhibition at the at the Barbican Gallery in London in 2008 in which porcelain dolls of various sizes were used to present the designer duo’s fifteen years of work. The installation played with scale and was somewhat like a trip to Alice in Wonderland, which was exactly the intent of the exhibition designers (Evans 6).

Viktor and Rolf had used dolls in their collections before. Dolls were part of an early collection called “Launch” presented at the Torch Gallery in Amsterdam in October 1996 in which they presented their hopes and dreams for the future in the form of a miniature design studio, runway show, photographic shoot and boutique. Dolls reappeared in their subsequent collections as well and became the locus of their retrospective at the Barbican.

Over the weeks to come, I will explore the idea of the uncanny, dipping into Freud's essay of that name and as well as researching related topics like mannequins, dolls and the museum. The final outcome will be a visual response to this material. I hope you'll join me on my creative journey!

Evans, Caroline and Frankel, Susannah. The House of Viktor and Rolf. London: Merrell, 2008.
Wilson, Elizabeth. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. London: I.B. Tauris, 1985, reprinted 2011.

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