I recently went to 2 events, both very different but seeing them both on the same day allowed me to think about the definition of art and how new media and multi-practice seems to be breaking down boundaries between art and other creative careers.
Last week I visited the exhibition ‘The Humans’ by Alexandre Singh at Spruth Magers gallery. http://www.spruethmagers.com/
Having read a review describing the show as a ‘performance’ I was surprised to find a video playing in the gallery, which was actually a video of a play. The film is 3 hours long and I confess I only saw about an hour of the full piece, which was an allegorical tale about the corruption of humanity. There were references to Shakespeare (and borrowings from his language) and Rabelais among other playwrights, and some of the speeches were quite dense for the non-philosophically minded, but the film/play? was also interesting visually, with some beautiful costumes and lighting.
My query is what makes this work into a form of visual art as opposed to theatre. The piece had the length of a play, was performed originally on a stage, by actors, reciting scripted lines. In the second room of the gallery were some prints and sculptures of the actors and the props from the play, displayed as museum or archive pieces. Perhaps the element making this a piece of art as opposed to theatre is that the play was never performed on stage before an audience so is therefore a fictional account of something which never existed?
Later the same evening I attended a fashion show, off schedule of the brand Sorapol. http://www.sorapol.co.uk/home.php
The brand was created in 2012 by designer Sorapol Chawaphatnakul and Daniel Lismore and the shows and pieces they create seem to blur the lines usually drawn between art and fashion. Their show was held at the Royal College of Surgeons, where a Victorian wood panelled room was transformed into a catwalk delineated by heaps of flowers and foliage, reminiscent of a Dutch old master painting or the decaying flower works of Anya Galaccio.
The show started with a video piece showing a model having a cloak-type garment stitched onto her body then exploding into flame. This model then kicked off the show, the shimmering and iridescent piece appearing like wings trailing from her body. This theme of second skin and transparency was present in many of the looks.
The show also seemed to draw from historical portraiture – in many pieces models had embellished necklines and covered heads.
There were also some fabulous lobster headpieces which could have only been drawing on the Salvador Dali lobster phone. I’m all for the interweaving of the arts, but in this case feel that the fashion show billed as a straight fashion show achieved this more successfully than the art exhibition which appeared to be a piece of theatre.