How do you rethink an idea, or a word, or a dress? Or question what a fashion exhibition is, while at the same time creating an exhibition about fashion?
Visit Judith Clark’s show The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined at the Barbican Art Gallery and you will find out.
Bold, ambitious, yet subtle and witty, the exhibition is a tour de force, and makes you engage and reconsider your own attitudes to this very slippery term from the start. Adam Phillips definitions of ‘vulgar’ tease out its meanings, and the range of objects, as well as the exhibition’s design suggest ways to redefine …
To give some insight into Judith Clark’s way of thinking, I asked her to fill in a Proust Questionnaire – a 19th century parlour game popularised by Marcel Proust, which is designed to reveal the respondent’s personality.
__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being with my family.
__2.__What is your greatest fear? Snakes on a plane.
__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Wanting to be liked. It means drowning out other more interesting thoughts about people and situations.
__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others? False allegiance.
__5.__Which living person do you most admire? Mr Rob Crossley, Mr Matt Jones
__6.__What is your greatest extravagance? Other than clothes?
__7.__What is your current state of mind?
__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Academic intelligence.
__9.__On what occasion do you lie? To make others feel better about themselves.
__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance? Different parts at different times.
__11.__Which living person do you most despise? Today, anyone voting for the far right.
__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man? It is something to do with how the difference is negotiated rather than denied.
__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman? Loyalty
__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse? No (to my children); Props and Attributes (to my students).
__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life? The father of my children.
__16.__When and where were you happiest? Walking from Carbis Bay to St Ives, 2013.
__17.__Which talent would you most like to have? Anything and everything to do with craftsmanship.
__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would be much more courageous.
__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having had the courage to have a family.
__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Someone born in the countryside and not a major city.
__21.__Where would you most like to live? My current home in London only with more room, or Rome.
__22.__What is your most treasured possession? My sketchbook at any given time.
__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Stubborn loneliness.
__24.__What is your favorite occupation? Exactly my occupation, making exhibitions of dress with the people I build them with.
__25.__What is your most marked characteristic? I don’t know, you would have to ask other people.
__26.__What do you most value in your friends? Their memory.
__27.__Who are your favorite writers? Those who have made dress sound interesting, valuable, serious. Those who have resisted the temptation to be snide, or apologise for their interest in it. Many years ago Elizabeth Wilson made it more possible for me to become interested in fashion. And Adam Phillips.
__28.__Who is your hero of fiction? Mrs Moore, in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Like her, I don’t like muddles, and I don’t like racism.
__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with? I would always like to identify with a female artist who had a studio. If she had a studio it meant that she was taking her work seriously and maybe was herself taken seriously.
__30.__Who are your heroes in real life? People who really manage to be kind to other people.
__31.__What are your favorite names? Marianne and Seth, and Jacob.
__32.__What is it that you most dislike? I’m not sure.
__33.__What is your greatest regret? That my mother did not live long enough to know my children better.
__34.__How would you like to die? In a way that would not make my children feel guilty.
__35.__What is your motto? ‘All experiments are good’.
The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined is at Barbican Art Gallery until 5 February 2017