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Dressing the City

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artist performing in "Dressing the City"Bizarre, inspiring, bewildering and poetic. That’s how I’d describe a two-hour art performance that I saw and experienced in Cologne yesterday.

It was called “Dressing the City und mein Kopf ist ein Hemd” and focused on the relationship between people, clothes and urban space.

Sounds strange – and I guess that’s what it was. But in an interesting way. I mean, what do you expect: it’s performance art!

For the audience, the performance has no real starting point and no defined end. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of it.

There are numerous actors and artists doing things simultaneously at different spots (dressing, undressing, relating with each other or with the clothes they’re wearing or the city architecture).

artist performing in "Dressing the City" http://www.angiehiesl.de/eng/index.php?page=art&artid=128And you as a spectator have to drift from one scene to the next, never knowing where the next one will take place.

Let your intuition be your guide – or just follow the crowd of people that quickly forms around the artists doing their thing.

Since different artists act out their scenes simultaneously, you’ll never be able to see everything. But that’s just like in real life: while you’re concentrating on one aspect of your life, one “story”, dressed-up mailbox in "Dressing the City" http://www.angiehiesl.de/eng/index.php?page=art&artid=128other things are happening right next to you that you’ll never know about. Maybe you’ll just hear about them later or see the remnants of these other life-stories, scenes, dramas…

The artists who thought up “Dressing the City” are Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser. On their website, they explain the ideas behind their art performance:

Angie Hiesl

Angie Hiesl

Clothes are our second skin, the membrane between our body and the environment. They are the link between our inner and outer worlds and make a public statement.Clothing is a non-verbal means of communication and delivers signals that relate directly to our social role.The issue of clothes and all their associations – whether social, cultural, aesthetic, historic, religious or moral – leads directly to Hiesl and Kaiser’s original form of expression: the provocation of our senses in public space.

Provocation is something that’s difficult in a city as cosmopolitan, diverse and tolerant as Cologne. The people here are pretty unfazed by what they see on the streets every day. So during yesterday’s performance, some passers-by just walked on without looking when a woman or a man were undressing down to their underwear in public.

artist participating in "Dressing the City" http://www.angiehiesl.de/eng/index.php?page=art&artid=128Yet there were a few funny and interesting reactions from unsuspecting citizens of Cologne.

When an older gentleman crossed the street and saw this lady more or less dangling from a traffic light, he worriedly asked “are you all right, Miss?” – much to the amusement of the bistanding art-lovers, who were well aware that this lady was part of an art performance.

Church procession meets "Dressing the City" http://www.angiehiesl.de/eng/index.php?page=art&artid=128In another wonderful “culture clash”, a catholic church procession entered the street where some of the artists were just stripping down to their underwear or changing clothes in public.

At first, the onlooking art-lovers didn’t know whether this procession was part of the  performance. Or was it a group of evangelical Christians who wanted to preach against this decadent form of art? Neither one. In liberal Cologne, everyone just went their way and let the others be.

http://www.angiehiesl.de/eng/index.php?page=art&artid=128You can see another great interaction between art and real life in the film I posted above. About 4′ 20″ into the film, you’ll see a little kid who’s obviously very curious, what these two people are doing out on a park bench in their underwear. In the next scene, he and another kid are totally fascinated by one of the actors taking off his shorts in public. Hilarious.

Dressing the City und mein Kopf ist ein Hemd will be performed at least three more times in September, 2011. Go see it if you have the chance. And if you’re not in Cologne, Germany, don’t despair: Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser have taken some of their art performances to other cities and countries – even as far away as China.

Written by Thorsten

August 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm

A mall for young designers

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Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phaet Subway station in BangkokI was ready to head back to my hotel after having walked around Chatuchak Weekend Market for the better part of the morning.

I was tired and looking forward to my hotel swimming pool, a nice cool drink and some relaxing music from my i-pod.

But when I got to the lower level at Kamphaeng Phet subway station, I was in for a surprise. And that surprise made me forget the pool, the drink and the music for another hour.

Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationHere in this subway station was the entrance to an underground shopping mall. An Idea Market that is only open on weekends.

A mall especially for young designers

Some of the designers at Kamphaeng Phet already had their own shops where they sold their own lines of fashion, gifts or perfumes.

The Idea Market at Kamphaeng Phet Others, however, were just getting started and obviously couldn’t afford renting a store yet.

They had spread out their goods on the floor in front of them – pretty much like kids selling old toys at a flea market.

Some of these vendors were selling interesting stuff that they were making themselves on the spot: designer bags , jewelery, hand-sewn teddy bears or knit sweaters.

Young designers at the Idea Market at Bangkok's Kamphaeng Phet subway stationI never studied design at school, but I thought that some of those people at the Kamphaeng Phet Idea Market were pretty talented.

And the prices were very reasonable. I bought a pair of designer shorts at one men’s fashion store, which cost me the equivalent of four dollars. Can’t really complain about that…

Written by Thorsten

December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Never on a Sunday

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The gho and the kira - traditional dress in Bhutan

The gho and the kira - traditional dress in Bhutan

When visitors first arrive in Bhutan, they are usually fascinated to see that almost everyone here wears the national dress.

The impression you get is that of an exceptional place, rich in tradition and unified through a particular kind of clothing not worn anywhere else in the world.

But there are two sides to the coin.

The Bhutanese don’t wear their national dress totally out of their own free will. If they could, most of them would also put on jeans and t-shirts.

Especially the kids would much prefer to look just like everyone else in this world.

But there are laws in Bhutan stating that the people have to wear the national dress when they are in school or in a shop, on formal occasions and when they are in any kind of government office or institution.

Some government offices will not serve natives who are not properly dressed. And policemen will reprimand or fine Bhutanese who are wearing western clothing in the streets.

The only time these rules seem to be more relaxed is in the evenings, after government offices and public institutions have closed, and on weekends.

When you walk through Bhutan’s capital Thimphu after sunset or on a Sunday, you’ll only see very few men wearing the traditional gho and very few women dressed in the kira.

Instead, the people then prefer exactly the same outfits that people in the rest of the world like to wear: jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.

This is especially true for the young Bhutanese.

I have visited Bhutan three times over the past four years and it’s my impression that the popularity of western clothing is increasing.

I can’t remember seeing this many teenagers in western clothes in the evenings and on weekends before.

I guess this is due to increased exposure to Western culture in the form of movies, tourists and TV. After all, Bhutan didn’t even have television ten years ago.

Who knows how much longer the authorities will be able to uphold the rules promoting the national dress if this is not what the (younger) people want?

Written by Thorsten

October 15, 2008 at 5:32 am

Abercrombie & Fitch is Zeitgeist

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can I take him home? If you want to feel the pulse of NOW, go to the Abercrombie & Fitch store on New York’s 5th Avenue. I went there a couple of times last week and discovered that this place really embodies our Zeitgeist.

The first time I entered the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store, I was pretty irritated. It’s dark in there.

There are only a few spotlights on the clothes they sell – but these spots really aren’t sufficient to judge what color the t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans are.

You basically have to guess the exact shade or color. Or you have to drag the piece you want to another corner of the store in the faint hope that the lights will be just a little stronger there… (they’re not)

Mom will never believe these clothes are new

Ah, but what great things Abercrombie & Fitch has: jeans that are destroy-washed, t-shirts with stitched-on lettering that is artfully torn to make them look like they’ve been through a thousand washes and sweatshirts that look like a family of moths had a feast in them, so full of holes are they.

But that’s the style! And everyone wants to have it! The store was always packed whenever I visited it. And almost everyone who went in came out with huge shopping bags.Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag

Another thing that sets A&F stores apart from places like the GAP or Banana Republic is the music in the stores: it’s loud, it’s constantly upbeat, and it’s always the same!

On my frequent visits to A&F stores in New York last week, I kept hearing the same songs again and again. Which would really get on my nerves if I worked there…

All in all, the music and the scarce lighting make A&F stores feel more like a club than a clothing store.

And don’t forget the scent: that’s something else that is unique to A&F. Go near an A&F store and you’ll be able to smell the place before you see it. The whole shop smells of the A&F fragrance, which they spray liberally over the clothes. I guess they also use it as an air freshener and make the staff put it on.

Models pose as salespeople

And that brings me to the next point that’s so NOW about A&F: the personnel. I don’t want to call them salespeople, because that wouldn’t seem quite right. First and foremost, they are beautiful people.

smooth to the touch and nice to look at I guess their most important function in the A&F store concept is to model the clothes and to make the customers feel like they would look just as gorgeous if only they wore the same A&F outfits.

One day, for instance, all the store personnel were decked out in the same gray sweatshirt (needless to say that they all looked awesome in them). When I went back to the store the next day, I noticed that the place was completely sold out of those gray sweatshirts. I guess the modelling did the trick.

Watching how they do it

Out of curiosity, I then just sat in a chair in the store’s waiting area and watched the store personnel. (The waiting area consists of a couple of lounge chairs, where stressed-out husbands, wives, mothers or friends wait while their loved ones are still lost in the dark maze of the store trying to find just the right outfit).

I sat there for a while and observed what the store personnel were doing. Or not doing. Most of them just stood in pre-assigned places, smiled at the customers and said their hellos and good-byes. And, of course, they looked amazingly beautiful.

One of the salespeople was approached by a few customers and answered some questions, another one folded a couple of t-shirts. But apart from that, they were just a decorative element of the store. What a job…

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Smooth to the touch

But the most “zeitgeist” thing about A&F must be that they have a bare-chested guy wearing a pair of A&F jeans standing in the store’s entryway to welcome customers. Pure sex. A&F even supplies a photographer to take your picture with that half-naked hunk. And you get to keep the polaroid to take home.

The polaroid. Not the model.

get the picture

Abercrombie & Fitch Casting

Written by Thorsten

April 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm

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