Thursday, September 13, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Curation and Judith Clark continued

Judith Clark's curatorial work is so rich and so vibrant that I want to read anything I can find about her process. Although the article One Object: Multiple Interpretations (co-written with Amy de la Haye) is about a mass produced women's coat/uniform worn by the British Women's Land Army during WWII, there are fragments of her general curatorial philosophy when she writes:  It is fitting singular objects into historical continuums and possible future stories that endlessly capture my imagination. Quite simply what stands next to what and where does it stand within an infinitely renewable curatorial grammer? (159).

Clark also points out that late Diana Vreeland "very astutely identified" that the exhibition viewer had to identify with the object in some way and make a connection between "finding something desirable and finding something interesting" (159). She goes on to ask: "is curating about the clarity of connections, and if so, how are these made visual or literal? How can objects be presented as a way into different stories?" (160).

I did not see this exhibition about WLA coats from WWII and it might sound rather droll, but Judith Clark finds patterns and connections that leap off the page.  Drawing on Freud's work The Interpretation of Dreams, Clark presents the idea of a uniform as a denial of difference and symbolic of a disguise. She also makes connections to Alexander McQueen's dress-coat from Autumn Winter 2001/2002 and stylistic references to Coco Chanel's design for a coat from 1917. There is a dialogue between the past and present, invoking a non-linear exploration of time. She says "Curating, though its ruthless selection inevitably creates new patterns of chronology.... It also encourages us to read time backwards, to read it from where we are standing, always in the present, acknowledging that this is our perspective" (162).

Clark's words give me much to think about. Whenever I enter the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, I step back in time, feeling the presence of the women who wore the garments that are entrusted into my care. How do I give them a voice, when in so many cases their stories have not been captured, leaving only the marks, stains and signs of wear that suggest a living body? What is the connection that links them as objects of embodied memory? 


de la Haye, Amy and Judith Clark. "One Object: Multiple Interpretations". Fashion Theory 12.2 (2008):  137-170. Print.

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