Venice’s most striking feature may never have been its intriguing architecture and distinctive canals, but rather its relationship to light, from Canaletto to engineer-turned-designer Mariano Fortuny. Opening on the same day as the Preview Days of Venice’s 55th edition of the Art Biennale, fashion brand Aganovich embodied this idea through the Camera oBscura installation in the bridge room of the Bauer hotel, thriving and thrilling epicenter of the art glitterati during the fair and whose bar was taken over by fresh-from-Cannes Parisian club Le Baron.
Guided into a pitch black room that is usually the bridge room by the soon-vanished torchlight of the exhibition’s ushers, the viewer is left with the sound of fluttering wings and eyes gradually adjusting to the darkness of the room. On the walls, slightly disquieting masks hold a silent and near-unseen vigil. Wooden shutters slide back, revealing a visual slice of the garment encased within. Rubbernecking around the opening is the only way to appraise garments in their entirety. Light itself becomes part of the garments, transforming colors even without movement, which made immortalizing this work through photography somewhat of a challenge, requiring a sure hand to truly bring out the colorful shades of dark.
Finally, the pièce de résistance reveals itself, the ghostly image of the final dress and a 16th century grate behind it, projected through a lens. The natural variations of lighting bring different elements of the tableau into focus: the now-classic Aganovich coat-dress, the delicate palette of “blacks”, the richness of Rubelli’s jacquard and damask fabrics, all artfully brought out by a reconstructed chiaroscuro in front of an intricately ornate window.
To mid-wife their installation into existence, Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor worked with German-born artist and “camera oscura” expert Fritz Stolberg and Venetian atelier Setecento whose mission is the preservation and promotion of the city’s rich fabric heritage. After discovering several historic fabric manufactures, Aganovich chose Rubelli, founded in 1858 and now one of the world’s leading luxury furnishing fabric makers. Taylor describes the garment capsule as “articulating around ways to dominate this powerful Venetian fabric and recreate it into outfits. The multi-step dying process applied to intricate fabrics brings out more mystery to the work than in their original, immaculate versions.” A further development is planned, involving avant-garde body-scanning technologies to take would-be customer’s measures.
At the inauguration, French politician Segolène Royale praised not only the innovative talent of the fashion duo, but also their French ateliers of Bocage Avenir Couture in her Poitou-Charentes jurisdiction, which were saved from bankruptcy when its employees rallied together to save the ailing sixty-year-old company in 2003, and weather both mass delocalizations and credit crunch.
Light and fabric still hold their place as essential tenets of Venetian heritage and the visit of couture designer Yiqing Yin provided a sense of delightful kismet, in an imaginary reconciliation between the heavy regal outer robes reinvented by Aganovich and the delicately organic pleating Yin and forebearer Fortuny both showcased so artfully in their works.
The Camera oBscura, a device for bringing to light fashion’s artists?
Camera oBscura, a project by Aganovich for Setecento with Fritz Stolberg will be on display in the bridge room of the Bauer hotel until the 14th of june 2013.
- Lily Templeton
Photos of the collection provided by Aganovich
Photos of the event by Valerio Mezzanotti