Eduardo Costa, Fashion Fictions

Fashion Fiction

Eduardo Costa, Fashion Fiction: La instalacion fotografica, 1966. Golden ear, sheet magazine, photograph. 

 

For Sale or Not for Sale

Eduardo Costa’s Fashion Fictions appropriated the language of fashion to challenge and mock the limits of mass media’s power. As part of the series, Costa created an ear, a few strands of hair, a toe, and three fingers with long nails, all cast from the bodies of the people who would wear them, using 24-carat gold plate. He then had photos taken of models wearing the jewelry and wrote a press release in the style of conventional fashion copy. The work was featured in magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Caballero (Greaney, 166). The fabrication of these gold body parts reflects the construction of the body by culture and the media, and emphasizes the body’s subjection to the cultural hegemony of western aesthetic tendencies. Costa’s work challenged media culture, particularly that of the fashion institution, by gatecrashing fashion’s dissemination channels and forcing them to reflect on their norms and possibilities (Herrera).

Pop art thematizes how technologies of mass consumption and mass media entertainment impact and transform experiences of everydayness in a postindustrial society  (Rottnera, 125). The seductive power of the lush, professional image of the model wearing the golden ear led readers to think they were widely available in the world at large. However, these objects and their photographs were instead the vehicle through which the artists investigated how the mass media creates, rather than reproduces, reality (Kac, 35). Fashion Fictions was not solely about fashion, but about cracking the media’s codes, and the larger structure of Western consumerism and mass media.

The fictitious nature of Costa’s objects was an important aspect of his confrontation of consumerist culture. The critical goal of Fashion Fictions was to promote ‘unusable’ jewelry, denouncing the lavish way of life that the fashion magazines promote, as well as the very structure of consumerism (Ramirez & Olea, 526). The idea was similar to Edgardo Giménez’s ¿Por qué son tan geniales? (1965), a billboard that served no commercial purpose, completely contrary to the productivity-driven ideals of capitalism.

Costa recognized criticism of his work stemming from “the prevalent vision of fashion as a frivolous field, whereas art and conceptualism were serious” (Greaney, 660).  While he is mocking the nature of the fashion industry, Costa also challenges cherished notions of art. This intervention into the very definition of art was a common theme among the works of Costa and several of his Argentine contemporaries, particularly Roberto Jacoby and Raúl Escari. Together, the three artists published the ‘Media Art Manifesto’ in 1966. Their main goal was to reveal and unmask the fraudulent nature of the mass media, as well as the harmful effect that the mediated experience has on the viewer, and they proposed to “take on the ultimate characteristic of the media: the de-rationalization of objects. In this way the movement of transmission of the work of art is more privileged than its production” (Kac, 35).  Costa’s art thus regarded the location and source of consumerism as highly as its aesthetics as a means to produce his work.

Fashion Fictions does not just focus on subversion of mass media as a form of communication, but also the hegemony and stereotypes it perpetuates, particularly in terms of the female body. The literal objectification of a body part could be interpreted as a commentary on the media’s disempowerment of women. The power dynamic that is represented through the media is comparable to that of colonization and exploitation, an idea evoked by the use of gold, which conjures a sense of past history and resource exploitation. In creating these ‘fictions’ of fashion, Costa thus brought to light the fictions that mass media culture perpetuates, and the damage of such an active consumer audience.

 - Zarah Udwadia

 

Works Cited

Greaney, Patrick. "Essentially the Same: Eduardo Costa’s Minimal Differences and Latin American Conceptualism." Art History 4 (2014). Print.

Herrera, Maria. "Eduardo Costa: Art Permeated by Language." Arte Al Dia. 4 May 2010. Web.

Kac, Eduardo. Telepresence and Bio Art. U of Michigan, 2015. Print.

Ramirez, Mari Carmen, and Hector Olea. Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America. Yale UP, 2004. Print.

Rottnera, Nadja. "Marta Minujin and the Performance of Softness." Journal of Art History 83 (2014): 110-28. Print.