Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is Alycia Barker, I am a fashion design student at The Wilson School of Design. I moved to Vancouver from Banff, Alberta two years ago to start my university career after hearing amazing things about the design program from alumni. My main interest when it comes to fashion is avant-garde and couture as well as costume design. I plan to study abroad in Australia next year at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to elaborate my studies, getting a broader view of the fashion industry globally. My main interest in taking this course was to broaden my knowledge on art and art history. Contemporary art was never something I would have chosen to study in a classroom setting alone, and coming to London to experience it has given me a different perspective. I love Europe and see myself living and working here at one point in my career, being able to spend an extended amount of time here (I’ll be here for two months in total) will give me a sense of what life will be like if I lived and worked here full-time. I have dual citizenship with Ireland, so it will be interesting to see what restrictions are placed on my European citizenship once Brexit is finalized.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
London is a city I have visited before, so there wasn’t a whole lot new to me when I landed here. However, I would have never thought of going to galleries and museums such as the Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery, or the White Cube. I am someone who enjoys classical/modern artwork and historic costume rather than contemporary or postmodern. I also missed the Victoria and Albert museum last time I was in London, so that has been a highlight so far; I am very pleased that I was assigned this museum to review.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned artwork from the Tate Modern is Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC (1982) by Nan Goldin. I think I preferred doing research on her rather than seeing her work first hand. When reading about Ballad of Sexual Dependency, I was excited to see her collection of photos from what critics had reviewed and the conversations around her work. When it came time to see the images live, I was provoked with feelings of disgust and resentment towards it. I understand this was why her work was chosen for display at the Tate Modern; her work is meant to provoke these feelings as well as highlight the darker side of our minds as human beings—people feel repulsed, but continue to look.
Since she is a photographer, there was no difference to me in seeing her work hung up in a gallery to what I have seen on my computer screen. When I was reading and writing about the artist at first, I had a more positive opinion towards her art. However, I understand and appreciate the conversations around her work and her contributions to contemporary art and space she has created for society to open their minds to new concepts.
I also found a conceptual artist at the Tate Modern whom I enjoyed named Judi Werthein. She designed shoes to help Mexican immigrants make the journey into America after a number of illegal immigrants died trying to cross the border in the 1970s. She had fashioned maps on the soles of the shoes along with pockets to hold money along with painkillers to assist people who had been bitten by snakes or suffered from a number of other injuries. The shoes are called Brinco, meaning jump in Spanish. It’s artwork like this that I appreciate because of my design background. I also love how she was poking fun at the fashion industry’s consumerist nature, selling the shoes for $240 US across the border, classifying them as designer shoes. Some people may argue that this design is assisting illegal immigrants entering America, but that is the whole point of her making these shoes; it's also saving the lives of individuals that are trying to escape terrible situations. This collection was part of the performance art section of the Tate Modern.
Today’s activity was located at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Saatchi Gallery. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day?
The activity I was asked to document was at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Saatchi Gallery. So far, this has been my favourite museum and am glad I was chosen to review it. My favourite aspect of the museum was the variety of things to see and experience, from ancient Greek sculptures to Buddhist statues and couture fashion house exhibits. I especially loved the blend of fashion, art, pottery, and overall history of so many civilizations and countries in one place; the building was absolutely amazing as well. I plan to return to that museum specifically to spend a few more hours taking everything in. I wasn’t able to see everything I needed to see in two hours. The most memorable part of this day was seeing different design houses in one room that spanned 200 years. I saw everything from the punk era of the 1970s to dresses designed by Dior in the 1940s. I also loved seeing the cast replicas of medieval caskets and cathedral arches that were on display as well as items from the Middle east. Growing up in a Western culture, there is minimal appreciation for Islamic artwork and culture. Seeing rugs and artifacts on display was interesting and refreshing, when I return to the V&A, I will definitely revisit this section to educate myself a bit more on what was shown.
Seeing these dresses were so refreshing and inspiring to me as a designer because they are considered to be works from the masters of couture. So much skill and work goes into creating garments like these, and each one serves a function and purpose. I am thrilled to see society viewing fashion and design as something that is more than just a craft, instead viewing it as wearable artwork that holds value, just like works of art. Slow looking and mindful observation is crucial in everyday activities that the majority of us miss. As a society I think we are always so preoccupied with getting through the day as fast as possible, rarely taking the time to live in the moment. In Buddhist cultures, living in the moment is just as important as making money. As the Dhali Lama says, “If you are living in the past, you may be depressed, in the future, you may be anxious, but if you live in the present, you are at peace.”
Steven and I started a slow looking exercise introduced by guest speaker Sharon Greeno-- one of my KPU Fashion Marketing Instructors who was also visiting London and joined our group for the day. The exercise began by choosing individual artifacts to stand in front of with one of our backs turned. It was hard to describe the cast sculpture over ten minutes, and I only took around two minutes to describe what I saw. Looking at the piece, which was in three parts that imitated scenes from the bible, I noticed there were quite a few heads missing from the scenes. The carvings worked with negative space, carving out the multiple figures to depict the scene. This exercise allowed me to pay attention to how I am going about my day, staying in the moment and allowing myself to take the time to slow look and experience everything to the fullest.
After the Victoria and Albert Museum, our group headed to the Saatchi Gallery, and along the way we saw a very cute kitty in a window of someone's apartment. I’m sure the residents didn't appreciate a big group of people swooning over their cat, but it was worth every moment. My favourite artist from the gallery was Tillman Keiser, especially his sculpture pieces Moontrap and Fotobox. These art pieces reminded me of something from outer space, I thought they were a clever creation, invoking nostalgia of wanting to travel to outer space as a young child. I do hope that in my lifetime I will be able to travel to the moon, but I’ll have to wait until it costs less than 5 million dollars. I also enjoyed his silkscreen paintings on canvas, the use of mixed media and methods of creating pieces like Gewinnspiel (Lottery) and City of The Weak Heart, it had so many different elements to the artwork that really got my attention and made me stay to look longer at his artwork.
After the Saatchi gallery, Ciska and I walked down some back streets in a very posh neighbourhood to this designer consignment store called Pandora. I can safely say it was the best second-hand luxury fashion store iv’e ever been to (and still couldn’t afford). They had a full rack of Chanel suits on sale for 1100-1700 pounds each, a steal if you have that money to spend.