ANYbody: Challenging the binds of body image

Friday saw the opening of ‘ANYbody’, a fashion project presented by the Danish Fashion Institute, Femmes Régionales, Ane Lynge-Jorlén and Headstart Fashion, which explores the boundaries of how we perceive our own body. Exhibition ends on April 9th. 

by Nicole Goszczynski, photos by Giang Pham

Anybody - 2017 Mar 31-16

Dr Ane Lynge-Jorlén, curator and member of the jury

‘ANYbody: The Body and Beyond’ is a temporary fashion exhibition that, for once, does not focus on clothing but instead fully concentrates on how the shape of the body itself can be rethought. The 13 Danish designers participating in the exhibition were selected by a jury of three fashion experts: Dr Ane Lynge-Jorlén, Stine Osther and Mie Albæk Nielsen.

Friday was the day of the grand opening. We entered the venue –  an old factory that greeted us with crumbling white walls and a grey floor – with curiosity. It took a few minutes to get our bearings: apart from just a few chairs arranged in two rows and tables offering refreshments, the hall was empty. You could only see a microphone placed in the middle of the room, and a woman announcing: “This is where the creatures will be walking.” It was hard to imagine how the show would kick off.

This minimalistic setting was certainly intended to leave the room without any distraction from the core purpose of the event: Rethinking one’s perception of the body.

Breaking down norms
The show began with speeches, placing the exhibition into the context of Aarhus 2017. The idea of the rethinking the body was motivated by the feeling of inadequacy and shame that the norms established by the fashion industry evoke in society. The purpose behind the exhibition is to question these standards by creating and promoting diversity. “We want to move into anybody,” said Juliana Engberg, programme director of Aarhus 2017.

Key speaker Penny Martin, founder and editor-in-chief of British magazine The Gentlewoman, puts the exhibition in an analogy to her own journalistic efforts. “Through my magazine I wanted to give polity and dignity back to fashion. It is about bringing fashion and reality closer together by acknowledging that the models are real women and not just objects.”

No straight lines, but winding routes
Before leaving the stage to the artistic works, curator Lynge-Jorlén explained that the faces of the models were masked in order to turn attention towards the bodies and not let the impressions be influenced by their individual appearance.

Accompanied by melancholic cello music, the bodies started appearing from both left and right. Instead of walking in straight lines, as one might expect in conventional fashion shows, the models took winding routes.

Confronted with abstract silhouettes, from rectangles over mascots to shells, the audience experienced how differently a body can be constructed. The figures also showed how diverse materials can be used to influence shapes. While cloth appears to be flowing smoothly, PVC makes a stiff outline. Leather, in turn, creates a rather dented form.

Two insurgent Danish designers
The inspiration for the different pieces could not differ more. Stine Sandermann, an upcoming Danish designer who has only recently launched her own sustainable brand, contributed a piece called ‘All That Glitters is Gold’.

All That Glitters is Gold by Stine Sandermann stands for materialism and overconsumption (photo Giang Pham)

‘All that glitters is gold’, by Stine Sandermann, stands for materialism and over-consumption

“When I was living in London, I set out to photograph everything that had to do with excess, and found chewing gum stuck on the streets. The issue with this is that chewing gum is a non-degradable synthetic material, so it stays wherever we spit it out.”

Sandermann’s white and pink PVC body represents the excess of material items in which society drowns itself. “I saw how we put our mark on the city and landscape, and realised that we do that to our bodies as well. It’s more of a metaphor for how we drown our bodies in stuff such as cosmetics and clothing, as though this would lead us to a better life,” she enthused.

Natural beauty is trying to burst out of the deformed body that is The Shell by Cæcilie Dyrup (photo Giang Pham)

Natural beauty is trying to burst out of the deformed body that is ‘The Shell’, by Cæcilie Dyrup

On the other hand, designer Cæcilie Dyrup talks about her inspiration for ‘The Shell’, a body made out of leather and plastic flowers. She elaborates: “I always find topics that move or annoy me. I’m annoyed about beauty standards in social media, so I decided to create a twisted body. Whenever you turn it, its shape changes. It depends on your perspective and the way you look at it, if you find it beautiful or not.”

“The basic message is that there’s no one way to look at things. Social media changes, beauty standards change, people change. It’s your own perception that counts,” Dyrup concludes.

The works from ‘ANYbody: The Body and Beyond’ are showcased at Salling, Søndergade 27, Aarhus until April 9th, 2017 with a daily activation at 3pm. For more information on the exhibition, take a look at the website.

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