Europe vs. Europe is an exhibition highlighting how European identity is discussed and fragmented through visual culture dating back to the 18th century. Covering a variety of mediums, from fashion illustrations to advertisements, these visuals can be drawn together by their mocking tone and sartorial indicators.
A Russian Dandy, caricature by William Heath and Samuel William Fores, 1818, Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin, CC BY-NC-SA
Within the images clothing goes from signifying distinctive nationalities to blurring the images of opposing nations into one. A conflict becomes apparent that while fashion is ripe with a potential for mockery it is nonetheless upheld as a desirable signifier of identities in close proximities, sometimes only distinguishable from each other by the individuals themselves. These visuals reveal a struggle for identity that exists not only between nations, such as England versus France, but also as internal divisions within individual nations. Fashion as an elite inception forms the basis of sartorial signifiers that demonstrate tensions concerning class, status and cosmopolitanism.
The collection we have chosen to display is only a glimpse of this architecture, an architecture that is still being built today. To contextualize each piece we have traced its provenance considering its dissemination historically and within archives today. Since our efforts remain a simple flirtation with the wealth of images and discourses accessible, we’ve decided to suggest a searchable tag with each image. This will allow the visitors to extend their exploration into the archive and find out for themselves – how did Europe fashion itself?
The aims of the exhibition are: to observe the mediation of European identities in the past; to consider the referential nature of European fashion despite its claim to be individualized; to introduce people to the ways in which they could discover more about this discourse in the archive.
Visit the exhibition at: http://europeanafashion.tumblr.com
Text and concept by Tala AlGhamdi, Yasmine Sebti, Kirsten Wang, Chanel Host