Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Andrea Zittel

So the other day, in talking about Project Runway's decidedly quirky Elisa on a message board I frequent, I was reminded of the clothing that Andrea Zittel creates. When I was in Buffalo last Christmas my mother and I went to see an exhibition of her work at the wonderful Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Her work investigates the conventions of everyday life: what we need, what we want, what we do or possess because it's expected of us, the interplay between freedom and restriction, etc.

Zittel creates multi-functional living spaces and conducts experiments on herself, living within strictly established parameters for set periods of time. She creates tiny living units, islands, and furniture among other things. It's all rather fascinating, I think, although it must require rather more self-discipline than I have.

But the connection I made between Elisa and Zittel is in regard to Zittel's Uniform Project. She makes uniforms that can be worn every day for six months. No more decisions about what to wear in the morning. But she didn't only simplify the act of dressing in this manner. She also created her clothing out of progressively more basic elements. Initially she made clothing entirely out of rectangles (the shape fabric is in when you purchase it) and then she moved on to clothing made out of yarn, first crocheting these "single strand" garments and then developing a technique for hand knotting them, thus eliminating the need even for crochet hooks. Finally she began creating fiber form clothing, which involves hand felting and requires no cutting or sewing at all.

Now, I'm not saying that what Elisa does is the same as what Zittel does. For starters she comes off as more flaky and spiritual and less intellectual than Zittel. It seems more like she is trying to find a happy coexistence with the world at large than to interrogate it. But I do think that there are similarities in the desire to meld art with craft and design. That's rather more interesting than designing art for celebrities. It might make her wrong for the television show, but I'm definitely interested to see what she comes up with.

There's not much point to this entry except to say that Zittel is awesome, and Elisa just might be as well.

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