In the contemporary political climate, choosing art education can feel superfluous, naive, even selfish. Neoliberal conservatism leads us to believe that being a creative means living detached from society, a privileged elite standing above anyone else. Last night, we were reminded that the very opposite is true. We saw a small selection of the explosive talent that grows inside the CSM walls each year. They proved that uncertainty and instability can be fertile grounds, and that fighting takes many forms.
Some drew back into their past, both personal and collective, reviving techniques that are getting lost in an ever-accelerating world. Their extensive research and obsession with craftsmanship is more than a call for comfort. From English coastal towns and Irish mills to Mexican macramé, these collections show that valuing heritage can bring a modern depth.
Others decided to face politics head on. They didn’t shy away from overt political references or religious symbols. Their garments function like flags as they loudly take a stance – criticising dogma, propaganda or the commercialisation of art education itself. Women particularly were inspired to protest and fashion collided spontaneously with feminism.
Many looked for ways to explore and express cultural identity, whether this was race, nationality or background. In this context, clothes became tools to question stereotypes, arms against racism. Fashion is a play on perception, but these designers made us look beyond first impressions.
A few prefered escapism, designing fabulously fantastic made-up worlds. Day-dreamers and poets, they created universes to crawl away in and to forget the outside world, even for just a minute, from glamorous Poiret-inspired gowns to grotesque Zombie-wear.
Why create? It seems like the only suitable answer can be found in the title of one of the collections presented last night:
Photography Portia Hunt Words Aya Noël