Helmut Lang & Athina Rachel Tsangari On destefashioncollection At Barneys

We asked two artists who created work for the destefashioncollection art exhibition, which opened in the windows of the Barneys New York Madison Avenue flagship today, to tell us more about their thoughts on fashion, art and the pieces they designed for us. (Find our more about the project, organized in collaboration with Dakis Joannou’s DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, here.)

Below, artist Helmut Lang and filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari give us a glimpse behind the glass…


— Helmut Lang —

Helmut Lang is an Austrian artist who lives and works in New York and is known to be one of the most influential fashion designers of our time. Retiring from fashion in 2005, Lang’s work left an undeniable imprint on contemporary culture and on the fashion community. Lang continues to work as an artist exploring abstract sculptural forms and physical arrangements/space that take one beyond the limitations of the human body.

“Front Row” by Helmut Lang at Barneys New York

Barneys New York: What do fashion and art have in common?
Helmut Lang: Not every fashion is great fashion; not every art is great art.

Tell us about the piece you created for this project. 
I realized in the progress that this was the first time I found myself in a non-contributing position to the fashion system, asked to occupy the role of the observer rather than the participant. Even if the front row was a virtual one, I had never been there before. After that conclusion, it became clear to me that the front row would be the subject of my commentary. As a new experience I found it interesting enough.

 The sculpture of five chairs (made out of marble dust, resin and filler) represents the hierarchical procedures and implications in the rituals and social showdown in the fashion world.

Vogue has more on Lang’s piece for the Barneys windows here.

— Athina Rachel Tsangari —

Athina Rachel Tsangari is a filmmaker and projection designer in her native Greece and in the U.S. Her graduation thesis from the University of Texas at Austin, “The Slow Business of Going,” was acquired by MoMA for its permanent film collection. She also designed the projections for the 2004 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Her second feature, “Attenberg,” premiered in competition at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Coppa Volpi Award for its lead, Ariane Labed, and went on to win 13 more awards. It was Greece’s Best Foreign Language Film submission to the 2011 Academy Awards.

“The Capsule” by Athina Rachel Tsangari at Barneys New York

Barneys New York: What do fashion and art have in common?
Athina Rachel Tsangari: I consider fashion as wearable art: human bodies transcend, transform and transgress their material inescapability.

Tell us about the piece you created for this project.
My contribution to the destefashioncollection took the form of both a film and an installation, entitled “The Capsule.” It is a Greek Gothic mystery inspired by the work of the young Polish artist Aleksandra Waliszewska. The story: Seven young women. A mansion perched on a Cycladic rock. A series of lessons on discipline, desire, discovery and disappearance. A melancholy, inescapable cycle on the brink of womanhood—infinitely.

The “Capsule” installation repurposes digital 3D technology [Tsangari selected LG’s Cinema 3D TV technology] to create a kaleidoscopic illusion apparatus, a modern-day adaptation of early cinema’s “Kinetoscope.” It invites an unsuspecting audience of passers-by to enter an adventure of visual perception, dependent on their distance from the screen and their respective heights. Viewers are invited to either fully engage and “discover” the story unfolding on the screen, or fleetingly experience the images as mysterious, oneiric tableaux.

A single screen simultaneously shows two separate movies, constructed from the same story, yet juxtaposing and amplifying each other as twin narratives. Normal-speed scenes are punctuated by extreme-slow-motion shots taken at different camera angles, generating a stereoscopic narration in doubles. The triangular lattice placed before the screen operates as a kaleidoscope in itself, reflecting the images in a new set of distortions. Some of the lattice cells contain mirrored drawings by Aleksandra Waliszewska, only visible in ghostly reflections, adding a new dimension for viewers to discover.

Photographs of the windows by Tom Sibley.