Binary be gone
We’re seeing a change in the tides in 2018. Where non-conformity to gender stereotypes once garnered disgust, a newfound appreciation for queer culture has steered pop culture in the new millennium in a much more positive direction. But the well-tailored men of Queer Eye still sit on the safer end of the spectrum (irony, right?) Beyond the sharp suits donned by confidently out individuals, or even the elaborate costumes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a whole universe of non-binary dressing and fashion exists. And now, an ongoing exhibition at Hatch Art Project is digging right into that vast expanse.
At Deciphering clothes: The Troublemaker’s Wardrobe, 12 emerging Asian artists have exhibited their wardrobes through a mix of mediums—featuring a plethora of garments and objects you wouldn’t typically find in your hetero, cisgender closet. Some are distorted, some overly exaggerate or reveal private body parts; all are curated to evoke in guests massive discomfort and embarrassment. They’re quite literally coming out of the closet.
The original definition of queer was ‘strange’, or associated with trouble and other such negative connotations. Hence like all provocative art shows, this one raises questions: What kind of clothing makes us feel uncomfortable? Why do we feel strange? Is it because we’ve been conditioned to accept a certain way of dressing as ‘ordinary’? Is anyone who does not dress to that expectation hence a troublemaker? Also on the table are questions about femininity and masculinity, surfaced through the artists’ creative explorations of cross-dressing; and a re-evaluation of the dreaded gender binary.
Stop by for Nguyen Quoc Dung’s expressive paintings of marginalised communities adhering to rigid sexual identities; Singapore’s own Norah Lea and Vimal Kumar, who seek to dismantle gender categories through painting and photography; or the borderline outrageous physical costumes by Filipino artist Leeroy New, who’s attained the ultimate bragging rights after his Muscle Dress was worn by Lady Gaga in her 2011 music video “Marry The Night”.
The exhibition is the final installment in the gallery’s three-part curation for the year. Be prepared to feel extremely uncomfortable; because isn't that the point of art?
Tan Siao Xuan
Norah Lea & Vimal Kumar
Deciphering clothes: The Troublemaker’s Wardrobe runs from now through Jan 12, 2019 at Hatch Art Project, #01-02, Asia Square Tower 1. More information here.