Between 2009 and 2010 legendary designer Helmut Lang donated a large volume of his work in fashion to some of the world’s most important design and contemporary art collections. For his new solo exhibition, Make It Hard, he’s shredded the remaining 6,000 pieces of his archive. But why?
“Lang’s ambiguous forms are made not of stone or bronze, but of the objects and things he created during his twenty odd years as a fashion designer. The archive that stood testament to his immense achievement within that field – he has shredded,” says Neville Wakefield, curator of the installation currently on view at The Fireplace Project in New York. “The materials and fabrics he used to give temporary definition to the body are now just traces of natural and synthetic fibres, plastics, metals, leathers, fur, skins, feathers and hair — erasing the past and what these things once stood for.” i-D online spoke to Lang about his inspiration and the creative impetus for the show.
For this exhibition, you’ve destroyed 6,000 pieces of clothing from your archive. Why? I had a little help from outside forces in February 2010, after a fire in the building where our studio in New York is located, which could have destroyed the rest of the archive. After months spent going through the pieces to see what condition they were in, I slowly became intrigued by the idea of destroying it myself and using it as raw material for my art.
From the shreds you’ve shaped oddly gorgeous, floor-to-ceiling columnar forms, made of scraps of fabrics, fur, feathers, leather and plastic, which resemble stalactites. How would you describe this work? I’m not so keen on describing my own work as I don’t want to implement too much of my own thoughts in order to give the public the possibility to see and feel whatever they are able to.
What statement are you trying to make with this show? I’m not trying to make a particular statement. I think the work will speak for itself.
Is there a particular meaning behind the title “Make It Hard”? Make it Hard is on the one hand a reference to the transition from soft to solid and on the other hand a sexual reference.
Could you speak a bit about HL-ART? HL-ART or Helmut Lang Studio is our base in New York. I have my art studio in Long Island and I will continue to work on the columnar forms, it will be a larger body of sculptures, probably over a hundred pieces.
What are some of the differences, and similarities, between the art and fashion worlds? You have to work hard and you have to recognize when it evolves into something interesting and be able to let go of it when the work is interesting enough to fight you back. The difference is that it is more of a solitary procedure, which I don’t mind.
Where does your work fit in with the current contemporary vernacular? I don’t think I care.
Helmut Lang’s Make It Hard is on view at The Fireplace Project, 851 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, New York, until 8th August.