fashion trolling with canadian art angel chloe wise
From pranking the fashion world with her Chanel Bagel No. 5 bag to her irregular tampon series and inserting herself into her own work, Chloe Wise is exposing the banality of luxury and commerce and turning it into humour.
Try and picture the scene: Chanel is holding its most exclusive cocktail of the year in New York and actress India Menuez enters wearing a purse in the shape of a hyper-real bagel (complete with cream cheese and sesame seeds) bearing the brand's logo. Within seconds, the hot new item is on every fashion website in town, gushing at Karl's latest lash of genius. To their disappointment, they are soon to find out that the bag is in fact a sculpture by Chloe Wise, a gloriously satirical artist who tweeted back "Not by @chanel but stoked I fooled yall!"
The self-described 'Canadian Jewish Angel' might only be 22 years-old, but the Gen Z powerhouse is already busy redefining a version of feminism that questions boundaries between tacky and luxe, branding and intimacy, digital and tangible - all bathed in deep self-deprecation. Some of her most buzzed about works include a Star of David made out of bacon (Star of Larry David), tampons filled with Oreos, qinoa or human hair, and an array of ad-busting self-portraits. We spoke to the riotous femme about the power of irony, fashion-trolling and Judaism.
What is the story behind the bagel bag, and do you think it caused such heat?
The bagel bag, Bagel No.5, is a sculpture of a bagel made of oil paint and urethane, adorned with fake Chanel hardware. It's part of an ongoing series I have been working on for over a year, of non functional bread-bags modeled after famous it-bags of the early 2000s, all with pun-driven titles (Louis Vuitton Baguette, etc). This particular bag caused a ruckus when India Menuez wore it to the Chanel dinner. We both knew it would cause a bit of a stir, but it actually went viral, to the point where it was covered in the mainstream media. What caused such a media explosion was the fact that people thought it was really Chanel at first. Having India wear the bag, and infiltrate the fashion realm, in my eyes is a form of comedic performance art. As a sculptural work, this piece is intended to be viewed on a white wall or in an art context, not worn. In this case the piece transcended its intended context, and dove into a new surrounding - a fashion audience - who were not prepared to be 'trolled' in this way. Some fashion magazines and blogs were raving that bagels were the new hot trend for spring- which is hilarious because this is a sculpture with no functional compartments - in fact, it's heavy and covered in paint and sesame seeds. My intended critique here is simply to compare fashion objects and art objects: both can be dysfunctional yet beautiful, are used to indicate status, wealth and luxury.
Yourself - looking classically hot - often appears in your art. How have you turned that into a feminist tool?
I appear in my own work primarily because I think comedy is most effective when it comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability, and the way I present myself in my practice ranges from flattering to horribly unflattering, from accurate to campy, over-the-top exaggerations, and so on, which I think provides relatable humour. My work which features myself is largely self-deprecating, and satirical. I work a lot with the concept of narcissism- the definition of which seems to be in a complete stage of flux with the increasing democratisation of self-representation. Everyone with a smartphone is able to distribute images of themselves and further edit or curate the facade they present to their personal audience. There's an understanding that, as an artist, choosing not to adhere to societal norms is taken as an act of art. The same photo can be perceived as a "shameless selfie" or as an net-aware ironic web artists self-portrait, depending on the context. The line between these two perceptions is what interests me. I'm aware that my web presence, as a girl, can be perceived a number of ways, and if social media platforms are seen as an extension of the body of work of an artist, then their selfies or self portraits are taken as art. It's all very new and interesting to navigate, and I'm interested in exploring the boundaries, stepping between the two areas of perception and hopefully nudging people into re assessing their own perception of narcissism.
You love Jewish jokes (so do I), what does this tie into?
I think it's important to talk about what you know, and as an artist, I think the strongest critiques and funniest jokes come from a place of self-exploration. My Judaism is something I relate to strongly because of my upbringing, yet simultaneously something I feel disconnected to because I don't believe in religion. My use of Jewish imagery, such as the bacon Jewish star Star of Larry David is meant to bring up topics of hypocrisy in religion, but it's mostly about hypocrisy in general, and opposites. When I critique or make reference to Judaism, for the most part it's not about religion at all, it's just me laughing along with the culture I partake in, and relate to, and seeing the banality as well as the beauty in it.
Can you tell me about your tampon ads - is it a critique of women-targeted marketing? Of the way society regulates something as natural as bodily fluids?
Yup! Spot on - pun intended - the tampon series could have been about any packaged product, because I was just exploring the visual language of advertising as well as the fetishisation and commodification of individuality and subcultures. Like, how H&M totally went super Seapunk once Rihanna appropriated it. I just imagined it going full blown mainstream to the point where objects like tampons became branded this way. There are so many problematic aspects of marketing attempts made towards women, such as the language used and the assumptions implied, so my tampon series was my way of dealing with these stereotypical branding tropes, regurgitating them and making them satirical in order to expose their banality, all the while appreciating their aesthetic and visual language. Like, tampons are for your period, it's so funny how commercials for tampons are so stylised.
You have collaborated with photographer Richard Kern and ASOS. Why are the arts and fashion no longer incompatible?
I think that, while there are stigmas in place regarding people, namely women, who participate in both fashion and art simultaneously, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate categories of art or entertainment from each other. The lines between music, comedy, fashion, art, and so on, are rapidly blurring and these areas are conflating. Many artists create works that function in more than one space, like, Maurizio Cattelan can collaborate with Kenzo and still captivate institutional art audiences with his sculptural works. Nothing is incompatible, everything is possible, whatever. I don't think it makes sense to compartmentalise things at the current time. Yet- on a personal note, my work is meant to be viewed and considered in the art context, which doesn't mean it can't function elsewhere... but... I guess I'm just playing favourites!
Text Alice Pfeiffer
Photography Theo Gennitsakis and Hannah Sider