Fashioning Mnemosyne: Garments as Agents of Memory
University of Brighton College of Arts and Humanities
My research project aims to answer the following question: How has memory been performed throughclothing in interdisciplinary practices from the 1980’s to today? While from the 19th century clothes havebeen predominantly produced and given value by the fashion system, it is when seen as everyday objectsthat their ability to create and evoke memories emerges. By virtue of their porosity and their nature assecond skin, clothes are intimately woven into our human experience. As human beings, we engage inprocesses of time- and meaning-making such as memory, both at a personal and at a collective level. Such processes often require objects and their evocative power. The need to turn to the concreteness of things is an urgent issue in neoliberal economies: if on the one hand we experience a material overabundance, on the other meanings and values are increasingly created by the market, rather than by the users. The logic of fashion in particular has been associated with the accelerated experience of time typical of modernity and postmodernity as well as with consumerism and waste. However, since the 1980’s creative practitioners inside and outside of the fashion industry have turned their attention away from clothing’s mere commodity value to focus instead on their mnemonic abilities. My research will be an analysis of case studies that show how garments can act as agents of memory. Relevant practices include multidisciplinary projects that activate clothing’s mnemonic abilities through photography, autobiographical writing and autoethnography, artistic installations that integrate garments to maximise the evocative power of their materiality as well as the work of fashion designers and practitioners who have explored alternative iterations of fashion. By choosing to work with memory, these creatives have succeeded in articulating socio-political issues, bring to the fore new narratives and participate in processes of time- and meaningmaking.