It's a charming design, this dress, hung from wires. You can see how the shape follows the contours of the body. Something strange is going on here, though: there is no slip, which means we can look right through it.
And, having noticed that, suddenly it's not a dress any more. It is now a garment, abandoned by its inhabitant or awaiting her arrival. Nevertheless, it will have a long wait, because it is unlikely that any woman will ever wear this dress. Even if a woman tried to put the dress on, she would make the painful discovery that the ends of the cable ties point both inwards and outwards, like oversized, sharp thorns. You can see this quite clearly on the detail photo.
The garment is therefore a dress of thorns. Having discovered this, it evokes rather a harrowing feeling, here in what used to be a convent. The sculpture becomes a very literal metaphor for the marriage between the wearer of the crown of thorns and the religious woman, who devotes her love to Him. She is fully aware of the fate she is choosing for herself when she puts on this habit. At the same time, there is something timeless about it: once the dress has been put on, the thorns will continue to prick her and remind her of her chosen fate.
This dress can be seen in relation to Antje Otto's torso, which is completely naked. In this light, the work places a greater emphasis on the claustrum-aspect of the Monastery. Landfried's Kleid can be interpreted as a prison, a reference to both the claustrum and the skin itself, in its function as a second skin.
Was this sculpture created specifically for this monastery? No, not really, but it does fit this theme and - as is always the case at an exhibition - it acquires an added significance from the place where it is exhibited. And we should not forget that the choice of joining a monastic order was and is a decision taken in a certain social context.
There is much more to say about the artist, Gabriele Landfried. She has created more of these 'robes of thorns' throughout her artistic career but not all of them are as subdued as the one above, which closely resembles an evening gown; she has also created more frivolous dresses, such as the dress with the red cable wraps shown below. There seems to be no escape for the woman; no matter what she wears, the garments always have vicious thorns attached to them. So even though this design is, in contrast to the more muted evening gown, more reminiscent of 'dirty dancing', the unspoken suggestion is that beauty is always painful, both to the person who is beautiful and the person who is attracted to this beauty. Seduction is one of the themes that is represented here. The colour combinations and models, the glistening aluminium held together by shining plastic, the see-through pattern; glamour is the key word. Glamour that is always present on the surface.
Kleidskulptur (Design) 2014
This artwork takes us outside the realm of fine arts. It is not just a question of whether these artworks are beautiful or if the garments can be worn; in fact, these garments emphasize their own unwearability. They point to a societal and political element: the role of the woman. The garment hanging here is a proposal to womankind, to dress herself in provocative yet inaccessible clothing, ironically made of one of her most important kitchen helpmates and roll-reinforcing materials: aluminium foil. The woman is thereby imprisoned in the dual gender roles assigned to her, of seductress and kitchen princess, which, as we all know, causes her pain.