Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Life in Plastic
Origional articel published Nouse. June 22, 2011
Text: Paris Bennett. Fashion Editor of Nouse
Phototography: Jenny Van Sommers
Pandemonia has the wow factor. Or perhaps Pandemonia is the wow factor. The phenomenon of performance art, has been formulated under the name Pandemonia, into a larger-than-life cartoon character, with the intention of provoking a reaction, whilst at the same time being a reaction. The presence of this doll-like figure certainly commands your attention unlike any regular arty or eccentric character. Indeed, being head to toe in latex, seven feet tall, and all woman is enough to merit interest from those in the industry also trying to create an unusual ‘image’.
In fact, the industry rather like the cartoon created by the post-pop conceptual artist. Pandemonia has been spotted at film premieres, glossy on location photo shoots, and even Boy George's 50th birthday party last week. Her fans and friends include Kanye West's ex Amber Rose, Philip Tracy and Steve Strange. But, standing the challenges facing art and artists du jour, this walking piece of art must also resolve her existential purpose.
As a conceptual artist, the ideas behind the art take precedence over traditional material concerns, yet this does not detract from the aesthetic appreciation of Pandemonia’s silhouette and features. She describes these as quite traditional features. “It’s figurative; it’s concerned with our relationship between identity and the media and who we are in a changing landscape. As a celebrity, albeit an artificial celebrity, I am the glossiest celeb of the glossies. I fit right in.”
Alluding to her image being not merely part of fashion, but of celebrity culture too, it seems ambiguous as to whether she is an item of gossip, an icon, or an imaginary celebrity. But she clarifies that her “ideas come from the mass media so it makes scene to put them back in there. That way I am communicating to a ready audience.”
“The celebrity arena is a platform to exhibit my work. I am inside the idea and have become the medium. Celebrity is the face of the media. As a pseudo-celebrity, I am a construction of media aspirations and dreams – A copy in the world of illusion.” If the birth of an innovative product in an already saturated market, involves the right product, in the right place with the right promotion, then she seems to have got it impressively spot on.
The female form is always being rearranged and re-worked, I am simply working within that time-honoured tradition
Although the conceptual side is important to this walking Barbie, would artistic expression through other mediums such as painting have a bigger impact? “Oh yes, I used to exhibit paintings and drawings in traditional gallery spaces but they always seemed so old fashioned. Our 24-hour media world is a more exciting and modern place to be in. When you watch TV you can’t help but notice that people are only interested in other people, preferably celebrities.”
The value of the character compliments conceptual. The raw appearance of the character seems to juxtapose the female silhouette. But she says, “females are far more alluring. Everyone likes looking at the female form, look at Art, look at advertising. In the West, the female form is always being rearranged and re-worked, I am simply working within that time-honoured tradition.”
Pandemonia is ‘re-working’ the tradition with a re-generation fabric. Latex relates to an industry of latex condoms, rubber playsuits and fetish. But Pandemonia says that she uses it “because it’s shiny. All the best things are shiny – gold, diamonds, cars, magazines, gadgets. Shiny means fresh and new. Almost everything you buy now is wrapped in plastic so it must be good.” She has tapped out human sense of allure being a primitive sensation felt by all. But it’s not just latex that re-works the female form, as she has used denim in the silhouette too. “That material also has lots of conations. It’s mass-produced. It once symbolised the working class and became a fashion statement of the rebel. A symbol of freedom and individuality. Disenfranchised from its roots and re-cut by top fashion labels.”
As the story of Pandemonia unravels, it becomes apparent that her paramount expression and reaction is about self-awareness, which could be argued to characterize the celebrity industry itself. The inflated and fixated hairstyle, pop up chest and attention to details that includes matching shoes, bag and outfit co ordination can relate to any celebrity. But which celebrities in particular have looks which have been borrowed from? “I’m inspired by whoever is in the media at the moment, for a while it was
Paris Hilton. She’s perfect because she’s famous for nothing and she’s blonde. Today we are getting a lot of
Cheryl Cole. I wonder who will be next.”
I’m not sure whether she intends for the stark irony; at London Fashion Week her image bombarded the style pages, finding itself next to the very celebrities she takes inspiration from. She responds “People have interpreted me in all sorts of ways. My presence offers a subtext, a reflection on what is happening.”
But do the celebrities object to her social reflection, view this 3D inflated latex symbol as a mockery of their existence? “They are all receptive to my work, reactions run between amazement and amusement.” This refreshingly seems to epitomize how seriously we take the media, and how light heartedly the celebs categorise themselves
The three way relationship of audience, media and celebrity appears to show the power being dominantly placed at the celebrity’s feet. The inflatable items to the suit, such as the handbag and hairstyle represent the transience of celebrity shelf life. “My head and bags are empty they are only surface. It’s so easy not to look beyond the surface. I have thought about inflating other areas but I think it’s important to stay elegant.
“My Marlboro dress is my favourite creation. It sits in a space halfway between reality and advertising. When I wear it I am imbued with the force of nature, the power of the Marlboro mountain. I am inside the medium. The alchemy of myth and advertising entwine and fuse together around me.”
The consistent focus on a rather brand categorised industry, I find myself trying to remember Pandemonia as ‘artwork’ rather than ‘product’. However, her most profound expression is to view celebrity culture as a market, but rather as an artistic expression. All surface, with hidden substance, in which Pandemonia appears to have created a perfect positioning of herself in our culture.