biennale pick#17: The City and the Secret Panther Fashion by Gulsun Karamustafa

BOOMZ! Yeah! The City and the Secret Panther Fashion by Gulsun Karamustafa indeed is a reminder of Ris Low, isn’t it? (Who’s Ris Low? here!) But let’s keep the joke aside, the video installation by Karamustafa is fun but at the same time eerie.

The video takes place in Istanbul, where a group of ladies meet (illegally) to delight themselves in panther fashion. Not an uncommon trend, the leopard-prints fashions have become extremely popular in the industry and worn by enthusiast all over the world. So what makes the video, uhmm … special then?

The story begins with a group of ladies, secretly lurking into the house of Panterella and Lalla (yes, notice the names!) who host the panther party. The ladies will then amuse themselves and each other by changing clothes, accessories and they end the day by eating sweet fruits. Pretty much a dull day, but the ladies look thrilled.

The day ends and the video is looped. Once again, the day begins and ends at the same. The special day turns into a routine, banality of life. But despite so, the panther party could have suggested otherwise, in fact what Karamustafa is interested in is the secretive desire underneath the laws and social values of the Middle Eastern society, particularly Istanbul of course. Fashion, once a friend said, as a product of sin (referring to biblical chapter of Gensesis where Adam and Eve discovered ‘fashion’ after eating the fruit of knowledge). In this video too, fashion and popular culture seems to be included on the same value of life, undesirable by many but found appealing by some.

The piece also speaks about the identity of women, often closely accompanied with fashion in Middle Eastern society, where religion’s practice are more prominent compared to the more liberal cities. A great sense of restriction potentially results in a panther party, almost like taking illegal drugs and consumed by it only for a short while. In The Handmaids Tale, a novel by feminist author, Margaret Atwood, the protagonist, Offred took pleasure simply by looking at Japanese tourists wearing short skirts, which by the time of the novel, America had been taken over by Christian fundamentalists. During oppression, a slight freedom seems heavenly. Karamustafa seems to highlight this through the piece as well.

One response to “biennale pick#17: The City and the Secret Panther Fashion by Gulsun Karamustafa

  1. Pingback: Singapore Biennale 2011; OPEN HOUSE | rainbowartsproject – documenting LGBT art

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