On Jul 21, the Drake Lab played host to Instant Fashion Show, an event that’s part of the public programming coinciding with Cameron Lee’s behind the curtain Drake Lab residency. Our assistant curator, Rea McNamara, provides a recap of the event.
Since July 10, Cameron Lee’s behind the curtain has opened the private space of the artist’s studio to public visibility. On now until July 24, the artist’s Drake Lab residency has featured an ever-evolving window display of installations, collage and assemblage that can be seen day and night. Lee has also opened the space for invited artists, curators, thinkers and makers to help activate the space.
Lee is a Toronto-based artist, curator and DJ. In his own words, he “performs, builds, collects and combines using humour, with a focus on all things weird.” Micah Lexier curated one of Lee’s sculptural works – dilly dally (2010), a pickle jar inside a galosh – in his Power Plant group exhibition last year. At a recent AGO First Thursday, Lee performed Who is responsible?, a tour of the Henry Moore sculpture centre that coincided with the just-closed Francis Bacon and Henry Moore show. (And, if you ever find yourself looking for a dance party on a Saturday night, you can hear Cameron’s DJ collective Body Interface – alongside artists Sebastian Butt and Laura McCoy – spin at Bambi’s in the Dundas West neighbourhood.
Many of Lee’s installations come from repurposed found materials – he has a particular affinity for Value Village rummaging. (He frequently visits the Bloor and Lansdowne location, but confesses that his favourite locations are those in the east end.) What began, in collaboration with Alexandra Lee, as a literal curtained spectacle for the window, has evolved into a brightly coloured and playful installation that demonstrates the “process of making all that thinking visible,” explains Lee, who also collaborated with local artists Mary Duthie, Sarah D’Angelo, Sarah Bodri, Alicia Nauta (who was part of our Spring show), Victoria Cheong and Anni Spadafora. “I have a tendency to throw everything out there and then try to figure it all out. It’s less about a grand gesture, and more about the absurdity of the grand gesture.” The installation is also purposeful – at one point, dollar store green plastic table cloths were transformed into a winding snake-like figure that dominated the space – as Lee wanted to create a “hideout fort” that would allow for failure and discovery in his collaborations with other artists.
According to Lee, Instant Fashion Show “celebrates and questions fashion as an exchange of commodities, ideas and the body.” Similar to a clothing swap, participants who came by the Lab were invited to bring clothes, costumes and accessories that could be traded and assembled into unexpected fashion ensembles. At the same time, DJs Victoria Cheong (founder of Healing Power Records) and Anni Spadafora spun tunes via laptops and mixer, creating a comfortable vibe for participants to play both model and stylist, and perhaps venture into un-chartered personas via their outfits.
At one point, musician and writer Adam Litovitz, along with Stephanie Southmayd, dropped by. Lee encourage Litovitz to try on a white, zip-up plastic suit, which, once accessorized with a boho embroidered belt, was deemed “travel sweat lodge.”
At another point, Daniel Goodbaum, the video artist responsible for the Globe and Mail’s popular Style Eye videos, ventured in for an outfit, but it seemed what kept him around was the conversation had with lingering participants regarding the ethics of printing photographic negatives by deceased photographers like Vivian Maier and <a href="http://hyperallergic.com/137286/garry-winogrand-and-the-perils-of-posthumous-prints/"Garry Winogrand".
These interactions and moments attest to Lee’s belief that behind the curtain wasn’t about the “aggressive assertion” – but using spectacle to create an open, potential space, where anything – like the seemingly simple process of choosing what you wear – is possible.