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H.H. (Harm Heye) Coordes

PhD student
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Expanded Semantic Levels in Fashion – 
Opportunities for a performative interconnection between an individual immersive experience and fashion

The impact of fashion industry on the environment is devastating, it can be labelled as a climate killer whose overproduction is consuming resources on a global scale. Growth, however, cannot be infinite, especially when it comes to ecological resources – there are already too many garments existing. In searching for solutions for a post-growth society, academic responses are limited to economic aspects and control mechanisms mostly, but fail to consider consumers (humans) as emotional beings who are subject to fears regarding limitations of their wealth or their lifestyle choices and who desire to stage themselves and 'enhance’ their lives by acquiring new, updated or on-trend products (Böhme, 2014). Calling on this desire and the systematic logic of fashion as a system of paradoxes in between identification and individuality, distinction and imitation (Esposito, 2011), and its binding nature of the temporary, the research project is asking: How can fashion as a symbol of fast consumption and superficiality be used to create ecological awareness? And how can it take part in a process of transformation towards a more sustainable future?
Based on exemplary case studies that are investigating ways of interlinking academic ideas with artistic and performative experiences, the artistic PhD project uses fashion as a tool and interface to generate a sustainable consumption model. This is developed in the context of the fashion project ‘CHURCH OF THE HAND’ (COTH), which creates immersive rooms of experience that lie between fashion, installation, sound, taste, haptics and performance.
On an epistemological level, the research will illustrate how different theories and observations regarding the presentation of fashion are intertwined, partake on each other and fortify or complement each other in order to create an individual experience. Through the conjunction of theories on branding, marketing, and consumer criticism, with those that emphasize the importance of being present – such as theories on the construction of atmosphere, on the possibilities of social engagement in the arts, and on the transformative power of rituals, communitas and narratives – preconditions for a transformation towards a more critical consumer behavior and ways to interconnect individual meanings with fashion will be formulated. On an artistic level, it will do this through situations of individual reflection (e.g., of one’s own habits) and artistic encounters with physical (fashion)-artefacts. The underlying premise for the thesis is that a change in consumer habits and behavior must ultimately go hand in hand with a change in perceptual behavior, in which active participation replaces unconscious consumption. Earlier approaches indicate that fashion and artistic experience have the potential to make this transformation, a different kind of consciousness and—what Kate Soper (compare Soper [2019]) calls – an ‚alternative hedonism’ more accessible and attractive through undogmatic (because open for individual interpretation), low-threshold (because it does not demand for academic reading skills) and intrinsic ways of showing alternatives, as well as opening up the discourse to a wide audience by including the academic and non-academic world.

Last modified:01 March 2024 2.30 p.m.