Been Dazed & Confused For So Long.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

True to form Eni and I finally got around to visiting the '20 Years of Dazed & Confused: Making It Up As We Go Along' exhibition at Somerset House on it's final day of showing. Apologies in advance for this super duper late post. Unfortunately it’s just how we roll.

I became an admirer of this pioneering publication during my uni days. A barometer of underground style and subculture it was my first port of call when I found myself lacking creativity or inspiration for one of my many many assignments. Founded in 1991 by notable Brit portrait and fashion photographer Rankin and custodian of cool Jefferson Hack, Dazed & Confused became renowned for its independent approach and controversial attitude. The exhibition, spread over five of Somerset House's more modest rooms, celebrates the magazine as a cultural space and platform for experimentation and new talent. Walls are lined with iconic portraits and reels of editorial layer free-standing twisted rectangular beams. An unconventional layout befitting an unconventional magazine. 

Rooms 1-3 bear the fruit of Dazed’s unique ability to produce extraordinary and original pieces of work by bringing together prominent figures from various fields. Martina Hoogland Ivanow’s ethereal depiction of Iggy Pop caught my eye as did some vintage semi-nude editorial snaps of Kate Moss styled by Katie Grand. Nips galore. A queue of Rankin portraits featuring music legends such as Debbie Harry, Pharrell Williams and R.E.M’s Michael Stipe emphasise his distinctive photographic style. 

Famed for its celebration of contemporary pop culture a Dazed exhibition would not be complete without recognition of those artists whose fresh talent contributed to the evolution of this exceptional publication. Maurizio Anzeri’s knack for transforming photographs into canvases via eye catching, intricately stitched designs is uber impressive as is Richard Burbridge’s ‘Scrapheap Challenge’. A shoot that gives the term ‘disposable fashion’ new meaning. Styled by Robbie Spencer this project transforms everyday objects and makeshift materials to create couture pieces and inspirational looks. Primark. Do one.

The final two courtyard spaces were dedicated to the memory of Alexander McQueen for the ‘magical and inspiring ideas he gifted to the pages of Dazed & Confused.’ The first is called 'Salo', a controversial and somewhat disturbing piece of work which depicts human bodies as animal corpses, needless to say I didn’t last long in that room. The second was a gorgeous slideshow installation of McQueen's concept 'Fashion-Able'. Photographed by Norbert Schoerner and styled by Katy England these images demonstrate the beauty of those with disabilities and confronts the industry's ideals.  

Funnily enough my highlight of the exhibition was in fact the corridor that connected the various spaces. Not because I have a penchant for high ceilings and antique decorative mouldings but because it was lined with the entire back-catalogue of Dazed’s front covers. We cooed over Beyonce’s bad-ass styling in the ‘Pop vs Life’ issue, marvelled at how Tilda Swinton totes owns the androgynous look and LOL’d at a fresh faced Alicia Keys sporting some questionable braiding in June 2001.

I have to doth my cap to the curators of the exhibition, Jefferson Hack and Emma Reeves, who did a magnificent job of bringing the last 20 years of Dazed & Confused to life. It cannot have been an easy feat with the abundance of cutting-edge material available to them. Perfectly reflecting the magazines core ideals I left the exhibition feeling nostalgic, inspired and excited about what we can expect from Dazed in the future. That was until we popped into the adjoining Rizzoli book store. The jammy Fashwah geek that is Eniola managed to pilfer the very last copy of the book from which the exhibition was based. Signed by none other than John ‘Rankin’ Waddle and Jefferson Hack themselves. Then I just felt jealous. Very very jealous.

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