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From the physical to the digital and back: Fashion exhibitions in the digital age

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The discipline of curating fashion has experienced a cultural turn in the last decades. What were controversial approaches are now recognized as pioneering and significant in having encouraged debates and opened the discipline through rethinking existing paradigms. This contribution analyses the challenges and criticisms surrounding fashion displays, with the aim to address the centrality of interpretation and performativity in relation to key fashion exhibitions. The article explores ‘the power of display’ (Staniszewski 1998; 2000) through mediums and spaces, whether physical, digital or both. Within museum studies, the focus on the visitors’ experience and on the narrative has been identified as a key feature of a ‘new museology’ (Vergo 1989; Hein 2000; Henning 2006), which ultimately leads us to question the purposes of museum and gallery displays. With references to museum studies, fashion curation and philosophy, and drawing from insightful conversations with fashion curators, the article examines the exhibition’s potential to provide a context for visual and material experiences, as well as for a new understanding and articulation of knowledge. The contribution embraces Foucault’s reflection on heterotopia (1986 [1967]; 1992 [1966]), arguing that the content of the museum as a space of difference is the interpretation itself. Reflecting on exhibition design as a medium in its own right (Celant 1996a), the article highlights performativity as a fundamental feature of the exhibits, of the installation and, more broadly, of the museum space.
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Keywords: Foucault; curating fashion; exhibition design; fashion exhibition; heterotopia; interpretation; performativity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Southampton Solent University, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The International Journal of Fashion Studies is a scientific peer-reviewed journal that fosters the worldwide diffusion of Fashion Studies. Fashion Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that has been producing an extensive repertoire of theories, analyses and enquiries.
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