Fashion at Risk: The review of WESSIELING’s Game On: The World Fashion Conquest
by Dr Julie Thomas; ARTPOST.INFO, Nov 2006.

In order to win ‘Risk’, the popular board game, it is necessary to call into play subtle strategies, powers of seduction and deception, the ability to target the most vulnerable and susceptible, and a killer instinct; these qualities also are apparent in the cutthroat competition of today’s fashion market. In the spirit of ‘play’, WESSIELING has taken advantage of these similarities to use ‘Risk’ as the springboard – or rather the ‘catwalk’ – for her new interactive installation Game On: The World Fashion Conquest. This installation questions the purposes and effects of the 85 fashion weeks currently mounted in cities worldwide, with venues as diverse as Lisbon, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Dunedin, Auckland, etc. WESSIELING manages to expose the ‘value’ of the image of fashion in the global economy while revealing the race to manipulate this image in service to a variety of national and local ‘needs’.

The work is the result of extensive research into the background of each featured fashion week, and is structured as a game which must be played to be truly appreciate. After all, fashion is a performance, and Ling offers a game board in the shape of a catwalk. The fashion cities are located not, as might be expected, on the solid ground of continents, but instead on a game board constructed of what has the look and feel of textile – the cloth that is the ‘ground’ of fashion. The cities are placed on a crisscrossed grid of latitude and longitude that implies the tangled network of connections, of influence and power in a globalised world.

Each city is represented by a game piece ‘cube’, which, is actually a compressed white T-shirt. These ‘cubes’ of garment are differentiated only by the labels of cities’ names, an echo of the branding process of each fashion week. The trendy, pastel, feminine colours of both the board and the game pieces serve the cosmetic purpose of evoking the traditional profile of fashion while masking the true nature of this ruthless game of conquest.

In order to accomplish the ‘objective’ of the game, the player must collect the most fashion-week cubes that share the same mission as their chosen Mission Card. It is these Mission Card statements that indicate what is really at stake in the fashion-week game of publicity: raising the profile of the city, boosting the tourist industry, fostering local industry and cultural identity, promoting designers and attracting buyers. Many of these missions cater to and are defined by the preferences of a global hegemony, and express ‘fashion’ only in the broad sense of ‘facere’: the desire to ‘make’, create, or shape reputations and/or profits.

The interplay between fashion sites and fashion as site for construction of identity is a recurring theme in WESSIELING’s work. Her previous installation “Mapping Motifs: An exploratory journey through fashion, cities and identities”, where six identical dresses represented six different fashion cities, investigated the nature of authenticity and stereotypes of cultural identity in the context of the geography of fashion (AVA Gallery, April-May 2006). In this new work, the map becomes a site of market play and conquest – Game On!

Game On: The World Fashion Conquest
06 November – 14 December 2006
20 Goswell Road, London EC1M 7AA, United Kingdom
Tuesday – Friday 11am – 7pm, Saturday 11am – 5pm

WESSIELING is a London-based visual artist whose work concerns the relation among fashion, cities and identities. She uses interactive installation to consider how fashion represents and connects our cultural shelves. Ling also is a Senior Lecturer at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.

Dr. Julie Thomas is Associate Professor of International Communications at The American University of Paris.