Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Some notes on The Fashion Show Poetry Event (1969) - Kaplan Harris

The Fashion Show Poetry Event was organized by Hannah Weiner, Eduardo Costa, & John Perreault in 1969. It took place at the Center for Inter-American Relations on Park Avenue & featured dresses & costumes designed by Alex Katz, Marisol Escobar, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, & more than a dozen other artists.

Several poets were enlisted to walk down the runway. The critic Alexandar Alberro provides an account of the models in a recent essay on the event: “Perreault had Anne Waldman, the famous poet, dress in an outfit consisting of two unites of long hair that could be tied as a veil over the face, separated and tied under both arms as sleeves or joined again at the bustline as a hairy mini dress.”[i] The event also featured “a wear-your-own luggage cape in royal blue plastic with multiple snap on-off pouches & a matching plastic bikini designed by Weiner and worn by Bernadette Mayer.”

The organizers published “The Fashion Show Poetry Event Essay” in the mimeo magazine 0-9 edited by Mayer & Vito Acconci. Fashion & poetry, according to the organizers, were linked by a process of collaborative translation: “We communicated to the artists our generalized instructions. They translated back these instructions into sketches, models, & finally actual garments. The feedback (i.e. the garments) was then translated by us into fashion language.”

This "fashion language" materialized in a series of poems that the organizers read aloud during the event. The poems they described as “imitations of fashion copy.” Susan Salgado, for example, designed a wedding dress that completely covered the head of the unseen model with a giant white bowtie (cf. image at top of post). The accompanying poem spoke to the tendency of the fashion industry to peddle in fantasies of nuptial self-fulfillment:
Gigantically ultra-feminine, for
that big moment in your
life when you walk down the
aisle, an Alice-in-
Wonderland bow with a long,
long gossamer train in billow-
ing white tulle.
Coverage of the event included not only the mimeo publication O-9, but also magazines with large circulations such as The Village Voice & Harper’s Bazaar. It was rare then, as it is now, that artists could cross the gap between the marginal & the mainstream, & in the U.S. it almost never happens for poets. The two-page spread in Harper's Bazaar featured a selection of the poems & sketches--some of which are scanned & shown above & below.

[i] Alexander Alberro discusses The Fashion Show Poetry Event in great detail & includes several photographs in his essay “Media, Sculpture, Myth,” in A Principality of Its Own: 40 Years of Visual Arts at the Americas Society, ed. José Louis Falconi and Gabriela Rangel (New York: Americas Society, 2006).

NB: The notes above come from an essay that I wrote several years ago on Hannah Weiner's early career as a lingerie designer. I set the essay aside & pretty much forgot about it when my daughter was born . But if all goes as planned, the essay should be published later this year.

Kaplan Harris is guest blogging on Tuesdays in January & February. His work appears in American Literature, Artvoice, Contemporary Literature, the EPC, Jacket, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. He is also editing, with Peter Baker & Rod Smith, The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley for the University of California Press. He lives in Buffalo.


Lemon Hound said...

Love this. The drawings are awesome. I had no idea.

nikki reimer said...

Also love. Please let us know where to read the full essay when it's out.

nikki reimer said...

More poetry & fashion: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=238166

-kaplan said...

Thanks, Nikki & Sina. The essay is planned for an upcoming Hannah Wiener issue of Wild Orchids.

In the meantime, a copy of the "Fashion Show Poetry Event Essay" is now available in Hannah Weiner's Open House, ed. Patrick Durgin (Kenning, 2006).

Patrick said...

A quick plug: You can order Hannah Weiner's Open House at a discount if you subscribe to Kenning Editions at www.kenningeditions.com.

Alisa Apps said...

Bravo ...absolutely love this !!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Eduardo Costa here. As one of the organizers, 27 at the time and living in Argentina, am happy to see there is now some interest in this, a bit too advanced for its time. It was actually a new art format with the basic structure of a Fashion Show--outfits, models, runway, fashion commentary-- and we asked artists like Warhol, Oldenburg and so on who loved the idea to participate by designing one work each. Our poetry was an imitation of the fashion copy usually accompanying the outfits as they paraded through the runway. Total success with the press and the super avant-garde, but nothing in art mags. Thanks bloggers!