Vital Violence: Aesthetic Antagonism and Real Fashion
Otto von Busch is Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons, The New School for Design and a 2016-17 GIDEST Faculty Fellow. In his research, he explores the emergence of a new hacktivist designer role in fashion, where the designer engages participants to reform fashion from a phenomenon of dictations, anxiety, and fear into a collective experience of empowerment and liberation.
In his GIDEST seminar, Otto explores allure not only as a game of attraction, but also as an aggressively seductive labor of prestige, deception, and cruelty. Most studies of fashion, he argues, are framed from a perspective of idealism, echoing Herbert Simon’s famous claim that design is concerned with "how things ought to be."
Within the realm of dress, this means interactions are primarily seen as symbolic endeavors, most often aiming at communication, seduction and aesthetic markings of class or conspicuous consumption.
Taking cues from political philosophy, this idealist position could be countered with a realist perspective in which fashion would appear as something else, something more messy and cruel, a quest for power in the form of prestige and popularity. Indeed, it may be the very essence of fashion to be "nasty, brutish, and short" in a true Hobbesian way.
Not only does realism move from how things ought to be towards how they are, but dress also becomes a more blatant instrument for domination and processes of selection by rejection. Rather than a tool for seduction, fashion becomes a weapon for rivalry, competition and aesthetic violence.
From such a perspective, conflicts expressed in dress are aesthetic reflections of other social forces, while fashion is a playful arena trying to escape the limits of the socio-economic domain.