field notes on objects, forms,
lost contexts,
unvarnished truth,
meaning, and identity.

“To revel art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, not life, that art really mirrors.
All art is quite useless.

- Oscar Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
2019 - 2020

uniform, and
the female body

The following is a collection of images, animations and cinematic representations that echoes the recurrence theme of the female body acting as a medium in confrontation with apocalypse. The convention of female form, being gazed at throughout art history, in which cultural, political and religious references were heavily loaded, somehow still has to transcend its symbolic definitions of beauty and desire by contemporary standard. Reimagined as a warrior, a survivor, a savior, she is still on stage, even more so, at the center of a collapsing universe.

“Branding the apocalypse”[1], creative director Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga has frequently channeled issues of political power, climate disasters and afterworlds in his shows, staging space that resembles EU parliament, flooding runways and designing video games. Frequently seen among his controversial designs and impressive runway presentations are politician power suits, jerseys, soccer shoes, revamped medieval armours, each carried along a specific identity. Uniform-like, Demna has flipped around our perceptions of personality v.s. social status long since his Vetements days, expanding meanings of oneself in society via DHL shirts. “Muse” to this fanatic reconfiguration of reality, Eliza Douglas has walked the finale-looks for several seasons. Scouted for Balenciaga in 2016, “the artist’s angular, androgynous beauty matched the knowing awkwardness of the newly reimagined house under its new chief”[2]. Eliza presented in structured garment that exaggerated female forms, walked in glittering sequin evening dress contrasting the total eclipse sense set on stage, and fully armoured ready to combat in the age of tomorrow, each appearance more indomitable than the previous one.

What is it about the aesthetics of female form and the uncanny perception of a uniform? Or is the correlation completely imaginary?

In a conversation between Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada regarding their collaboration 2020, the designers were asked about their interests in uniforms, true and metaphorical ones. Later a more curious interest followed, “what is the Prada-ness?”

In the 90s, fashion designer Miuccia Prada revealed her collections filled with the then-unfavorable color palettes of browns, chunky silhouettes and geometric patterns that defines her signature of “ugly chic” in contrast to the “bourgeois idea of beauty”[3].

"Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer”, as she said in an interview, against the “vertly sexy Tom-Ford-at-Gucci-esque aesthetic of the mid 90s”[4]. In a 2016 show titled The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, co-curator Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips argued that the embellished bralettes styled on top of overcoats at Prada a symbolic gesture of Miuccia Prada’s politics, “She‘...reframed the aesthetic and symbolic potential of recasting the hidden and the intimate as external armour’. The designer made blatant references to the private female body, drawing attention to what good taste decrees should be hidden.”[5]

It is no coincidence that Balenciaga is also critiqued to be producing ugly items, particularly ugly sneakers, which were ampliated in Eliza’s performances in her partner Anne Imhof’s piece, Sex[6]. The work, a million pieces of darkness, of light, of male v.s. Female, of interiority, of immediate society, of sound, of image, of moments, of obsessions, of violence… is held together with a glimpse of our own grasp of reality, through the displacement of familiar objects.


[1] BoF, Tim Blanks, At Balenciaga, Branding the Apocalypse,
March 2020[2] Sleek, Hettie Judah, The magnetic merging of art and life with Eliza Douglas, Mar 2020 [3] Telegraph UK, Claire Duffin, Miuccia Prada, head of luxury brand label, speaks of fascination with 'ugliness', Aug 2013 [4] Material Magazine, The impact of the ugly: why 90s Prada is still so relevant
[5] Show Studio, Hetty Mahlich, All in bad taste: why does Miuccia Prada's 'ugly' still bite? Mar 2020
[6] The Seen, Jill Dant, Sex: Anne Imhof at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sep 2019
© ex studio
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