B is for (Fashion) Babylon: NYC

©Collage / Julia Zierer

One of the best things about going to Frieze New York is rediscovering the city we once loved: the only city in the world known to its inhabitants as “The City”, generic and yet empirically declarative, as if none other existed. I’ve also started calling it Fashion Babylon. “The City” is full of unbranded beauties, and not only those street heroes of fashion there’s also the unlabelled art you’ll find in the streets, such as this quasi-readymade Sergei Jensen billboard on the corner of 52nd and Broadway.

The Frieze fair takes place in May, when the City is at its flirtiest. But, is anyone still flirting out there? At the booth of Michael Callies’s gallery dépendance, I found a collage that sums up the sentiments of many, indicative of what relationships are all about:

 

It was made in the 1970s or 80s by an artist who goes under the androgynous name Linder, and if you look closely, you’ll see that that’s actually a vacuum cleaner penis. Yes, a hoover. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been hoovered into another realm, that of the happy online shoppers—to each his own pleasure dome. Guy Debord hit the nail on the head in the late 1960s when he diagnosed that now-widespread mental affliction in the Society of the Spectacle. By spectacle, he meant that it’s no longer about the thing, but the seduction of the representation thereof. Like moths drawn to a flame, we too are drawn into the light of our infotainment machines—and “drawn” is an understatement, “sucked” into its vortex is more like it. More so than ever, we are the captives of our devices, caught up in the dérive of Technoporn.

Perhaps a better way to describe the current malaise would be exactly as Ketuta Alexi Meskhishvili did in her (great!) show Hollow Body at Andrea Rosen.

 

Meanwhile, I combed the fair for evidence of the flirty fashion of Babylon and discovered that those still flirting with the world at large were mostly the boys, and even the old-timers. Just look at that adept color blocking!

At an opening of Felix Gonzalez-Torres two days later, also at Andrea Rosen, I found a troupe of flirty boys who were without a doubt the best-dressed in the room. “Wow,” I said, “I love your jacket.” It was a cheap way into a conversation, granted, but it yielded an introduction to the friend who had painted it, and whose style was equally admirable.

The next day, my five-year-old had other ideas. She proclaimed this tighty-whitey fellow we found on the High Line as the best-dressed, though I doubt she interpreted his empty-hug gesture as flirty:

I’ll be breezing back through fashion Babylon soon, after two weeks on the beach and donning this Free Hugs t-shirt I found here at Goodwill. Now for another reason altogether, it’s still the city that never sleeps—one of many cities across the world inhabited by the hollow bodies of Technoporn, and I sincerely doubt that anyone will take me up on my rainbow-tinted offer. But, who knows?

April von Stauffenberg is an American writer who moved to Berlin in 1998. As a journalist, she has written about art, architecture, and fashion (under her maiden name April Elizabeth Lamm) for artforum.com, frieze, Weltkunst, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Sleek, and the German edition of Vanity Fair. She has curated shows at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, among others, and is currently working on her art-world novel, The Collector.

Portrait: Semra Sevin