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In the beginning of the twentieth century art largely abandoned one of its key - if not the key - functions - portraying the human being. Instead, most artists turned to other subjects, such as abstraction, industrial objects and materials (Duchamp, minimalists), media images (pop art), the figure of artist herself or himself (performance and video art), or, most recently, data (net art). And when the artists did focus on the human figure (for instance, Picasso or De Kooning), often it was just an excuse to investigate the possibilities of painting, or the conditions of representation in general. Whose few (Kokoschka, Giocometti, Bacon) who went on to depict a human figure in order to register al the heaviness of "human condition," registered just that -- the dark site of this condition, rather than the whole range of human states.

It is the beginning of the new century, and after the end of Cold War, the exhaustion of post-modernism, and the invention of the Web, we want to feel optimistic. (And if you still feel alienated or simply moody, you are hopelessly behind the times - so just take Prozac and join the global party!) We want to imagine ourselves anew. If visual art, hopelessly stuck in recycling its recent history over and over, can no longer help us, where can we turn to?

Enter fashion. Fashion is everything contemporary art is not: it is concerned with beauty; it is well aware of its history over many centuries, rather than just recent decades; it is more semiotically layered than the most complex Photoshop composite you ever worked on; and it has one ever present constraint (and only constraints can lead to great art) - the human figure. This constraint gives the art of fashion its vitality, its optimism and its inventiveness. And while cinema, along with fashion, also can be called the art of a human figure, its representations are too realist, limited to life as it actually exists. In contrast, fashion, or at least its "avant-garde" wing, asks a more playful, more optimistic question - what else a human being could have been? What would have happened if Darvinian evolution took a few steps differently? So we don't have to wait until scientists start slicing our DNA to re-invent ourselves - because fashion continuously spins out new definitions of the human.

Article  2001