^ Portrait of Jeppe Ugelvig. Photo: Matthew Morocco.

OTP Short-Forms: Jeppe Ugelvig

@jeppeugelvig

An interview with the New York/London-based curator, author and cultural critic.

Reflections on his first book Fashion Work: 25 Years of Art in Fashion.

Whilst studying for his MA in curatorial studies at Bard College, Ugelvig came across an extensive collection of archival material relating to all aspects of the practice of 90s experimental fashion collective Bernadette Corporation. This discovery initiated a long research journey that led Ugelvig to curate the 2018 exhibition Fashion Work, Fashion Workers for the Hessel Museum in New York and eventually culminated in the publication of his first book Fashion Work: 25 Years of Art in Fashion.

Charting the development of the hybrid space between art and fashion, from the shifting perspective of four different avant-garde cultural producers (Bernadette Corporation, Susan Cianciolo, Bless and DIS), Jeppe Ugelvig constructs an original art history that explores how processes of gentrification, corporatisation and digitisation have moulded our contemporary idea of what it means to be a creative labourer. 

The following interview was recorded to further unpack some of the key points that the book raises in relation to the intersecting material and social systems of contemporary art-fashion production.

OTP You outline the project of the book as to reclaim certain invisible histories of cultural production - why is this process of reclamation important to you?

JU It's part social, part theoretical/methodological, I'd say, and they're directly connected.

Art history has been written on the exclusions of many forms of cultural production – craft, fashion, nightlife – and this type of exclusion doesn't only produce flawed teleological aesthetic histories (a progressive narrative of one type of art mostly done by white Western men), but means that these other forms of production might never get the analytical treatment they deserve.

Art is always happening next to lots of other things in culture – and I find these contact points to be highly revealing. 

^ Run 9 presentation, Alleged Galleries, 1999. Photography: Ivory Serra. Courtesy of Susan Cianciolo and Bridget Donahue, NYC.

OTP The book contains a large a mount of full-page photographic documentation - how interested were you to create a new type of book / to explore hybrid practices in the material properties of the publication?

JU It was always important for me to make a publication that reflected the hybrid nature of the project, as well as its many renditions over the last three years: starting as an article, then an archive, an exhibition, and thesis.

There was lots of unprocessed archival material that didn't make it to the exhibition, and that had never seen the light of day.

The designer Laura Coombs and I decided to pursue the format of a scrap book, where this historical material could be available even as visual inspiration.

This book is really intended for young fashion and art makers who are trying to develop hybrid positions in the world.

OTP How important a role do you think print publishing plays in fostering the critical potential of fine art and fashion respectively?

JU Print publishing nearly died but ultimately survived the Web 2.0, and now holds a new currency in the cultural field.

Since its emergence, the Internet has become privatized and pay-walled, and hyperlinks have proven as unstable as printed matter. So why not books? They might last longer!

Also, both art and fashion shares a deep affinity and history with publishing, both via magazines and artist books. I feel that much material – such as that found in this book – belong in the precious space of a book!

^ Fashion Work, Fashion Workers installation view, Hessel Museum of Art, 2018. Courtesy of Jeppe Ugelvig.

OTP When it comes to ideas of sustainability and systemic bias how do you think fashion and art are responding to these critical issues differently?

JU Couldn't be more different. Art has no material politics of production; who thinks of the carbon or water emissions of an art fair, a painting? Fashion is considered an industry and critiqued as such.

What pervades both is a recent reliance on super reductive politics of representation: trophy-casting/curating, and reducing individuals to tropes of identity.

Both are largely unregulated culture industries where toxic behavior is enabled to run freely; I don't think that's been solved yet.

OTP What do you think of the relationship between the stylist and the curator? Do you see a lot of similarities, or are there key differences as far as you are concerned?

JU I've been thinking a lot about this recently. In sociological terms, both are taste-makers: they mediate relationships between institutions, objects, images, and narratives.

The stylist, however, is largely an image worker, whereas the curator is often more involved in academic research and forms of space-making. The key difference is of course the valorization of their authorship. 

But I do think stylists are increasingly fetishized in the fashion industry (as "art directors"), much like the curator was 10 years ago in art.

^ Bernadette Corporation preparing for S/S '96 fashion show, 270 Bowery. Photo: Cris Moor.

OTP Do you see yourself as a cultural producer working in a post-Fordist market? How have ideas of post-Fordism ideas effected your own work to date?

JU Absolutely, I think my own professional trajectory as a cultural producer has directly affected my interest in analyzing and historicizing cultural labor.

I won't bore you with the details, but since 13 my life has been one long series of internships, assisting work, and writing-, project-, and exhibition-gigs—across nightlife, fashion, PR, design, publishing, art, and academia.

 

I've come of age in a time where one's "practice" is another word for permanent freelancing, straddling many forms of work that are all critically valued differently.

 

I think it's important to understand this, to politicize this, across time and place. 

OTP What did your parents do? What were you like as a kid?

JU My dad worked in construction, my mom in social work; they loved me and left me to my own devices. 

I was extremely dreamy, absent-minded, and deep into various subcultures on the Internet. I consumed culture obsessively, embodying fashionable and artistic lifestyles in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and London from my PC and through magazines I would order from abroad.

And then at 13, I started interning at a fashion magazine; the rest is history!

OTP Did you like growing up where you did?

JU I was born and raised in a small bucolic town in South Denmark, not far from the German border. I loved my family and my computer, but the rest was pretty hard. 

Life started when I moved to India at 15 to go to international school. I've never lived in Denmark since.

^ Fashion Work, Fashion Workers installation view, Hessel Museum of Art, 2018. Courtesy of Jeppe Ugelvig.

OTP Copenhagen and New York are both hotbeds of cross-pollination when it comes to the art and fashion worlds - how do you think the politics of contemporary cultural production differs between these two sites?

JU I think art/fashion hybridity in NYC is an expression of precarity (artistic micro-entrepreneurship in a corporatized fashion field), whereas in CPH it's an expression of cultural design conviviality, localism, and material abundance.

 

In NYC, fashion people seek to the art world because there's so much opportunity, whereas in CPH, art people seek into the design world because there's so little opportunity in art.

 

Design thinking runs deep in Denmark; fashion dominates; art is not a popular cultural form like in New York. This is evident in the innovations in both spaces. 

OTP How do you think celebrity / the fetishisation of auteurship effects the critical potential of cultural production?

JU I don't think it's entirely avoidable – nor without critical potential.

 

I certainly wish that the art world learned to acknowledge that it is as fetishistic about its celebrities as fashion. 

^ BLESS N°4 Bags (1998). Courtesy of Bless.

Purchase a copy of the book here: 

Fashion Work: 25 Years of Art in Fashion

Jeppe Ugelvig completed his undergraduate degree in Communication, Curation and Criticism at Central St Martins in 2016 before completing his MA at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard in 2018.

His curatorial history includes exhibitions staged at Tai Kwun (Hong Kong), Hessel Museum (New York), Goethe Institute (Ramallah) and the National Gallery of Denmark (Copenhagen).

He is the contributing editor of Wallet and his writing has also appeared in in Frieze, parallax, ArtReview, Afterall, Flash Art International, Spike, Mousse and LEAP.

 

He has also contributed texts to exhibition catalogues for the likes of Dozie Kanu, A Kassen, BODY HOLES, Soft Baroque and Ian Giles and has lectured in art criticism and fashion and curatorial theory at NYU, Central St Martins and Funen Art Academy.

 

 

See more from Jeppe Ugelvig:

@jeppeugelvig

www.jeppeugelvig.com

 

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