Faceless In Fashion

"Mystery is always what attracts when it comes to facelessness," says Bogomir Doringer, artist and curator of FACELESS, a two-part exhibition showing at the MuseumsQuartier Wien in Vienna. The show explores the concepts and manifestations of recognition and anonymity in the media. "The fascination with facelessness comes from a combination of fear and sexuality,” says Doringer. “You might fear this person, but at the same time, you want to come closer to see what's under the mask." He’s got a point. Where fashion is concerned, at least, mystery almost always trumps reality. From Azzedine Alaia's so-called disappearance in the 90s, to Rei Kawakubo's famously press-shy demeanor or those now-iconic masks featured on the runways of Maison Martin Margiela, Gareth Pugh, and Junya Watanabe, fashion has perfected the controlled illusion. Maybe it's a backlash against self-promotion and Internet exhibitionism, or maybe it's just an attempt to let the clothing do the talking. Either way, facelessness is literally in fashion. We sat down with Doringer to talk about what’s behind the mask.

Why do you think that facelessness is relevant right now?

We live in a time when Facebook is very popular, it's become a part of everyday communication. It is also a question of how we can behave in our so-called democratic society. There's all these restrictions: you can't post this, you can't post that. It's not really so democratic as it seems. It's slowly creating this environment that is suffocating. Maybe this is a reaction to that. There's been a return of masks, especially in fashion. They are popular for protection, entertainment, revolt, beauty. It's all kind of leading to the same idea, and that's that we are, as a society, not satisfied.

What is it about facelessness that’s so interesting to you?

I kind of grew up haunted by media images of beauty and models. Fashion had a very strong impact on me. I was really sick of these people promoting the same things. So for me, this exhibition is saying something about fashion back then, in my life. There was a big issue around the burka that started after 9/11 and it was actually inspiring me to make faceless artworks, and I noticed that there were other people who did the same.

You mentioned fashion and anonymity - how do you think anonymity benefits brands like Margiela or Junya Watanabe?

Not showing faces is very seductive, and fashion is all about seduction. Masks on a model create that mystery, a titillating sort of presence that we all like. In a time when we see so many models's faces, masks let us imagine someone else - maybe ourselves? We are always wondering who is underneath.

There was an article about the balaclava in the New York Times recently that said that the goal of masks is to prevent the fetishizing of labels or designers. But now that the fashion industry has caught on, do you think that changes anything? Makes the mask less powerful?

No, not really. I think what is really important to remember is that it's about images, and the power of the amount of images. There may be images of masks in a Margiela show, but there are also images of a terrorist wearing a mask - they are interacting. Images are not controlled... once they are produced they live life on their own. The possibility of art is endless.

What emotions do you think are elicited from this kind of anonymity?

The fascination with facelessness comes from a combination of fear and sexuality. That's why it is so often used in horror movies - you fear someone, but at the same time, you want to come closer to see what's under the mask. Mystery is what always attracts when it comes to facelessness.

How do you think the world and our perception of it would change if everyone were, in some way, faceless?

This would be a very apocalyptic time! Those kinds of scripts have often been suggested in science fiction or fantasy. I hope that we will not have to live in a time where everyone wears a mask.

Tell us about the exhibition. Is there a storyline of some sort?

For Part One, I selected artwork with a focus on surveillance and sexuality…How does surveillance, the burka, prostitutes, hooligans, mutants, and social networks come together...how one image melts in to another...I was creating a narrative, so I chose artwork that conveyed each idea or the understanding it.

And what kind of narrative will we see in Part Two?

Part Two will focus on presenting artists who are working with digital masks, or showing how digital art got integrated in a physical world. There will be a section on, for example, how to wear the right makeup to escape the security cameras. There will be pop-ups for selling accessories that protect your privacy. It will be kind of a "rebellion school."

Thank you for speaking with us, Bogomir.

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Bogomir Doringer in Rebel Yuths © David Payr

Courtesy of Jun Takahashi for UNDERCOVER

Bernhard Willhelm SS13 Collection © Petrovsky and Ramone

Deer No 7 from Deers © Veljko Onjin

Courtesy of COMME des GARÇONS

From Less © Sergei Sviatchenko

Courtesy of Galerie Ron Mandos, Sterling Wood © Levi van Veluw

Tony Quattro Mix

It was Tony Quattro's effortless fusion of underground and overground club beats that first piqued our interest. His DJ sets and radio mixes pit Doctor Jeep, DJ Yolo Bear, Shlomi Aber, and Samo Sound Boy against Basement Jaxx, Coolio, Rihanna, and Aaliyah. His own productions are equally dance floor friendly, like his hit single "New York Anthem," a catchy 4/4 number that lives up to its name. Born in Connecticut, Quattro names T2's "Heartbroken" as his teenage anthem, and cites an early move to London as a strong influence on his love of electronic music. Now based out of Brooklyn, Quattro has seen releases under Bad Taste Records and Trouble & Bass, and has earned acclaim from the likes of A-Trak, Mad Decent, and Drop The Lime.

Tony Quattro's mix for SSENSE features his own productions alongside a slew of unreleased tracks from Captain K'aos, DJ Yolo Bear, Mike Q, and Self Evident, and a forthcoming release from Trouble & Bass signee Doctor Jeep.


Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock It Takes Two (Tony Quattro Edit)

Ciara 1, 2 Step (DJ Edit)

Coolio 1, 2, 3, 4 (Summin' New)

Life Long Doing Ya Thing

Sabo Spock's DeeeLite

Eats Everything Lakota

Nas The Don (J Paul Getto Mix)

Tony Quattro Runway

UZ v6 (Astronomar Untrapped Edit)

Bot Barefoot

Burn the Negative Smash & Grab (Keith & Supabeatz Remix)

DJ Joker Booty Too Fat

Night Drugs G-Funk

Prince Controversy (Stupid Fresh Remix)

Bell Biv Devoe Poison (ID REMIX)

Nouveau Yorican Boriqua (Sandro Silva Remix)

Basement Jaxxx Jump & Shout feat. John Slarta

Tony Quattro New York Anthem

Divoli S'vere Runway

DJ Yolo Bear Cocky Riddim

Captain K'aos Bitch I Wanna Twerk

Marcus Price and Carli Var E Näääken (Girl Unit Remix)

rar Kelly & Lemz Low Drop

DJ Bark Lee Baltimore Jack

Doctor Jeep Flash Area

Doctor Jeep & Tony Quattro Torpedo

Mike Q Let it All Out (Neana Mix)

Tony Quattro & Flubba ????

Mike G All Day (poolboy92 remix)

Self Evident Sign of The Beast

Essentials Midas Touch

This week's Essentials have gone a-prospecting, as evidenced by Balmain's skinny jeans in an intricate allover print with gold zippers. Giuseppe Zanotti takes an emphatic approach with his signature hightops reimagined in dark green velvet and gold hardware, a style available exclusively at SSENSE for Fall. Maison Martin Margiela slices off the lower half of a gold sequin t-shirt, a clever response to this season's cropped trend. Favor a more modest approach? Marni's lug-soled leather creepers show a flash of metal with cross-shaped cutouts, while KENZO's logo crewneck charms with subtle stripes and lamé stitching.

See last week's women's Essentials:

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