For centuries human beings have claimed to embody exception. We alone in the world of the living have received the gift of speech. And for centuries we have sought to defend the difference, erecting a whole system of science and knowledge on which to found our metaphysical distinction, our attempt to make human life incomparable, because irreparably superior to animal life of any other kind. Humanity is nothing but life separated once and for all from its animal nature, for we have been deeply transformed through and by speech, chiseled by its spiritual presence, sculpted day after day by the sense that only language can convey.
Yet for centuries the fable has been slashing away at this illusion. It has vastly expanded the cast of talking subjects, ascribing reason to cats and storks and foxes. It has made humanity into a universal, commonplace, and omnipresent experience, like the breath of life that runs through all creatures. For centuries the protagonists of fables have striven to tear down the walls between man and animal, culture and savagery, biology and ethics. From Aesop to Kafka the fable has always been our keenest, most powerful tool to clip the wings of the sacred and shear away our narcissism.
And today there are no limits to what we can do. We live in an open culture. The boundaries between our practices and ways of life grow ever more uid. Such is the utopia of the contemporary, the life force of our time. At every moment it suffers contradiction, from points of resistance and vigorous counte- roffensives endeavoring to sap its energies. Things are such that the contemporary, if it hopes to assert its power, if it hopes even to stand a chance, must face these contradictions squarely and manage somehow to integrate them.
Our world has made fashion equivalent to what language was for the ancients: the instrument of metaphy- sical distinction that sets our species apart and allows us to prevail in beauty over all other phenomena, the ennobling means that allow each of us to feel superior to all others, the embodiment par excellence of arti ce that allows us to cultivate the illusion that we have de nitively left nature behind.
Our civilization has taken the form of fashion imagery, which has colors, luminosities, intensi cations, and codes all of its own. In several of her works MarieVic takes a fashion brand as her motif, and with it she ought logically to produce the iconography for an ad campaign, so as to open the way to a lifestyle, and thus to sell. But fashion iconography, like a new religion, establishes meaning, and prompts us to partake in that meaning. Like a molecular revolution, it sets a course between the macrocosm’s appearance and local concentration, in a shift that is always presented as harmonious.
Potent yet light in its touch, like the apologias of the ancients, MarieVic’s work Uniclones frees us from our false beliefs about fashion, setting us down in an enchanted world where we no longer know if we are naked, if the yaks and goats before us are clothed, or if the clothes on our back are anything but hides torn from fellow human beings. Uniclones seeks neither to denounce the vanity of fashion nor to dream of returning to a purely natural world. On the contrary, the MarieVic’s visual fables blur all possible oppo- sition between fashion and life, between a garment and the cutting wind, between our down jackets and our skin. Habits, perhaps, maketh not the monk, for all of nature dons foreign skins.
In rejecting this separation MarieVic shows herself to be resolutely contemporary. We need only consider her existential scope, stretching from the lm prize she has received from Vogue Italia to the study she has published on avant-garde architect François Roche. Above all, though, there is the perspective she provides on the substance of our era’s ideology, our era’s creation, for the contemporary is always foppish and re exive.
The perspective in Uniclones is disjoint. Goats sporting Uniqlo sweaters: a strange sight, to say the least. And yet the fabric of those sweaters comes from the goats themselves, or their brethren. What are we to make of this journey to the steppes by someone as eminently urban as MarieVic? Must we read it as the exhaustion of an ever-necessary exoticism?
Not a word of explanation from the artist. She merely presents her work, the manifesto of a randomness every bit as contemporary as the rest. But the contemporary has reasons that the contemporary itself knows nothing about, for those sweaters of eece are like a metaphor for the second skin that we all wear, and the goats have sheep in their midst: sheep that supply the raw material, but also the sheep that we ourselves are in our purchase of mass-produced garments, lacking in all individuality and style. What MarieVic offers instead is liberty: a model, antimodel, contemporary liberty.
Emanuele Coccia & Donatien Grau