Fetishistic suits of armour, orthopaedic braces and wearable tusks all feature in an exhibition of prosthetics at the SHOWcabinet space in London (+ movie).
Curated by Niamh White and Carrie Scott of fashion film website SHOWstudio, the exhibition opened on Thursday and contains pieces intended to enhance, protect or deform the body.
The name of the showcase derives from the Ancient Greek word "prosthesis", which means "to add", but the collection also incorporates the modern understanding of prosthetics as replacement limbs.
Above: Fragmented Figure by Úna Burke
Designer Úna Burke created original pieces for the show made from leather straps joined with rivets, which encase limbs like a suit of armour.
Above: RE.TREAT #4 by Úna Burke
A black leather outfit is made up of one piece that covers the neck, arms and shoulders, and another that fits over the legs up to the waist, leaving the chest and abdomen exposed.
Above: RE.TREAT #8 by Úna Burke
Similar tan coloured pieces include a bodice extended over the shoulders and up the neck, fingerless gauntlets and a restraining device that forces the arms into a submissive position by encasing them together in front of the body.
Above: RE.TREAT #6 by Úna Burke
Burke and SHOWstudio collaborated on a film titled Bound, in which the black attire is warped as if a wearer is moving in it - watch a teaser at the top of this page or the full movie here.
Above: Infundibulum White Brace by Kat Marks
Other items in the collection include legs worn by American athlete Aimee Mullins at the London 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony, adorned with golden wings that flow up each shin.
Above: Infundibulum Black Brace by Kat Marks
Following her experience of wearing a back brace as a teenager, designer Kat Marks created three vacuum-formed thermo-plastic braces in 2009.
Above: Crown of Thorns with Mirror by Patrick Ian Hartley
A headdress formed from pipette-shaped glass tubes that fan out from a metal head brace complete with screws is by designer Patrick Ian Hartley, as are a range of restored artificial hip joints.
Above: Animal - The Other Side of Evolution #4 by Ana Rajcevic
Above: Animal - The Other Side of Evolution #3 by Ana Rajcevic
The SHOWcabinet gallery space and shop are situated in Belgravia, west London, and host new exhibitions every couple of months. The Prosthetics exhibition is on display until 31 May.
Above: Splint #1 by Patrick Ian Hartley
SHOWstudio recently streamed a live project during which photographer Nick Knight captured water thrown at model Daphne Guinness. His images were used by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen to create a dress - more information in our previous story.
Above: Splint #2 by Patrick Ian Hartley
The information below is from SHOWstudio:
The term 'prosthetic' is now attributed to the branch of surgery dedicated to replacing missing or defective limbs, but to the Ancient Greeks it was an altogether more assertive concept meaning 'to add', 'to advance' or 'to give power to'. For April's SHOWcabinet, our re-imagined gallery space, we embrace this original meaning and display a range of artefacts that engage directly with prosthetics' ability to adorn, equip and enhance.
Above: Splint #3 by Patrick Ian Hartley
Una Burke's leather sculptures create the foundation for the installation. Her inanimate bodies engage the language of the physical gesture. Each limb is constructed from countless, beautifully bound leather straps and resemble orthopedic braces or suits of armour. While offering protection or support, they also suggest that the encased body is a fragile system. This constant interplay between empowerment and restriction creates a fetishistic dialectic between invisibility and visibility, as well as denial and disclosure. Burke will also release an exclusive film directed by SHOWstudio's Head of Fashion Film Marie Schuller to coincide with the launch of the cabinet. The film sees her ordinarily motionless figure brought surreally and subtly to life.
Above: Chimere by Yiqing Yin
Alongside Burke's work sit a variety of objects and artefacts which explore ideas surrounding prosthetics. Created during a dynamic collaboration between Aimee Mullins, Betony Vernon and Dorset Orthopeadics, the prosthetic legs that Mullins wore as a Chef de Mission for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony will be on view in the cabinet. With the legacy of last summer's Olympic games still fresh, the imagery on Mullins' sculptural legs is powerful. A full set of wings run the length of each shin - a reminder of Icarus, and a nod to intrepid innovation. Mullins herself competed in the Atlanta Paralympic Games in 2006 sporting a pair of the then newly developed cheetah style prosthetics and has painstakingly spent her career giving a more positive and empowered face to disability.
Above: Brand New Smile by Kyle Hopkins
Also featured in the cabinet is Kat Marks' artefact collection 'The Braces'. Inspired by her own experience of having to wear a Boston Back Brace to redirect the curvature of her spine in her adolescence, Marks has created 3 vacuum-formed thermo-plastic braces in various colours and styles. Remaining true to the original function of the brace, these stylised pieces hold the waist in tight and accentuate the hips, exaggerating a shape which echoes an hour glass figure. No longer does the brace read as medical accoutrement but rather speaks to fashionable ideals of beauty and sexuality.
Alongside these powerful anchors, we present an array of items from innovators in fashion and art who embrace augmentation and aesthetics in tackling the idea of bodily enhancement and extension. Medical anomalies and instruments were often housed in early nineteenth century curiosity cabinets, but we've chosen to include artwork by Una Burke, Aimee Mullins, Betony Vernon, Kat Marks, Patrick Ian Hartley, Dai Rees, Kyle Hopkins, Ana Rajcevic, Naomi Filmer, Tara Dougans and Yiqing Yin as a means to probe the potential in prosthetics.
The display will be accompanied by a series of events and discussion geared towards exploring the creative industries' capabilities to expand perceptions of prosthetics.
Sign up for a daily roundup
of all our stories