5 October 2015

Lessons to Learn From Hedi Slimane's "Sonic"

Hedi Slimane’s “Sonic” was an inviting photographic essay comprised of solely black and white images, which were captured over a 15-year period. It focused largely on the Creative Director of Saint Laurent’s infatuation with artists and musicians. A documentary-style video installation complimented the photographs to show the contrasting musical cycles in London’s indie rock scene from 2003-2007, and Los Angeles’ spiritual DIY music scene from 2007-2014. It shed a light on the differences between the fans and performers of different generations and gave intimate portrayals of some of the most idolized individuals in the good ole’ genre of rock and roll. The diverse changes in society throughout his life history can be seen emanating through his collections and photography. Here, as I wait – not so patiently - for his Paris Fashion Week offering this evening, I present to you, the lessons I can’t seem to forget from the cooler than cool; Sonic.

less is more
The exhibition was a sombre affair at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent for a limited four-month period. Tacked to the wall at eye level, photographs were unframed under dim lights and blown-up on poster sized canvas, all equally aligned against intimate grey walls. Carefully measured white borders contained caption-less photos, hung grouped together in a prominently dynamic order. The jet-black floor came to a halt when faced by the whitewash walls; although deprived of colour, the space served as a distraction-less platform to showcase the images and allow the viewer a depth of detail and appreciation. An unprecedented sterility can often lurk within the hues of black and white images, making them lack fluidity but a sincere authenticity poured from the mirthless yet solemn photographs on display.

do what you love
A pinch of fashion, a heaped tablespoon of photography and generous lashings of music: a guaranteed recipe for success. Slimane’s images exuded a romanticised rock allure as though a slightly tamer but equally as cutting ode to Larry Clark. He expressed “Music is clearly, for me, the starting point of anything”, and the focus on music in this exhibition exemplified that. In Saint Laurent’s runway collections, the elegance of high fashion can be brushed aside to reveal the wonderfully gritty clothes that the people depicted in the exhibition would wear. Despite not being his main project, the images he produced didn’t have any sense of maintaining a popularist view and instead seemed to search for a way in which dynamic, unique and original ideas can be brought to the forefront of fashion.

age is just a number
Although a theme of youth oozed from the exhibition as a whole: Keith Richards, Lou Reed and Brian Wilson were held subject of intimate close-up portraits as Slimane attempted to expose “the sense of freedom, sometimes the recklessness, that age gives you,”. Exposing each wrinkle and sign of age as a statement of a life well lived, the chosen musical legends typified rock culture and are idolized by the nostalgic youths of today. They thereby contributed to the aroma of adolescence equally as much as the Sky Ferriera’s, Christopher Owens’ and and Alex Turner’s of the world. Not to mention the semi naked crowd-surfing teens who hung next to photos of a scar-ridden Pete Doherty, which bled effortless cool.

have a story and tell it
He studied Art History at the École de Louvre and that is precisely where he allowed music and photography to shape his design focus and form his eclectic style. Slimane’s explosive introduction to a freer world of opportunity brought about a difference in his approach and ideologies, which left him unknowingly raising heads and gaining a cult following in the process. With admirable ease, he has transformed Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent; where a frequent theme of “love” has been replaced by Courtney Love. Slimane is the European outsider, not just peering in, but actively exploring the haunted vibrancy of California and allowing his structural vision to live through his work.

everyone loves a bit of lou reed
A raw photograph of Lou Reed was taken just weeks before his death and showed him completely as himself, highlighting Slimane’s ability to take a legendary character and strip them down to an individual being. The sensorial nature of the print exposed an invitation for the viewer to almost touch the aridity of his frail lips. The eyes slightly peeked through the aviators but weren’t completely visible and the hair curled out from under the well-placed hat. The wrinkles formed grooves in the skin while his sagging cheeks gave a characteristic shape to his face; everything was real which injected life into the image and left you, without complaint, with “A Perfect Day” repeating gently in your mind, like a soulful whisper of sorts.