« What is most interesting about fashion for the philosopher lies in its anticipations ». Walter Benjamin.
This text from Parisian Passages evokes, among others, fashion’s diktat of the « always new », its need for anticipations and phantasmagoria, its love of tiny differences, and its dream energy between life and death. At the Cité de la Mode et du Design, along 140 metres of gangway, a virtual passage is to be found printed on the ground, the work of Pascal Dombis : Text(e)-Fil(e)s.
It procures an intense experience of total immersion into thousands of texts about fashion. In lines dating from the last three centuries, isolated, superposed, big or little, legible or illegible, and endlessly entangled in an immense web, the fashion machine unravels itself under your feet, with its rhythms and dreams. An infinite ribbon, an « infinite piece of clothing » (Barthes) can be read in a flash. What a strange feeling is conveyed by this textual looking-glass, which looks out onto the looking-glass of the river Seine, and plays with its greys, its whites, and its dimensions, in the shadowy light of day and the whitened track of night.
For in these lines of fabric, multiplied ad infinitum by algorithms of proliferation, each fragment, however minuscule, becomes the microcosm of a dream: that of a transitory moment in constant modulation, the artificial fabrication of something beautiful, which « denies beauty » (Baudelaire). And from Balzac to Gautier, Baudelaire, Proust, Morand, or Barthes, within all these floating lines, « the fabrics speak a silent language ». You are free to dawdle or hurry, to decipher a fragment or lose your way in the infinite distance of the ribbon. Here the spectator makes the work, from out of all the fluxes of images, between reality and fiction.
Hence, as in all the works of Pascal Dombis, repetition does not exclude excess or chance, nor even the immoderation of a multiple vision. I remember another installation printed on the ground, « the passage » of the Palais-Royal, and an exhibition of his spiral-pictures which float and move in their own aura of light. Time, always time. Not the linear time of chronology, but that of art rolling and unrolling upon itself. So much so that this aesthetics of temporal interstices has made possible the creation of the Passage de la Mode, its fascination and its being which return with every season. A time always recovered and always different, which ends up by punctuating our lives, and whose virtuality -its conception, its capture and its implementation- is an immense metaphor. Fixed to the ground, it is at one and the same time an instant and a fluid modulation, in a state of becoming and forever new: the very image of fashion in its « aptitude to seize the diverse » according to the wishes of Victor Segalen. The diverse of a pluralized subjectivity made up of multiple strata, passages and mutations.
Walter Benjamin once again. In a variant of The Work of Art in the Era of Reproduction, he distinguishes between two modes of painting: vertical painting, and one « which reproduces the world so that man may concretely walk there ». Such is the Passage de la Mode: you may walk, read and dream there.
Translation: Jonathan Pollock