You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve walked into a branded pop-up shop in Selfridges but in fact you’re standing in the ICA’s lower gallery where beats boom out from a sleek black structure and catwalk models promenade on monitors. Welcome to salon Bernadette Corporation.
This retrospective is certainly unconventional. And quite frankly you wouldn’t expect anything less from an art collective formed during the ’90s New York club scene. It’s brash, it’s bold and it asserts the persona of the radically uber-cool set with a cultural critiquing agenda.
The lack of a cohesive timeframe allows everything the subversive collaborators have produced in the last 19 years to exist as if it were made yesterday. Mannequins nonchalantly fill the galleries, modelling deconstructed designs inspired by the street style of immigrant workers. Vitrines are filled with BC merchandise, from custom-made silk scarves to poem-scribed mugs. Larger-than-life fashion campaign images, shot in Michael Stipe’s apartment, cover entire gallery walls. And the group’s trailer for their anti-documentary, ‘Get Rid of Yourself’, made in the wake of 9/11, constantly blares out apocalyptic rock riffs whilst flashing images of bloodied rioters interspersed with footage of actress Chloë Sevigny reading activists’ speeches.
All methods of media have been conquered from the self-published magazine, Made in USA, to numerous publish-on-demand books including their eponymous ‘Reena Spaulings’. Utilising the guise of a corporate body, Bernadette Corporation have generated an industry of social commentary, albeit a non-financially viable one. If only the many hands had made light work of all the reading material.