In the Name Of
In their work In the Name Of, Borjana Ventzislavova and Mladen Penev study the phenomenon of submission to various norms and ideals, as evidenced in the outward appearances and dress codes of representatives of three different cultural and religious groups: Orthodox Jewish men, Western men and women, and Muslim women. The project’s focus is on the way these groups represent themselves, and on how they are perceived by an outside observer, how much freedom we in fact have, between social and cultural norms and expectations, to express ourselves and our belonging to certain communities in terms of clothing.
In the Western secular collective imagination Orthodox Muslims or Jews dress according to strict standards imposed by tradition, leading to a uniform group appearance, in contrast to individual fashion choices following various lifestyles offered by the free market and mass production in the democratic West. But do not the mechanisms of global capitalism themselves lead to phenomena of uniformity and even more accentuated homogenizing based not only on dress code, where dissent and subaltern identities are not well perceived? Even if Western individuals seem to have overcome clothing norms based on tradition, religion or gender, is their taste not subject to a command, ruled by a fashion industry producing demand through advertising and the mass media? And is not their outfit and image determined by certain ideological signs of integration and consumerism as they are supposed to represent ideas of health, mobility, flexibility, individual freedom, pluralism, liberalism and sexiness rather than real autonomy, heterogeneity and multiplicity? The work deals with the way the economic regime of the gaze tends to perceive the other (the one who does not belong to the respective group) in the limited scope of the field of vision. These perceptions are determined by generalizations based on anthropological and sociological stereotypes and their images embedded in projections and the imagination regarding the Other, which defend the beholder’s own cultural or social belonging and leads to exotization or lack of perceived difference and recognition of singular beings within another culture in which all look the same, as a result of racial, cultural, ethnic, religious reasoning overlapping with economic factors, and the system of production and distribution.