The ubiquity with which FKA Twigs governs our culture is of a higher, surreal nature. I have been a longstanding admirer of her chameleon-like, adaptive ability to transform herself from both the artist into the canvas – the musician into the song itself, and to be both the performer and the epicentre of the performance. From LP1 she carved her own niche, and more recently became the niche itself with her stellar, deeply moving foray into the world of Mary Magdalene; embodying the healer and wise woman dancing between the worlds of sacred whoredom; armed solely with her fragile voice and emotive movements. It comes as no surprise, yet beautifully refreshing, when a creator of twigs’ caliber offers herself as the canvas upon which another artist can perform. In this instance, her collaboration is with Lyle XOX; the revered and magical performance artist who uses facial sculpture as their medium. For the release of the seventh issue of her digital zine AVANTgarden; twigs started a conversation around consumption, sustainability and beauty; titled Beauty of the Discarded.
In a world of excessive consumption, and of our subsequent collective addiction to the accumulation of trash; innovation and artistry strike. In a series of ethereal portraits, photographer Nhu Xuan Hu captures still imagery of FKA twigs’ ornately posed face, laden with found objects assembled by Lyle XOX; creating astounding architectural form through layering, texture and colour. Each artwork weaves together a story communicating excerpts of a narrative; firstly, the quiet perfection of Twigs’ features, and secondly the astounding visual perception of Lyle XOX; and furthermore, the illumination of trash as a primary tool for eliciting beauty. It is a decidedly elegant feat to transmute the discarded into such a body of work; even if the trash was collected from other artists such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Courtney Love, Claire Barrow, Christopher Kane, Benny Blanco, Ed Marler, and Extinction Rebellion Youth’s Daze Aghaji. The play of form and essence in facial sculpting became more than a dialogue between twigs and Lyle; it extended to their community, and beyond into the form of an invitation to other beings across the planet. In partnership with Dazed Beauty, the IG community were asked to create their own images using the hashtag #CreativityBeyondConsumption. The results left me astounded at the sheer creativity rumbling throughout the world, especially during this unprecedented time of a global pandemic. It is my firm belief that at a time like this, in the midst of lockdown and uncertainty, collaboration and connection form the nexus upon which any sustainable endeavour is birthed. It is our deepest longing, and perhaps the distillation of our very nature as human beings, to be both creative and in connection with others. This is possible through the technological wands of the digital wizardry age.
“This project is about the beauty of the discarded. It’s about how often we as humans get it wrong,” says twigs in an interview with Dazed Beauty. “We’ve discarded how we’re supposed to live as humans and now we’re realising there are more simple ways to exist and that the closer we are to the earth the closer we are to the truth”. I can see no better way to confront this musing than with turning to trash for an earthly communion. It is confronting and somewhat a step towards accountability to be able to look at what is in the bin for inspiration – our beautiful planet heaving with humanities’ wasteful landfills. What are the parts we discard in order to get to the gem? Both in metaphor and in reality, when we receive, is it really just about what is inside – or is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Shifting perceptions around trash ties into my own work with upcycling existing material into garments – a newly birthed personal project, and an exciting step towards playing instead of abandoning; reworking the old instead of continual purchasing the elusive “new”. Moving beyond the linearity of consumption and creating a more circular narrative around objects is something we could all do, and it can be done in the name of the Avant Garde; the weird and whichever wonderful ways that spark our interest.
I recently started collecting all the dried flowers in my home and creating objects and imagery; noting that Lee Mcqueen once said, “I used flowers in my collections because they rot and die”, and this sentiment hits home; flowers can die, and return to the earth; as mulch that can seed new life, new flowers and new possibilities. Man-made objects cannot die; they can only accumulate and burden the earth. Perhaps before discarding our objects – we can give them the solace of a second life, as seen with the collaboration between FKA twigs and Lyle XOX. What struck me the most about this collective project is “sustainability” in the format it was used; sustaining art beyond notions of race, gender, uniformity and assumptions. The suspension of identity, yet, the emphasis of uniqueness was abundantly clear in every image presented under #CreativityBeyondConsumption. This is what Dazed Beauty continually seeks to question, and does so effectively, through the notions of beauty beyond what mainstream, dictated and systemic culture seeks to perpetuate. The idea that beauty is fluid rather than binary; or plural rather than singular. In viewing these images, I thought of our communities bursting out of gilded cages and abandoning the wrought iron standards of beauty we have come to know as definitive; Issue 7 of AVANTgarden is simplistic yet moving to such a degree; that it is worth diving into during lockdown and beyond.
Creativity Beyond Consumption; Collaboration Above Disconnection; and perhaps, Gold; Formerly Known As Trash.