There is something very “American Psycho” about these shoes, produced by artists, Fantich and Young, currently on display at Somerset House’s Fashioning Winter exhibition. They come from a collection that aims to subvert Darwinianism by re-introducing the super-natural into nature. “Apex Predator” features other sinisterly beautiful items made from teeth, bone fragments and hair. There are hair suits, cut with the elegance and precision of a Hitchcock movie costume, strangely contorted masks and other objects that manage to look both familiar and alien at the same time.
The shoes are part of the “White Perspectives” display curated by Sofia Hedman and Serge Martynov, hanging in the Stamp Stairway. They sit alongside similarly conceptual pieces, including Maison Martin Margiela’s cloven toed boots, their cracked white paint altering their appearance on a daily basis; the wonderful Bea Szenfeld leopard (see Beast ); and an evening dress by Ann-Sofie Back that deconstructs the classic 1930s siren gown, originally intended to glow under film lights, now attached to the front of a long black slip.
At the opposite end of the building another form of art is displayed with the surrealist Christmas Cards sent by photographer, Angus McBean. In contrast, this time the artist has placed himself at the centre of the work, depicting himself seated amongst miniature figurines, inside other artworks, or as part of a camera. In spirit, it shares something with the Marchesa Casati’s declared aim: “I want to be a living work of art” though her rather macabre taste might have been more akin to a tooth-soled shoe.
One element that all these items have in common is their element of subversion of both articles and concepts, commonly held. It encourages us to re-assess our surroundings, question assumptions, look at things in new ways. In a world of mass-production, multi-national brands and constant pressure to consume, the discipline to stop, step back and appreciate the different is a luxury we cannot afford to overlook. It poses the question: in the twenty-first century who is the apex predator – the multinational brand or their customer?