Kenneth Anger is one of America most infamous living legends. A true Renaissance man, he has achieved cult status in every medium he has engaged with: in literature, his book Hollywood Babylon shaped the history of a world whose disappearance he actually witnessed. His films have influenced leading artists and filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to Francesco Vezzoli. His art photographs have been exhibited in numerous institutions and galleries, such as, this year, Sprüth/Magers London, and his films screened at such venues as PS1/MoMA, and this year, too, the ICA in London. All throughout his extraordinary career, he has confronted the interaction between art, culture – including fashion, recently shooting videos for the Italian brand Missoni.
Tomorrow, Anger will join Doug Aitken and a leading selection of artists and musicians on Levi's Station to Station month-long train journey. Anger will create a nomadic sculpture for the unique inititaive to support non-traditional programming at nine partner museums around the country.
How would you connect fashion to elegance?
An animal can be elegant without having any knowledge of fashion. But fashion aspires towards elegance.
What is the role of history and art history in your conception of fashion?
You must know about the past to work in the present: you’re building on that. It’s your foundation, if you want to change the future.
Would you describe fashion as a language and a discourse, as Barthes did it?
Fashion implies a take on something. It’s not permanent. It signifies a specific moment in time.
"Fashion implies a take on something – it’s not permanent, it signifies a specific moment in time"
The word "intellectual" was coined in a time of great political distress. Does fashion have a political role? And in which way?
If you put on a uniform and go to war: that’s fashion.
How would you relate the concept of "fashion" to the one of "style"?
They’re practically interchangeable.
What does fashion have to do with intellectuality?
Intellectuality is just using your brain. You use it in fashion as well as in other things.
You’ve dealt a lot with celebrity culture. How do fashion and celebrity go together?
One sells the other. When you attached a name to a body wearing clothes, the clothes become more sellable.
Your whole oeuvre deals with the dialogue between mainstream and underground culture. What role does fashion play within that dialogue?
Frankly the underground and the mainstream are opposing forces. Fashion is on the side of the mainstream, and it borrows from the underground. But when you actually do something, you just hope you’ll be understood.
See more details about Levi's Station to Station project here.
In two weeks Donatien will be interviewing the designer Marc Newson.