When Grace Wales Bonner presented her first collection, it was alongside an accompanying zine, Everythings For Real: an assortment of collaged imagery and poetry that centred around the same African culture that informed her menswear debut. Printed by publishers Ditto Press, it came with a sticker pack, and encased within pound-store-style plastic. Considering the elegance of its design and curation – both of which reflected the painstaking craftsmanship of Wales Bonner's intricately embellished garments – there was a brilliant dissonance between its packaging and its reality. Today, to co-incide with Frieze London 2015 as well as her upcoming performence at the Serpentine (as part of the gallery’s Marathon at Frieze, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist), Wales Bonner – in collaboration with Ditto Press and art director Jamie Reid – has launched her second installation: Everythings For Real 2, a brilliantly considered meditation on cultural crossovers.
This time, instead of focusing on African culture, Wales Bonner has explored a different story through a series of original collages based upon found imagery alongside cut-outs of prose, creating a sort of gracefully fluid, Burroughs-esque narrative. "The zine is like a visual study of my research, and it gives a bit of a wider context for what I’m doing," she explained yesterday. "I feel like my collections are informed by quite a lot of different things, and literature has been an underlying reference point for me, so it's nice to be able to share that." The S/S16 collection (and thus the zine) was based around Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian slave who was transported to West India before founding his own empire: a story of transition within cultural positioning that Wales Bonner explains, "made me think about more contemporary ideas of mirroring that you see in the Indian Ocean, where people are incorporating African culture into Bollywood films." It is this interaction between African and West Indian cultures, that marked her latest collection – and provides an aesthetically and theoretically rich framework from which the garments and zine were formed.
This exploration, of the African diaspora across the Indian Ocean – which Wales Bonner terms a "meditation on an idea" rather than a strictly historical biography – is one that is reflected not only through cut-ups of postcolonial academia, but equally a nuanced employment of cross-cultural visuals. The writings of Essex Hemphill and James Baldwin are encased within a washed-out slipcover, giving the zine the illusion of a market-stall VHS, their words positioned alongside advertising and lyrics. "It's like a ‘luxury zine'," explained art director Jamie Reid. "It has mixed print methods that usually wouldn’t be used on something like this (foil blocking, copper staples, embossed texture cover stock, a mixture of one colour risograph and all colour digital offset printing) – and its interesting to use quite extravagant techniques and apply them to a medium that is often seen as cheap or disposable." "It's all abstracted, really," continues Wales Bonner. "Juxtaposing these different ways of communicating. It's just a space to reflect; it's not a conclusion. I think that a lot of people open it and are quite surprised by what's inside."
Everythings For Real 2 is available to purchase at Ditto Press