New York

View of “Anna-Sophie Berger,” 2014. Left: Hardax, 2014. Right: hard (blue), 2014.

View of “Anna-Sophie Berger,” 2014. Left: Hardax, 2014. Right: hard (blue), 2014.

Anna-Sophie Berger

View of “Anna-Sophie Berger,” 2014. Left: Hardax, 2014. Right: hard (blue), 2014.

Ruins can be preserved, or they can offer debris from which to build. It is with such wreckage that Vienna-based artist and fashion designer Anna-Sophie Berger creates work: Her practice is not fashion or art but a bricolage built upon collisions of the two—a product of a time when these industries seek to establish market-driven “synergy” but remain discrete. Bringing fashion and art together may be problematic, but Berger’s vision is guided by unique optimism: She is less interested in critique than in infiltration, in finding ways in which to invade and occupy her two adopted disciplines, creating objects that are neither one nor the other.

Berger studied fashion design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and her New York solo debut featured works derived from FASHION IS FAST, a collection she produced for her thesis project there. Of the many accessories included in the line are black tights silk-screened with phrases from the NATO phonetic alphabet: F – FOXTROT; K – KILO; E – ECHO; J – JULIETT; I – INDIA. For this exhibition, she placed ten pairs on a white pedestal and cut off their feet and tops; as such, the tights are no longer functional clothing items but pure signs (though they could probably be worn as leg warmers of sorts). Abutting the pedestal is a pair of leather loafers, also designed for the line, with digits 4 and 0—the shoe size being forty—printed over their respective tops. In other articles from her collection (not on display here), Berger similarly incorporated sizes as well as lines and arrows (denoting hemlines and inseams). If a clothing item is created to broadcast an allusive complex of cultural and aesthetic codes that we refer to as a “brand” or a “style,” here those significations yield to the comically blunt, mechanical language of garment production.

Also on view in the exhibition were eight prints derived from four photographs depicting pieces from Berger’s line: closely cropped shots of a red shirt, the waistband of a yellow skirt, a green top, and a blue crewneck. First, Berger digitally stretched and compressed the four photographs to conform to dimensions derived from various digital formats—the Facebook banner, the Instagram image, the screens of the iPhone and iPad. Next, she printed the modified images twice, first on rigid Dibond, then on a supple silk scarf. Together, the eight “prints” demonstrate the ease with which images migrate through formats, mediums, and disciplines. Such transmissions, however, are hardly seamless: Comparing the way in which the same print appears on different media, Dibond and silk, one notices the levels of color saturation have subtly shifted, a difference that points to what is lost and what is retained in the act of appropriation. This interest in the glitches of transmission extends to the artist’s movement back and forth between art and fashion. She is less interested in fabricating new patterns than in exploring the productive, even subversive awkwardness of tailoring old things for new contexts.

On the night of her opening, four of Berger’s friends donned her clothing and took part in a performance. Each stood next to the photograph of her respective outfit as Berger issued commands: “Spread your legs.” “Sit down.” “Touch your toes.” Their movements were choppy, unique to each performer. As a whole, the performance crystallized Berger’s ebullient, if happily critical, practice: The most potent acts of disruption come not from rejection but from customization.

Allese Thomson