n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - Second skins : cloth, difference and the art of transformation

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1020-1491



In this article, I take the photographic portraits of Maud Sulter and Chan-Hyo Bae as my point of departure to explore (i) the place of cloth in the refashioning of cultural, racial and gendered identities, and (ii) the use of cloth as a vehicle with which to challenge structures of power that render certain peoples, their histories and their cultural expressions invisible.

Staged at the Ben Uri Gallery, London, 2013, the exhibition juxtaposed the work of Sulter and Bae. The show featured seven photographs from Sulter's series (1989), depicting African and African diasporic women artists as the Greek Muses. This was contrasted against nine self-portraits from Bae's series (2006-2013), which emerged from his migration to Great Britain from Korea in 2004. There are clear parallels between these artists' use of cloth. Both embrace masquerade as a subversive strategy; masking becomes an art of transformation that questions normalised assumptions about difference.

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