All Synecdoche All the Time (Part One)
November 5, 2007
So my other, authentic thesis show is shaping up to be “about” uniforms. But of course there’s a lot going on in the 3D flowchart in my head when I say “uniforms.” This is really part 2 of what started with my solo show afterword: levels of representation between an implicit core masculinity and how that masculinity is performed on group and individual levels.
The uniform is an obvious symbol of masculinity, order, and (institutional) power–as well as conformity, mindlessness, and lack of identity–and its obviousness is exactly what I want to tackle. Or in other words: do “you” wear the uniform or does it wear you? Is there such thing as an ontological prior when it comes to fashion–does clothing really make the man? I like these questions because they are both dumb and complex. You could argue that unforms are pragmatic marks of group solidarity that got loaded along the way, but is there any such thing as a “neutral” uniform?
There’s also the synecdochic power of the uniform, which is really fascinating to me. By this I mean that (rehtorically and maybe in real life) a uniform is imagined to have its own agency. A uniform acts: it gives, does, accomplishes. It stands in for you while you stand in for someone who wears a uniform to denote allegaince to a particular group, whether it’s his or her armed forces or bowling league.
The pictures above are from the Fort Tejon Historical Association’s life-size diorama of uniforsm through the ages. It’s weirdly the most complete part of the exhibit/info, and it presents the history of US militarism in California through what kind of uniforms Fort Tejon soldiers (dragoons) were wearing.