Phoebe English spring 2017 – text by Eilidh Nuala Duffy

Dear Shaded Viewers & Diane,

Phoebe English draws from folklore for SS17, imagining seven different characters performing seven different actions. They sit in a line, staring into the distance out of the windows of a converted townhouse above the ICA. Continually repeating the same action, you wonder if they’ve been stuck at the end of a long Shakespearean saga taped on a dodgy VHS, destined to play on a loop for eternity.

Their mysterious & romantic demeanour evokes Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog: Where have they been & where are they going?; Why are they performing the same action over & over?; Do these monochrome characters know each other?; What is their connection, if there is one?

First there is the mourner in her black tulle veil & dress, clutching on to her gladioli for remembrance. Who has she lost? A father, a mother, a lover..?

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 7 - THE MOURNER

Then there’s the bandit, her shaded eyes & layered, protective clothing mask her identity. More tailored in attire, she is hiding from the law, disguised as a man.

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 4 - THE SMUGGLER

The chanter has given up the luxuries of life for their faith. On closer inspection the clothes, however simple they may look from afar, are more complex than meets the eye. T-shirts embedded with prayers in black ink are slung around them. The chanter is not audible but their words are still present.

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 5 - THE CHANTER

Next there is the water bearer, Aquarius pouring the waters of wisdom into measuring jugs, observing the passage of time. The goddess wears a Greek chitin over a plain white t-shirt. They are simple & wise, there’s no need to be ostentatious when you are Divine.

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 2 - THE WATER BEARER

Next comes the enquirer: the law. They are immersed in a chaotic bed of paper, their attire layered upon them in a stripy prison of bureaucracy.

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 3 - THE ENQUIRER

The archer, perhaps a nod to Germanic folklore, mimes shooting apples from the tops of heads of her audience. 

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 1 - THE ARCHER

Finally, the strangler – perhaps an executioner but more likely a killer. She sits in her Tabi slippers, knotting & knotting, awaiting her next victim.

PHOEBE ENGLISH SS17 LOOK 6 - THE STRANGLER

Later,

Eilidh