THE UGLY SWAN
“If this body will not act, I propose a vote of no confdence in Chancellor Valorum’s Leadership.” PADMÉ AMIDALA
It is worth remembering that the fairy tale of the Ugly Ducking relies on ugliness being redeemed through exceptionalism. The Ugly Duckling is in fact beautiful because he was a swan the whole time. He was simply miscategorized and therefore unattractive. What if he were truly ugly and resolutely an ugly duckling or resolutely an ugly swan? What would make him worthy of being the subject of a story then, or the subject of an avant-garde fashion line? There is some value in leaving ugliness to exist as such without recuperating it as misunderstood and therefore worthy of our attention. Namacheko presents the worthiness of ugliness in the dreamscape of a utilitarian church, which, when filled with bodies, drones and echoes throughout history, not unlike the story of an ugly duckling.
This has a political dimension, since for Namacheko’s designer Dilan Lurr, a particular valence of ugliness/beauty is the immigrant experience. Growing up as the only immigrant in a Swedish town, Lurr often felt like the Ugly Duckling, despite and in addition to a feeling of great pride in his simultaneous Kurdish and Swedish identities. The immigrant, relentlessly mis/categorized, is at the center of a fashionable debate about loveliness, delicateness, softness, paleness, versatility, utility, comfort, value, and so on. Taste often relies upon exclusionary visions of the Other, the one who threatens the sanctity of both beauty and borders.
So, there is much to be said for the collection’s tackling of colors and patterns that seem garish, bright, of the wrong era, or otherwise out-of-place, otherwise ugly ducklings among (ugly) swans. This collection sees the swan for the duckling, the duckling for the swan. It sees Natalie Portman in Padmé Amidala in the Queen of Naboo, and Anakin (or his braid, at least) in Darth Vader. By seeing in dualities and never binaries, there can be a condition in which the Other is loved as such and not obliterated in favor of the Self, or remade, godlike, in the image of the Self. Above all, an awareness of ugliness is a form of belief, a kind of futurity, for in ugliness is the possibility that ugliness will not change and become a swan and that instead repressive structures that insist on beauty and not-beauty will fnally collapse. Words by William J. Simmons
All images courtesy of Namacheko