PRESS> Nuit Blanche 2013 Spotlight: The (Re)Generator Project on BlouinArtInfo.com

Nuit Blanche 2013 Spotlight: The (Re)Generator Project –
August 21, 2013 | blouinartinfo.com

Reuse, repurpose, recycling. For Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, artist Gabrielle Lasporte and fashion designer Chinedu Ukabam will unspool fashion’s cyclical threads for the (Re)Generator Project, an interactive multimedia installation that will take place in the front window of H&M’s Yonge & Dundas flagship on October 5.

The H&M-sponsored collaboration takes inspiration in the fast-fashion retailer’s garment collection program, a recycling initiative that allows customers to donate used clothing by any brand to an H&M location. Lasporte and Ukabam will repurpose the donated clothing into a small “couture” collection that will be showcased in the installation. The project, however, will also involve an online conversation: participants are encouraged to share their own “RE” ideas by uploading onto Instagram images or patterns with the hashtag #regenerator2013, from now until October 5.

“It all ties into exploring the concept of ‘re’. How can we weave our creation into the social fabric? We thought about many ways to do this, but in the end, we kept coming back to ‘social media,’” explains Ukabam in an interview with BLOUIN ARTINFO Canada. Through his Toronto-based Chinedesign label, Ukabam has presented a number of “urban contemporary africana” fashion interventions, including the “Masquerade” multimedia fashion presentation during TD’s “Then & Now” Black History Month Series in February, and in July, SUPAFRIK, a globetrotting pop-up shop/gallery curating the works of international designers, artists, and photographers with an afro-futurist bent.

According to Ukabam, the uploaded pattern or graphic will join a dusk-to-dawn queue of images picked by an algorithm that will be projected onto the garments in the H&M window. “The end result is that every time you take a picture of the window, you will see a different dress. So a single dress can be ‘remixed’ a thousand times or how many other images we can project in a 12-hour period.”

An element of randomness will occur when the crowd-sourced images overlap with Lasporte and Ukabam’s own patterns. This aspect of the project unfurls another inspiration driving the project: “Sankofa,” an Akan word commonly associated with a popular Ghanaian proverb that translates as “it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

As a fashion designer, Ukabam has long been fascinated with re-mixing and re-imagining African patterns, culture, and history. In 2011, his “Afrotropolis” collection featured silk dresses inspired by the Ndeble style of house painting. “Perhaps it is due to a fragmented experience, but I see echoes in everything,” he says. “Ndebele wall art looks like Piet Modrian to me. Kente weaving is obviously ancient African barcodes.”

Meanwhile, Lasporte specializes in modern batik, and is in fact one of the few accredited instructors of the technique in North America. Her organic exploration of “flow,” however, will veer away from her typical portraiture work into abstraction. “In exploring the abstract and working on this project with Chinedu, I have been enlightened to the fact that that can be represented through many other abstract visuals,” she says. “We can represent culture and the human experience through patterns, colors, weaving techniques.”

The project’s process, not to mention its participatory fragments, can be seen at theregeneratorproject.org. Ukabam is looking forward to how the project can “close the loop” on fashion’s fickle trend cycle, as well as engaging on a wider, participatory level the concept of up-cycling.

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