The First Monday in May

1. Reflect on the research methods you see in the film: Which aspects of the Met’s fashion exhibition “China Through the Looking Glass” were researched? Which research methods and techniques were used for each aspect of the exhibition? Do you think the research was effective? Why or why not?

Durning the Met’s fashion exhibition “China Through the Looking Glass”, many aspects were researched. Firstly, and most importantly, the “romance of getting lost in the museum was the starting point. Via roaming and observing these pieces, both research and inspiration was achieved. The main question was, How do western fashion designers look to China for inspiration? Thoroughly finding evidence to answer this question, the artists managed to come up with research methods and techniques. One method that stood out to me most was the “storyboards”. During our class, we have been working on mood boards in order to help our research process. After going through the museum, the artists were able to connect the dots, via a storyboard. This storyboard consisted of the Astor forecourt gallery (209), the Dragon Lady, Asian Art staircase and Porcelain, which was based on the blue horse. After this research, the artists were able to link Cavalli’s collection, Karl Lagerfeld’s collection, leading to St Laurent’s Opium fragrance and their Chinese collection. Another research method that stood out to me was that designers who were inspired by China were interviewed. This related to our seminar class as we also interviewed those who were relevant to our topic. John Galliano stated that he “look[ed] to China for inspiration” and the result of this was the Dorient Express collection. I think that these research methods and techniques were effective, specifically because I have experienced a similar way of research in class. The most real and genuine information was gathered, especially from those who experience China in the western world; which is what the entire exhibition was based on.

2. An important theme in the film is the wish to avoid cultural appropriation and the desire to be respectful of ancient Chinese art and design. Do you think that the curators were able to avoid cultural appropriation and present an in-depth understanding of the topic? Why or why not? How did they do so?

I believe that the curators were able to avoid cultural appropriation and present an in-depth understanding of the topic to a large extent. It was said that “China has been taken advantage of, and misunderstood”, highlighting the idea of cultural appropriation. The curators were very smart however, when they decided that the movie In The Mood for Love by Wong Kar Wai had the greatest influence on the exhibition. This is because his movie inspired designers such as John Paul Gauthier. In fact, he designed a whole collection a year after watching it. By bringing Wong Car Wai to New York,to design the exhibition, this really presented an in-depth understanding of the topic. On the other hand, it is “easy to dismiss the inspiration from China as being innovative”. During the movie, we are told that the exhibition “was a fantasised vision of China”, therefore encouraging cultural appropriation. When John Paul Gauthier was asked, “Why China?”, he answered “The sense of mystery and danger, but only danger through portrayal”. I believe that this enhances cultural appropriation, but at the same time China is being worshipped. 

3. Write 5 research questions that you think the film is exploring. (questions that start with “why” or “how”).

  • How do western fashion designers look to China for inspiration?
  • Why is inspiration from China easily dismissed as innovation?
  • How is China taken advantage of, or misunderstood?
  • Why are designers inspired by China, specifically?
  • How do designers get inspired without visiting the country?

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