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?

I think that the research that the MET did in preparation for the exhibit was immense and done correctly. However, the source of inspiration for the show was a bit questionable to me – hence the films that they referenced in the exhibit (featuring asian stereotypes). I think it was important that they teamed up with Asian art department because they have correct historical information that they were able to use to make sure the show was authentic of the culture. Using the film maker made it more valid – having someone of the Chinese culture on board the project helped with accuracy and made sure things were done respectfully. The method of research included mostly primary and secondary sources of information (for example visiting the Yves Saint Laurent archives and photos/videos of designer shows). Having the garments itself to learn from was probably also very beneficial to learn from (catalogued information).

  1. 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 feel as though this exhibition would of been really difficult to do without upsetting someone. I think that it was a beautiful exhibit and they really took the time to learn about and understand Chinese culture. Although, from watching the documentary I’m not sure that white people — the curator and Anna could present it totally correct since the knowledge they have is only secondary. I was even surprised that the head of the Asian art department at the MET was a white man (granted he could speak the language), however, it was still interesting to see that white people were making the decisions as to what was acceptable or not. They only had one Chinese man, the film maker who directed some of the films the department found inspirational on board the Gala. A lot of the designers that were in the show, for instance, Galliano are definitely guilty of appropriation (for example his “Chinese” collection and “Native American” collection – featuring white women dressed in cultural garments). I think from the normal persons point of view, or a guests POV, the exhibit looks like it is done respectfully and with knowledge of the culture, however, from an analyzers POV, the inspiration itself for the show could be seen as culturally insensitive.

  1. Write 5 research questions that you think the film is exploring. (questions that start with “why” or “how”).
  • How western designers are inspired by eastern fashion/culture?
  • Why are white western designers taking inspiration from these cultures and therefore making their own?
  • How can designers be more socially responsible when it comes to their source of inspiration?
  • How can designers be inspired by a culture but not mock it or try to steal its significance?
  • Why fashion isn’t considered a fine art – even though it is judged using the same principles?

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