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Gallery: Multiple Clothing by Stephen Willats

by Stephen Willats on 27 July 2005

Multiple Clothing presented a selection of clothing-based works by British artist Stephen Willats that spanned 40 years of practice.

Willats began his project Multiple Clothing in 1965 as a strategy to engage directly with the fabric of society, exploring clothing as a very basic externalising of the self. Made up as kits, the clothing designs were created out of many small units that zipped (or later velcroed) together in various formations to make multiple garment types - including simple shift dresses and jackets.

The self-determining nature of acquiring and assembling these kits to each wearers' specification was essentially an amplification of the notion of self-organisation, a key principle beginning to emerge in the politics, philosophy, science and art of this era. The modish, geometric primary-coloured panel designs of Willats' early costumes recall the geometric stylistics displayed in early avant-garde ballet and theatre designs in their clean, functional sense of modernity, as well as embodying a spirit of the Sixties with their use of contemporaneous synthetic fabrics.

A defining element of Willats' wearable artworks was the 'thesaurus' of words that were available to be inserted into the clear plastic pockets, either by the wearer, or by other people that the wearer interacted with. The selection was chosen by the artist from words that described human thought, mood and behaviour. Over subsequent decades Willats has developed and transformed the look and nature of garment-based works into many alternative situations, including a key period in the early to middle Eighties when he made a series of collaborations with the subcultures of London's thriving club scene.

Performances that involved the works continued throughout the projects' lifetime, including influential stagings at the ICA, London, and Daniel Bucholtz Galerie, Cologne.

Multiple Clothing presented a selection of clothing-based works by British artist Stephen Willats that spanned 40 years of practice.

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