MAST Foundation presents UNIFORM: INTO THE WORK / OUT OF THE WORK, an exhibition of work from 44 photography greats plus Walead Beshty. The exhibition showcases over 600 pieces of clothing and uniforms, worn by workers in different historical, social, and professional contexts. The exhibition, curated by Urs Stahel, displays the uniform in all of its symbolic and functional facets. It investigates the duality of these garments, designed on one hand to convey a sense of belonging, whilst on the other hand serving as a symbol of classification, singling out an individual or group from the rest of the community. The distinctive nature of workwear can still be seen today, with terms like “blue-collar” and “white-collar.” This form of sartorial classification has become embedded in the psyche workers across the globe.
In the examination of the garments people wear to work, this show looks at the deeper cultural and economic contexts that clothes portray across continents and industries, and how uniforms can be functional and symbolic, while also fashion statements.
Workwear in the Images of 44 Photographers
The group exhibition, Workwear in the Images of 44 Photographers, staged in the PhotoGallery of MAST, is a journey through uniforms that spans the globe. With work from some of the biggest names in photography, the show exhibits historical and contemporary workers from across industries, including military soldiers, factory workers, miners, executives, religious adherents, and more. While each of these jobs has different functional needs that their uniforms address, they also have deeper symbolic meanings that denote class divisions and cultural differences.
The distinctive nature of workwear is explored through Barbara Davatz’s photographs of the work clothes of theemployees in a small factory in Switzerland, which are in dialogue with the uniforms of the apprentices of the large food retailer “Migros” photographed by Marianne Mueller. The white collars depicted by Florian Van Roekel are a counterpoint to the black coveralls of the miners in the photos of the Chinese Song Chao and to the workers of a clothing factory photographed by Helga Paris. Clothing as a distinction of class and status is also shown in the groupportrait of the multinational Clegg & Guttmann executives, where the light only illuminates faces, hands and thedazzling triangles formed by the lapels, white shirts, and ties.
In the nine portraits by August Sander, one of the most famous portrait photographers of the 20th century, thesymbiosis between person, profession and social role emerges more than the essence of the individuals themselves.The photographer’s focus is on the social function rather than the aesthetics of photography, to build a faithful image ofthe era.
The works of Olivier Sieber, André Gelpke, Andri Pol, Paolo Pellegrin, Herb Ritts and Weronika Gęsicka describe the progressive transformation of workwear and uniforms into style and fashion, together with Barbara Davatz‘s Beauty Lies Within series, which photographs H&M’s shop assistants outside the workplace.
Presented on large monitors, Marianne Mueller’s eight videos of security staff in service uniforms “watch” the visitors as they walk through the exhibition.
Other artists include famous protagonists in the history of photography such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Walker Evans, Arno Fischer, Irving Penn, and contemporary photographers like Paola Agosti, Sonja Braas, Hans Danuser, Roland Fischer, Herlinde Koelbl, Timm Rautert and Sebastião Salgado.
Walead Beshty “Industrial Portraits”
The monographic exhibition of the Los Angeles based American artist Walead Beshty, located in the Gallery/Foyer, showcases 364 portraits divided into seven categories of 52 photographs each – artists, collectors, curators, gallery owners, technicians, directors of museums and other professionals. The portraits are of peopleBeshty met throughout his own working environment, the art world. Over the past 12 years, Beshty has photographed approximately 1,400 subjects with a small camera and a 36 mm analogue film.
Inspired by the work of 20th century portrait artist August Sander, Beshsty’s objective is not to represent the characterof the person being photographed – objectives that studio-portraiture has pursued since the dawn of photography –but rather to represent people in their function and professional role in the art world.
“On the one hand in the title ‘Industrial Portraits’ we can see the reflection of a technique that is in some ways standardised, on the other hand we can say that the portraits in the exhibition and the series as a whole (1400-1500 elements that continue to increase) are in turn a sort of ‘portrait’ of a specific industrial reality, i.e. the art industry as a whole. In this sense, the ‘Industrial Portraits’ make visible and shine a spotlight on the actors who move in this sector, which tends to be free of hierarchical structures”, explains the exhibition’s curator Urs Stahel.
Beshty’s 364 portraits highlight the protagonists’ resistance to the uniformity of professional clothing – they don’t wantto look like the others, standardised, mass produced. However, this negative definition risks becoming once again astandardized uniform for all actors operating in that environment. Despite the efforts made by each individual portrayed to show a unique, personal, and original image, the protagonists seem to remain dependent on the context, prisoners of their individualistic attitude.
UNIFORM INTO THE WORK / OUT OF THE WORK
via Speranza, 42