MELBOURNE-BASED performance and multimedia artist Scotty So grew up looking at Harper’s BAZAAR magazines in Hong Kong. Early in everyday living the composition, theatricality and “utter glamour” of BAZAAR’s glossy addresses and editorial photos piqued his fascination in vogue as a performance medium to explore personal and cultural id.
Now centered in Melbourne, So’s combined-media follow combines drag, functionality artwork, and visual artwork in every little thing from reside operatic performances to self-styled theatrical studio shoots featuring clothes of his have creation. His function invitations viewers to look at the part of manner in tradition and modern society, checking out the strategy of a high manner ‘illusion’ via the lens of an artist who does not recognize as remaining component of the trend sector.
“I did not have a fashion history when I commenced my art apply, I was under no circumstances aspect of the vogue environment. Even now, I just cannot find the money for to invest in into that earth of haute couture,” states So.
“But I realised that I appreciate cultural clothing as considerably as substantial style, and I began exploring the magnificence and glamour current in other kinds of clothing I could entry, garments that were being familiar to me like kimonos and the common Chinese cheongsam.”
So commenced to examine the artistic opportunities at the intersection of photography, performance and textiles when researching fine art at the Victorian Faculty of the Arts. With no formal sewing or manner structure education, he would sneak into the costume department and ask the workers if he could use the sewing equipment to experiment with creating kimonos and cheongsam in no matter what cloth he could uncover.
Now represented by major Australian modern day artwork gallery, MARS Gallery, So’s exercise has evolved to be highly analysis-led, drawing from his own Thai and Chinese cultural heritage in conjunction with narratives from vogue, queer lifestyle and well-liked-society inspiring his performances as alluring woman characters. Be it a Kabuki theatre star, an aria-singing operatic femme, or his own drag alter-moi, Scarlett So Hung Son, fashion and clothing are the general performance guise via which the artist explores tradition and identification.
“The additional I conduct as distinct figures, the a lot more I explore who I am as an artist and a person. Various silhouettes give you diverse postures, and a distinctive emotion when you put on them,” So suggests.
“When I was rising up in Hong Kong I wore fits a lot, and they made me feel refined, and so I carried myself in a specified way. When I moved to Australia, I truly produced my drag and functionality art, and I carried myself differently when putting on garments like the cheongsam and kimono. With this change of physical motion arrives a change of identity,” he provides.
So’s exuberant innovative standpoint has gained him general performance and commission possibilities at some of Australia’s most high-profile art and culture events, like NGV Triennial (2020), Melbourne Art Honest (2022) and Image 2022. Wherever will the subsequent So-extravaganza pop up? RISING’s Golden Square, an immersive art carpark where by you’ll be mesmerised by an iridescent So dressed as the Chinese moon goddess in a holographic organza robe that drifts ethereally by the room, amongst other guises. He will also present a lifetime-dimensions hologram of himself undertaking as drag character Scarlett So Hung Son. Sci-fi-seductive, think holographic Kate Moss for Alexander McQueen Slide/Winter 2006.
Like a lot of millennials, So also grew up looking at vogue truth Tv displays like America’s Subsequent Major Design and Venture Runway, exactly where he was first introduced to conditions like ‘high fashion’ and ‘haute couture.’ He remembers being captivated by the editorial photos he saw on display screen, and would try to perform out how they have been produced, or what he liked about their composition. Then one working day, he found Alexander McQueen.
“I would look at his shows and they blew my mind each and every time. I was witnessing reside art, not manner. What McQueen put on the runway was, by some benchmarks, deemed ‘ugly’, but you definitely couldn’t halt on the lookout at it, significantly collections like Voss from 2001. That just one actually hit me tough,” he says.
Artists and designers usually favour a recurring stylistic motif, which permeates their do the job as their apply evolves. For So, it is the cheongsam. With its elegant standing collar and type-fitting proportions, this traditional Chinese women’s evening costume has been reimagined by the artist in a assortment of supplies which includes these crimson, blue and white nylon storage bags and, additional lately, a Louis Vuitton-design and style monogram printed material.
“My do the job is about truths. Initially the Louis Vuitton monogram was encouraged by a Japanese relatives crest. So is the cheongsam I’ve produced from this reproduction material motivated by Louis Vuitton, or by Japanese tradition and historical past?” So muses.
“If I’m in drag on the lookout wonderful donning faux Louis Vuitton, does it matter if what I’m putting on is fake or real? After all, I’m not a real woman both. I believe I’m generating an illusion, and that is what matters. If you seem high priced and present your self in a specified way, people seriously are captivated by your aura, and abruptly, it’s not about how much you paid for your purse.”
And a stylish closing word from Scotty So?
“Of course, my advice is to go for the serious point. If you can afford to pay for the Hermès Birkin, definitely go for it.”
See Scotty So perform are living at Climbing Melbourne.