FASHION REVIEW: SWEAT challenges the heteronormativity of the fashion world

The elevator takes me to the seventh floor in an old, beautiful building. I enter a deserted room. White walls and grey floors come into my view, and the only noise is the echo of my shoes sliding across the bare concrete floor. From the ceiling hang some old towels with embroidery. They send my thoughts back to my granny’s smoky living room with her embroidered pillows. Not exactly what I had imagined, when I read about the gender critical and experimental artists who are behind this artwork.

The Exhibition SWEAT by Aaron Billings ans Elwyn Murray consists seven towels with gender critical embroidery. Photo by Sofie Lerche.

I am in Nicolas Building at Swanson Street in Melbourne to see the Blindside Exhibition as a part of VAMFF. A free event is on every Tuesday to Saturday, 12 am to 6 pm until Saturday the 25th of March. The Melbourne-based artists Aaron Billings and Elwyn Murray are presenting the exhibition SWEAT.

I walk close to the first towel; a smile comes to my lips and I observe that this embroidery is far from comparable to my granny’s pillows. In front of my eyes is a motif portraying two naked men making love. The rear man stands upright, while he at the same time penetrates and raises the other man, who is peeing. The image is neatly embroidered in navy and baby blue shades on the white gym-towel. I go further and see the other six towels have just as sexual and funny motifs.

Two men making love is embroidered in one of the seven towels. This motif is by Aaron Billings. Photo by Sofie Lerche.

As an artist, Aaron Billings mostly works with embroidery in addition to running his independent fashion label ‘Bats of Leisure’. Elwyn Murray is a visual artist, who explores and challenges the human body and sexuality. This united masterpiece shows the two men planting at the same time a humorous and thought-provoking commentary on the body ideals that characterize the current fashion festival.

In VAMFF filled with red lipped girls and broad-shouldered men, it is empowering to see this gender liberating work of art. Is it pretty? I don’t think so. But I love the way these artists are challenging the heteronormativity of the fashion world.

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