Opening after a mostly boring New York Fashion Week, K8 Hardy’s “Fashionfashion, 2002–2006” continues the artist’s ongoing fashion revanche with four large-scale zines, each blown up from originals the artist produced in the 2000s. Consisting mostly of self-portraits and handwritten text about ghosts, the zines fleer magazine beauty by staging the artist and some friends (dressed up, dressed down) in thrifty editorials. Part avant couture, part “riot grrrlesque,”Fashionfashion resituates the fashion image (“for the opposition,” one page reads), stripping it of its slickness to reveal its feminist, wry, DIY potential. Literalizing the idea of the spread, for example, Hardy opens her legs in one photograph to reveal bloodstained, dollar-sign-patterned underwear, what Hardy calls her “money shot.”
“The essence of fashion might be optimism, a malleability that makes it possible for misery and ugliness to be transubstantiated,” writes Ariana Reines in a Bomb interview with Hardy. In Fashionfashion, as in her popular Instagram feed, the transubstantiation of the body (mostly Hardy’s) across its presentational spectrum does something much of this year’s NYFW failed to do: It reveals, rather than conceals, the body’s expressive differences. Hardy’s text also considers the eerier, spectral life of our bodies’ images, reminding us that the self-portrait is a static likeness that continues to haunt (and influence) its subject even as it ages and changes: “The ghost,” Hardy writes, “is the thing that makes the way we look or the way we think we look.” Flipping the pages of the variously styled self, Hardy searches for a K8 that seems mostly elusive, mostly always different. Or: mostly always K8. We look good when we look like ourselves, whatever that might be at the time.