Fantasy: Jean Paul Gaultier

By Leah Sinclair


I don’t like dreams or reality. I like when dreams become reality because that is my life.

– Jean Paul Gaultier.

In a dream structure is based upon the raw and primal hungers of our mind. We walk in worlds that may seem to be like our own but their construction bends and defies the logic we have come to associate with our walking state. Unlike the waking world where there is regularity, an assumption of normality, of the union between function and form that dominates, even subtly the ways we move, present and perform ourselves. This banality of the real infects us, it infects our art. To create beyond the confines of the waking is to be in dialogue with the subconscious dream state.

And that is the work of Jean Paul Gaultier. He is an artist whose work is the union between pure fantasy and that uncanny space that exists in that moment when we slip from the surreal and into the expected. His work, currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum is a testament to his ability to mold reality.


He imagines and through his work, expresses a world where bodies of all shapes, and bodies of all sizes, exist in exposing their inner desire through their outer vestiges. For Gaultier clothing is not simply worn, it is expressed. An extension of the body, that exposes the soul, his works dare to ask us, what would we look like clothed in dreams.

At his current show however we are not just guided into dreams, questions are asked of us. Onto the manikins are projected faces that react, sing, cry and watch us as we wander through the gallery space. The uncanny looks of these digital creatures guide us into the fantasy; paradoxically, as in a dream the inanimate takes on the mantle of the real. In this state of altered reality, one finds themselves asking such absurd questions as who is this manikin, what is her or his story. How does this look articulate its digital heart? Within this show one cannot deny these manikins agency. They look back at us, they see us. We are locked in a dialogue of inspecting one another, forever incapable of conversing.

Outside this gallery the fantasy that guides contemporary culture is that we don’t have to truly see our fellow person; we only have to look at their garments. We judge individual by their surface, how their clothes act as indicators of social wealth, jobs and at times emotional states. We read garments as we do dust jackets. In subverting the normally blank canvas of the Manikin’s head, in giving it the life we often deny our fellow humans, Gaultier asks us to see the clothing as an extension of (digital) self, not the self’s totality. His clothes are personality, his clothes are dreams and aspirations, they are dimensions and expressions of the bodies cased within. To know his work you need to admire the person underneath the seams. What this gallery screams with all its heart, is that we need to see each other as art, and pay attention to one another, to admire one another with the same care and attention we show his work when we find it in a gallery.

His work is fantasy, his work is the substance of refined dreams; Gaultier is a modern day Morpheous.

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