Like her longtime collaborator Kanye West, Italian performance artist Vanessa Beecroft doesn't prioritize starting on time. Or at least that's the message that her artist talk at The House of Peroni on Thursday afternoon seemed to communicate, after a series of technical difficulties and general lack of organization delayed the event.
The talk, which followed two short videos of Beecroft's work — the first of a gallery installation featuring nude, painted women lying alongside lifelike sculptures in similar poses, the second featuring highlights from Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden — was essentially an extended Q&A with the artist, and focused heavily on her work with 'Ye.
"I consider my work his. I trust his vision so much," she said, emphasizing their artistic unity. She acknowledged that the compromises necessary to make any creative partnership work are sometimes difficult for her, noting that at times his ideas are "too hip" for her taste. But she also asserted that there is no other creative figure she'd rather collaborate with, calling their relationship "fated."
The dreamy positivity with which she affirmed their recent presentations together might have made more sense if she gave the talk two days earlier. The recap video of Yeezy Season 3 was a great reminder that, despite some mixed reviews, West's "The Life of Pablo" album release/fashion show last season enchanted many of fashion's elite just by virtue of being so different than the average industry event. Plus, the way he blended fashion, music and consumer-facing access (it streamed on Tidal! you could buy merch!) seemed like it might help shift the fashion week paradigm in a bigger way.
But then Yeezy Season 4 happened, and the fashion press found themselves wondering, Why are we letting him get away with this? "This" being, of course, derailing editors' schedules for hours to bus them across the city, making them sweat for more hours in the summer heat due to start-time delays, showing unimaginative clothing and, most notably, letting models get to the point of heat exhaustion that they were literally hobbling and/or fainting during the presentation.
The industry response to the show has been so unanimously dismissive that at first it seemed Beecroft was avoiding talking about it on purpose. "I don't have much to say," she said, when an audience member first brought up Yeezy Season 4. But once she warmed to the topic, she really warmed. "I was impressed on Roosevelt Island," she said. "I was moved. There was a much more vigorous vision in the clothing, a much more developed language."
While many critics disagree with her about the clothes — so far, "boring" seems to be the descriptor of choice — it was Beecroft's comment about the experience of the audience that made her really seem disconnected from how the presentation was received. "Everyone was in a state of meditation," she claimed. "The long wait before — I think it was planned, because he wanted the audience to get into this state of having to observe, and having to stay. I loved it."
If fashion Twitter is any indication, it would seem she was alone in that. Perhaps she confused the glazed eyes that accompany heat, thirst and boredom with a "state of meditation?" After all, she's an artist, not a meditation guru or health professional — not that this fact stopped her from declaring with confidence that the models' fainting was caused by something "not physical."
"I'm not sure why some people faint," she said. "My hypothesis is that it could be their level of emotion, stress. It's not physical. It's maybe that the situation is so intense — people are looking at you, you're standing. [At Yeezy Season 4], it was because they were overwhelmed."
Having models faint during her performances is nothing new to Beecroft, as subjects in her own art installations have fainted on multiple occasions in the past. The physical demands made on her models have been roundly criticized by many, with feminist art collective Toxic Titties going so far as to stage an intervention and write an academic paper on the problems with Beecroft's treatment of models.
If Beecroft has heard tell of these critiques, however, she doesn't seem particularly concerned with changing the way she does things. "I'm sorry it happened, but at the same time I wouldn't know how to prevent it," she said.
In short: If any changes are made to address the shortcomings of the latest Yeezy presentation the next time around, they won't be due to Beecroft's initiative.