Does “fashion as art” need cinema?

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Alexis Boling / Harmonium Films / Rolando Rolly Robinson

My boyfriend’s reaction upon showing him this extraordinary fashion film was: “too much drugs.” But is that really what Rolando “Rolly” Robinson is about? Who is the person behind the make-up, glitters and pompons? And why is precisely fashion so important to him, even when he is making tea or watering the plants behind closed doors?

When dressed up, Rolly’s presence can’t possibly be ignored. Confusion, amazement, fascination, disapproval… many emotions are evoked in passersby, maybe all at the same time. Rolly quite literally alienates himself from the everyday urban landscape of NYC: “Sometimes I create these scenarios in my head, like you’re this alien creature and you just landed on earth.” In a hugely diverse fashion industry hub like NYC, it might seem impossible to distinguish oneself through fashion – someone else is always already a step ahead.

But then there is Rolly, who seems to in a way transcend all (changing) fashion rules, and who wears what is thought to be unwearable. For him, dressing up is less about participating in an existing sartorial debate. Rather, he says to feel most beautiful whilst doing ordinary things, “the idea of getting dressed up without going anywhere.” Fashion is his way of “radiating energy” through the reenforcement of a strong physical presence. The sartorial element as an extension of the body becomes the ultimate means of exploring all the possible forms that the human physics can adopt – to see the basic human body anew through the perspective of the non-human. It becomes a means of self-exploring and discovery.

It is also an attempt to elevate the natural body to art. Rolly’s presence is defined by artifice, which is the product of human intellect. And when following Baudelaire in his famous work The Painter of Modern Life, the more artificial creations like fashion and make-up are outspoken, the more beautiful they become (read more about this reasoning here). Art should always be a reflection of a certain moment in time rather than an imitation of what has already been — and what way better to do this than through the temporally living body? Fashion and make-up become a way of expressing an inner philosophy, in this case to create a vibrant presence that maximizes or optimizes the physical form we are given as human beings, to experience and define it to the fullest. To see the own body as a privilege that could be taken away at any given moment.

Rolly's artistic presence is equally an inspiration for other artists.

Does this make of fashion a medium that is capable of raising the natural body to art? The opinions on this are without doubt widely divergent, depending on your definition of art. What makes the question more interesting though is the intervention of the film medium. Does fashion, and personas like Rolly Robinson need film in order for them to be considered as art? How is he perceived differently on the street in real life and in this fashion film? More is More proves that Rolly’s presence is certainly interesting cinematically, but outside of the screen this might be less obvious. The difficulty might lie in the fact that Rolly uses his own body as his canvas. And there is a difference between saying that someone is art, rather than what he/she does, or a representation of him/her through another form of art like cinema, photography or painting.

Pitch: do you consider Rolly’s appearance as art, and do you make a distinction between his real-life presence and his presence on the screen?

Feel free to share your thoughts below!

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