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Hong Kong Design Week

During the Hong Kong Design Week 2011, the three curators Li Mei Tsien, Sébastien Cruyt and Marie Pok opted for a non-traditional exhibition. In the old police headquarters they put a playful and interactive installation on display with references to popular Hong Kong cultural practices. This installation is composed of basic ‘Made in China’ cotton T-shirts printed with designs by architects, designers and couturiers. Each T-shirt is printed with a distinctive design, draft or sketch by one of the selected candidates, featuring Kristof Buntinx, among others. This concept is the Belgian answer to Ai Wei Wei’s and Rei Kawakubo’s installation in the Comme des Garçons Dover Street Market shop window.

In the T-shirt presented here, Kristof capitalises on the multiple interpretations of the word “crow” (“corbeau” in French, which when pronounced also sounds like “corps beau” (“a beautiful body”). In addition to the reference to surrealism, this T-shirt illustrates how the human mind works, namely through the “signifier” or acoustic image (French: “signifiant” or “image acoustique”) of the words (which therefore do not have to be rendered in the grammatically correct sequence). The wearer of the T-shirt shows the world through the symbol of the crow that he has a beautiful body.
Kristof’s creations therefore also illustrate Ferdinand de Saussure’s language theory, which was based on the field of tension between word and image, or more specifically, between “signifier” (“signifiant”) and “signified” (“signifié”). In his language theory this linguist postulated that there is no fixed connection between the level of signifiers, in other words, the level of that with which we indicate something and the level of the signified. Furthermore, he postulated that there is no hierarchical connection between both levels. In his opinion therefore the language does not prevail over the visual image. The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan drew inspiration from this linguistic belief for the further development of the Freudian theory. He nonetheless did put forward that there is an actual hierarchical connection between signifier and signified, insofar as the signifier prevails over the signified. The latter is perfectly illustrated by Kristof’s creations, namely the signifier “corps beau” opens up several signifieds, here both the “crow” and the “beautiful body”.

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