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Fashion art installation questions what it means to be you

September 5, 2018
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This Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 photo shows a display as part of an immersive art show by Simon Huck, ahead of the official start of New York Fashion Week. The show serves as both commentary on the touchy nature of body modifications today and the external focus and force of the fashion industry. (AP Photo/Leanne Italie)

NEW YORK (AP) — High heels that are part of your feet. Matching bespoke beating hearts. Bioreactive necklaces and bioluminescent filaments that serve as a Medusa-esque back ornament.

Enter the world of A. Human, a fictional brand on Mercer Street that serves as both commentary on the touchy nature of body modifications today and the external focus and force of the fashion industry. And, also, what it means to be, well, you.

The immersive art show was thought up by Simon Huck, who enlisted Kim Kardashian West, Chrissy Teigen and some of his other famous friends to tease his Disney World for grown-ups that comes complete with a gift shop and an invitation to the public to walk through all month — for $40 a ticket.

The idea is that A. Human, and its spring-summer 2019 collection from the future, can help you reimagine your body, but not in a Dr. Frankenstein way. These modifications, a mouthful of marble tooth inlays, for instance, or bony turquoise-colored barnacles at the shoulders (color options available), are more about self-expression than vain alterations aimed at cultural acceptance.

“How do you make body modifications not scary? That was our biggest challenge. How do you create a world where they can be stylish and inviting and not invoke that ‘ew’ feeling that you sometimes get when you look at body modifications? That was part of the ethos of A. Human,” explained Huck during a walk-through Tuesday, ahead of the official start of New York Fashion Week.

“If you could as easily change your body as you change your clothing, would you? That’s the biggest question that we’re asking,” he said.

Huck offers up his body changes instead of clothes. His team includes a specialist in transhumanism working alongside the guy who thought of Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Nicola Formichetti, among others. Huck started thinking it up about a year ago and went to work six months later.

There are modifications for special occasions, nights out on the town or romantic gestures, such as the two hearts with identical infrastructure and housed in your body and that of your spouse or best friend. There’s the Carnaval for the party crowd, a set of transdermal blacklit implants that present as sculptured ridges by day but lit-up flares at the club.

How about some pink living eyelashes that respond to music, lighting and mood, with growth patterns that can be adjusted at will? The Ursula includes bioreactive gemstones at the neck with culture keratin. It looks like sea treasure and can be customized.

Kardashian West didn’t need much convincing when Huck told her of the project. She dreamed up an implanted necklace with LED technology that syncs with one’s heart.

“It’s a very popular piece in our collection,” Huck deadpanned. “Kim knew within seconds, this is how I want it to look, this is how I want it to feel.”

As for “biological heels,” they come in three varieties in Huck’s not-so-dystopian fashion world that merges science and architecture.

“Part of A. Human is we wanted it to feel familiar,” Huck said. “We didn’t want it to be quintessential scary.”

While his theories take on the future, way off or perhaps not too distant, some of his models were very much alive, showing off the pieces in clear boxes mounted on walls, only heads and shoulders showing, or in black installations, their bodies also mostly hidden in what is made to look like soil.

In the planning process, Huck’s folly was serious.

“How do you thought provoke in a world where everything is so headline filled? Especially the fashion world,” he said. “The No. 1 criteria for how we built these modifications is that they cannot be built on any existing insecurity or beauty norms or expectations that are in present-day society. They all had to be rooted in self-expression and curiosity.”

Driving that idea is the notion that self-expression can be completely internal.

“I think that challenges a lot,” Huck said, “especially when it comes to fashion expectations.”

Huck’s guests enter to a kindly voice inviting them to enjoy the ride, with this question in mind: “I am myself and nobody else. Leave what it means to be you at the door.”

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