Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

A preview of the exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from May 5 through September 5, 2016.

Featuring Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge, The Costume Institute

The Costume Institute's spring 2016 exhibition, presented in the Museum's Robert Lehman Wing, will explore how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.


Andrew Bolton: I think the show is going to be a surprise to people, because what we're trying to do is debunk some of the mythologies around the handmade and the machine-made. Traditionally the handmade has been seen as being about luxury, about superiority; it's also been seen as something that's elitist. Whereas the machine has been about progress and the future. On the other side it's been about mediocrity and dehumanization. I'm finding that those values don't really hold up.

Sometimes a garment that's been machine-made actually has more hours spent on it, is more luxurious than doing it by hand. The dichotomy is really a distinction between the model and the multiple. The haute couture is made for one client, it fits one body, whereas ready-to-wear is about mass production; it's about sizes that are standardized.

The exhibition itself is structured around Diderot's Encyclopedia of the Arts, Sciences, and Crafts. It's the first time that fashion and manual labor was elevated to the same status as arts and sciences. We've worked very closely with our conservation department to create a sort of DNA reading of every garment, almost like a medical record of what is handmade and what is machine-made.

The intent is to slow down the fashion system. People are so preoccupied by the next thing that there's a lack of appreciation in the making of fashion. And so the exhibition tries to force people to look without any expectations or any barrier between the gaze and the garment itself.

Director: Christopher Noey
Producer: Kate Farrell
Editor: Sarah Cowan
Camera: Kelly Richardson, Dia Felix, Sarah Cowan
Lighting Director: Ned Hallick
Gaffers: Corey Gailit, Foster McLaughlin
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Music: Austin Fisher

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