Lisson Gallery

'Elaine Cameron-Weir “A WAY OF LIFE” Lisson Gallery / New York' – Flash Art

5 April 2024

The trench coat — a nearly universal item of clothing prized for both its fashion and functionality — was born in the middle of an epoch-defining disaster. Made of lightweight and water-resistant gabardine by Thomas Burberry and his eponymous fashion house, it served two purposes in World War I: to shield British troops from the deadly dampness and chill of trench warfare, and to indicate the status of the higher-ranking officers who were permitted to wear them with add-on adornments such as epaulettes or shoulder straps. When these soldiers returned home after the war, they kept their coats, and the coat gained popularity among Brits for both its form and utility. Exemplified by Burberry’s elegantly tailored version, the trench remained popular through the Second World War and into the 1950s, when it became a garment of choice for film noir antiheroes. In the last half of the twentieth century, though, it lost some of its military poise and polish. A looser leather version became a favorite of anti-establishment punks, and the coat’s ability to conceal gave it an air of criminality in pop culture – a common costume for flashers, dealers, and school shooters. This brings us to the present day, where the trench can be found both on the street and the runway. Far removed from their wartime origins, trenches and “military-style” items such as camouflage are hardly associated with their violent beginnings. They are civilians now.

Fashion’s warm embrace of military signifiers is a frequent motif in “A WAY OF LIFE,” Elaine Cameron-Weir’s first show for the Chelsea outpost of London’s Lisson Gallery. Known for her industrial and conceptually driven practice that made her a breakout star in 2022’s Venice Biennale, Cameron-Weir explores capitalism’s enduring fascination with the aesthetics of doomsday and disaster — from world wars to the Second Coming and all of the dystopian TV shows and novels in between — at a time when the end-times seem very near.

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'Elaine Cameron-Weir “A WAY OF LIFE” Lisson Gallery / New York' – Flash Art
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