Clothes Make the Man

A recent student exhibit in VCAM contemplates masculinity and the family closet.

Last month Eli Baden-Lasar ’21 took advantage of one of the new Create Spaces in the VCAM building and displayed a personal project titled Clothes Make the Man. The installation was a projected video inside a closet of self-portraits of Baden-Lasar posing in different clothes. The photos came one after another, often with a sort of quick rhythm, giving them an effect of movement. There were also two accompanying MP3 players and headphones, which Baden-Lasar included in order to add mood to the installation.

Baden-Lasar discovered the clothes featured in the photos—from his great-grandmother’s wedding veil to his grandfather’s medical scrubs and his sister’s prom dress—in his family’s closets. He sees this project as an archive, of sorts, of not just the clothing, but his family, some of whom are no longer alive.

“Basically, it’s about my relationship to all the material that has accumulated in my family’s closet, that comes from all these different family members who I didn’t really have a relationship to,” he said. “It is about growing up and discovering these objects that are, in my eyes, alienated from their past. They are clues that I closely inspected in the hopes of understanding my family’s past, but at the same time they are also just pieces of fabric that can’t really reveal anything concrete. So wearing them the closest I can get to contacting these people.”

The idea to wear the clothes himself sprung from his long standing interest in fashion and a childhood spent playing dress up.

“A lot of my photography is about the transformative aspect of dressing up,” said Baden-Lasar, who shot the exhibit over winter break.

One of the student workers at the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, Baden-Lasar was inspired to share the project publicly after speaking with Kelly Jung ’17, the Center’s post-baccalaureate fellow, who asked him if he had a project he would want to propose for the exhibition space. The VCAM Create Spaces and Exhibition Wall are reservable for up to two-week intervals for curricular and co-curricular experimental media and performance projects, digital pedagogy, and small-scale exhibitions. In just the VCAM’s inaugural year, these spaces have held lots of different student work, ranging from photo exhibits to sculptural installations made and curated by students across many majors.

“This building is such a great opportunity—and so are the programs that run through here—to give students the chance to display their work and get feedback,” said Baden-Lasar. “It’s definitely exciting to see all the ways in which it can be used by the community.”

Photos by Lisa Boughter.