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Lose yourself inside a labyrinth of high fashion and immersive design

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum hosts the latest Gucci Garden iteration. It’s an immersive experience bringing together fashion, design, psychology and pop culture in a multisensory walk-through exhibition.

Lose yourself inside a labyrinth of high fashion and immersive design

Gucci Garden Archetypes is here in Australia, the seventh stop around the world since expanding from its permanent home in Florence. Focusing on Alessandro Michele’s time as creative director since 2015, the exhibition draws attention to the fundamental – dare we say, archetypal – philosophies behind his aesthetic.

This exhibition is about much more than products, advertising or objects. Design studio Archivio Personale has created nothing less than a multisensory spatial experience touching on memory, desire, sexuality, politics and aesthetics. Passing through eight distinct rooms, it is an experience ranging from sumptuous, seductive and nostalgic to mesmerising, humorous and even disorientating.

“I thought it was interesting to accompany people in these almost eight years of adventure, inviting them to cross the imaginary, the narrative, the unexpected, the glitter. So, I created a playground of emotions that are the same as in the campaigns, because they are the most explicit journey into my imagery,” says Michele. 

Part of the play in this playground is a sense of getting lost as sharp sensory contrasts mark the threshold transitions from one room to the next.

Related: RONE exhibition in Flinders Street Station

The first room, Gucci Dans Les Rues, recreates the spectacle of May ’68 in France with wall grafitti before the second bombards the visitor with with television noise. The multisensory journey continues with smell in the Gucci Bloom room and, via a 1980s Berlin toilet stop, arrives at the kaleidoscopic mirror room.

Designed to represent continuous desire, the mirrored Gucci Collectors installation comments on the collector’s obsession. The experience here is nothing less than vertiginous, a striking achievement in such a small space. Similarly, the final room is a convincing representation of a moving train, complete with a mannequin’s hair blowing by the window.

In between are pieces that take famous Gucci campaigns and recontextualise them to be read anew by contemporary audiences in Australia. Who quite knows, for example, how today’s visitor will read the Dionysus dancefloor that references Gucci’s Cruise 2016 campaign? It features images of slow-motion dancing in an Italian mansion interspersed with bush scenery and set to a Joy Division cover song.

As Lisa Havilah, Powerhouse chief executive, says, “Alessandro Michele never fails to push us forward into diverse, contemporary visual worlds that we have yet to imagine.”

The installations are almost like set designs in their level of execution and detail. They are totally immersive, with no sense of being in the Powerhouse or even Sydney once inside. Each room – as well as the jarring juxtapositions between them – provides a playful but challenging text to read for the visitor.

In fact, the exhibition is an experience to be had regardless of any pre-existing Gucci knowledge. It engages directly the oeuvre of Michele but it is just as much a generally arresting, enjoyable and thought-provoking spatial journey.

Gucci Garden Archetypes is at The Powerhouse Museum Sydney from November 17th to January 15th and entry is free.

Powerhouse Museum

Tyrone Branigan

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