Fashion week has spawned a new sport: extreme grooming. In Alia Raza’s film installation “The Fragile Black Blossoms Emit a Hypnotic Cascade of Tropical Perfume Whose Sweet Heady Odor Leaves Its Victim Intoxicated”—which doubled as Trasteverine’s Fall ’08 presentation—she explores the self-abandonment that can occur during intense beauty rituals. To wit, in one segment Devendra Banhart flails his arms and writhes around on the floor in a Trasteverine dress as he sprays himself with perfume for 28 minutes—the exact amount of time it takes to empty the bottle. In the second and third segments, which were screened on separate walls, Chloë Sevigny performs an involved, multistep skincare regimen for 28 minutes, and musician Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux repeatedly shaves her legs over a bathtub for the same amount of time. At the film’s opening last night at the Greene Naftali gallery, Sevigny explained that they were partly inspired by Polanski’s psychological horror “Repulsion” (1965), in which Catherine Deneuve descends into mental illness while looking like, well, Catherine Deneuve. “I’m losing my mind in my apartment,” Sevigny says of her role. “I do a ten-step process, and in the end, I feel like I haven’t cleansed myself and start again.” We asked if the experience resonated with her. “There’s that idea [beauty rituals] can make us more beautiful, and yeah, I do it.” And for the record, Raza and her team didn’t skimp on the products they used: Sevigny slathers herself with creams from Kiehl’s and Jurlique, and that scent Banhart spritzes himself with is Tuberose from L’Artisan Parfumeur—Raza’s signature fragrance.
(Note: Congratulations to Alia Raza, my supremely gifted artist-film director niece, on this dazzling success!)