Georgina Starr | The Bunny Lake Collection | 2000
Single screen video installation with catwalk & costumes / 9 minutes
Performed at Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Genova in 2000 and 49th Venice Biennale in 2001
The Bunny Lake Collection
Text by Dave Beech published in The Bunny Lakes catalogue, 2002
Georgina Starr's The Bunny Lake Collection, the second of the Bunny Lakes series, was first shown as a live catwalk event at Pinksummer gallery, Genoa, in October 2000 and later at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. In it, the themes developed in The Bunny Lakes Are Coming, of a young girl's victimization and an incipient narrative of avenging violence, were criss-crossed with the craving and glamour of haute-couture. It is not unusual for tailored slits and holes to decorate the surfaces of fashion, and so The Bunny Lake Collection might at first appear unremarkable. It disguises its butchery well with chic virtuosity. As the traces of violence accumulate, the façade of fashion's innocuousness tears into shreds. After seeing a keyhole top no longer as an erotic promise but a formalized sign of attack, every hem is a scar; every button hole a wound. When the model struts across the catwalk with her head covered by a hood without an opening, the implied asphyxiation or disposal is too brutal to regard as a mere stylistic flourish. When a model turns up decorated with the remains of a bush around her neck, the game is up, you might think. But Starr is less interested in the identification of the political unconscious of fashion, than the transposition of narrative into product, taking Bunny Lake's horrific loss and wearing it.
So, the theme never fully settles. Bunny Lake is not a hero of the struggle against the commodification of femininity, nor is she an icon of ironic submission. If anything, she is a casualty of her own virtue. Nice folk who remind us that the suffering children don't deserve the pain, abuse and savagery doled out to them miss the point entirely. It is the purity and goodness of these precious beings that singles them out for ritual corruption. Bunny Lake is a kind of martyr, then; which is just another way of saying that her private and very lonely hell stands in for a general trauma. (I think this is why Starr converts Bunny Lake into the plural right from the start.) Which is why, when Starr reanimates Bunny as a mob of cute looking vigilantes, we get behind their aggression, because their violence corresponds to our anguish. In The Bunny Lakes are Coming the gang prepare to attack the occupants of cars at a drive-in, for The Bunny Lake Collection, they burst in at end of the catwalk show and gun down the models. Infant Charlies Angels they are not; the Bunny Lakes aren’t on the side of law and order, they want more than that.
In the video of the events that led up to the catwalk massacre, one of the Bunny Lakes dashes across the road, peers down a lane and then beckons the others to join her. It is a stock scene from TV shows like Starsky and Hutch or war films that focus on an elite band of men who go behind enemy lines. The gesture connotes action, adventure, danger and impending conflict. At the same time, of course, we are being beckoned too. The shot has the effect of massed voices joining in on the chorus of a catchy song, encouraging you to sing along by proxy. Maybe we are all the Bunny Lakes. From this point on, anyway, we are at the very least with them. And we are still with them when they cut down the models with their pistols. Blood-splattered dresses on a pile of catwalk models do not add up, however, to a manifesto against the fashion industry; the bloodstains are too beautiful, too decorative, for that. So, the avoidance of pat political answers has an aesthetic correlate in the Bunny Lakes’murder spree: we can't tell whether the bloodstains ruin the dresses or complete them. What we do know is that the Bunny Lakes have got away. And with the sorry state of our society, and the depth of the Bunny Lakes’ pain, no field of human activity can safely say it is not in line for the Bunny Lakes’wrath.
Short Documentary made for RAI TV in 2000 on the eve of the
performance of The Bunny LAke Collection in Genova, Italy.