threeASFOUR: MER KA BA

September 15, 2013 - February 2, 2014

The New York-based fashion collective threeASFOUR presents its latest project, MER KA BA, an otherworldly installation that fuses avant-garde couture, architecture, and video projections. Inspired by sacred geometry and tile patterns found in synagogues, churches, and mosques around the world, the exhibition brings together ancient motifs and contemporary design aesthetics to reflect the group’s hybrid identity and utopian vision.

MER KA BA presents the spring – summer 2014 fashion collection of the avant-garde design team threeASFOUR. The clothing line and its environment are inspired by sacred geometry and tile patterns found in churches, synagogues, and mosques throughout the world. In the work of threeASFOUR ancient symbols meet contemporary design: myriad traditions blend to mirror the group’s hybrid identity and utopian vision.

The three designers were born into different cultures: Gabriel Asfour is from Lebanon, Adi Gil from Israel, and Angela Donhauser from Tajikistan. Their approach to fashion is poetic and socially conscious. For threeASFOUR, couture is about more than just beautiful clothes; it is both wearable art and a platform for their free-spirited philosophy. For the nine sculptural dresses featured in MER KA BA, they use laser-cut lace, origami pleats, and 3D-printed textiles to unite symbolic patterns from diverse religions.

threeASFOUR aims to encourage cross-cultural harmony through fashion. The title MER KA BA embraces many spiritual concepts: Merkaba is a mystical form of Judaism; ka ba alludes to the Kaaba, one of the holiest sites in Islam and the focal point of the Mecca pilgrimage; Muraqaba is a Sufi meditation practice.

But the phrase has even older roots. In ancient Egypt the hieroglyphs mer (rotating light), ka (spirit), and ba (body), placed together, describe the energy field through which the soul enters the body and ascends to higher planes. In contemporary New Age belief merkaba is a vehicle of transcendence; this idea is represented as two pyramids, interlaced to form a three-dimensional six-pointed star.

In the ethereal space of the gallery merkaba is everywhere, from the dress designs to the temple of mirrors (arranged in a flower-of-life pattern) and the glowing animations of the five Platonic solids that light the room. The museum is transformed into a sanctuary in which visitors are invited to reflect on their own spiritual path.

ABOUT THE DESIGNERS

Gabriel Asfour (b. Beirut, 1966), Angela Donhauser (b. Dushanbe, 1971), and Adi Gil (b. Tel Aviv, 1974) first worked together under the clothing label AsFOUR in 1998. Since 2005 the trio has been known as threeASFOUR. Their experimental clothes have been exhibited at the Musée Galliera–Musée de la Mode de la Ville, Paris (2002), Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (2003), the Museum at FIT (2005), and the Mode Biënnale Arnhem (2007, 2011). Their designs are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In 2007 threeASFOUR collaborated with the artist Matthew Barney on the performance piece The Guardian of the Veil, staged at the Manchester Opera House. The designers also worked with the painter Matthew Ritchie on the live performance of Hypermusic: Ascension at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2010. They have collaborated on ready-to-wear collections with Kate Spade (2005) and Gap (2007). Björk and Yoko Ono, among others, have worn threeASFOUR fashions.

MER KA BA was created by threeASFOUR in collaboration with:

Studio Christian Wassmann, exhibition design
Bradley Rothenberg, 3D-printed textiles
Alex Czetwertynski, 3D animations
Raz Mesinai, music
The exhibition was coordinated by Rebecca Shaykin, Leon Levy Assistant Curator.
threeASFOUR: MER KA BA is presented by the Jewish Museum and Art Production Fund.
The exhibition is made possible by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust.
Generous support is provided by Yoko Ono, the Leon Levy Foundation, Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, and Dr. and Mrs. Steven Rothenberg. In-kind support is provided by Materialise and Bruce Gitlin and Milgo/Bufkin.
Art Production Fund is dedicated to commissioning and producing ambitious public art projects, reaching new audiences and expanding awareness through contemporary art.

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