Fashion students working on a dissertation or on their graduate collections rarely end up studying physics...unless they are enrolled at the Milan-based Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA). Here Ali Karami, one of the students from the Master in Fashion and Textile Design course, has devised a new theory - "Quantum Fashion" - a sort of scientific approach to design objects and fashion events.
Karami investigated his theories in his dissertation and developed them into a compact exhibition that recently opened at the local E27 gallery.
Curated by Cinzia Ruggeri and divided in five parts, the exhibition explores scientific principles via visual installations, informative stations and an alien-like tree of life made with yarns and threads that trap limbs and mysterious bulbous formations. A dummy on which glowing red and orange images morph into deep blues calls to mind the work of German physicist Max Planck and his discoveries on radiations in body at different temperatures.
In his analysis Karami tries to go beyond fashion, telling visitors that there could be other paths - scientific ones - to investigate fashion theories and find in this way more original inspirations for innovative designs.
You may argue that Quantum Theory is a baffling concept for many of us - even for scientists and researchers - and subatomic particles don't seem to have much to do with fashion. Yet Quantum Theory poses all sorts of strange questions that stretch the limits of our imagination and asking questions, investigating possibilities and finding new solutions are the solid principles applied to any creative process, even to the stages behind any fashion collection.
So, as much as Quantum Fashion may be considered as a rather unusual idea, Karami may actually be up to something: today's information technology, but also some aspects of chemical processing, molecular biology, and the discovery of new materials, rely on quantum theory, and the principles of quantum physics are constantly applied to an increasing number of areas, such as quantum optics, quantum computing, and quantum cryptography. So why not going for "Quantum Fashion"?
Can you tell us more about your background?
Ali Karami: I was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1979. My father works in the textile and clothing industry, while my mother is a housewife. I started working with my father when I was 7 years old. Due to my keen interest in physics and mathematical events, I decided to choose Physics in High School, and later on, I opted for Mechanical Engineering at university. Because of some external problems in the educational system of my country, I decided to leave university and, after two years of compulsory military service, I returned to work with my father in his company. During this time, I started collecting further information on fashion and design. The subject of fashion was not very popular in Iran at that time, as fashion has always been controlled by the Iranian government system. My research about design pointed me towards humanity subjects, so I decided to study Human Sciences and in particular Art History, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Biology. My goal was finding some connection between human beings and objects of design and therefore look at the relation between human beings and creativity. Studying fashion and design for a man in Iran is not that easy, so I moved to Turkey where, in 2005, I enrolled in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, graduating in 2009. While studying, I kept on researching issues linked with science and physics, with particular focus on quantum physics. Three years ago I moved to Milan to pursue further studies at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA) where I went for a Master in Fashion and Textile Design. These years in Milan gave me the opportunity to give a proper shape to my research: the concept of consciousness in quantum physics helped me giving order to all the inspirations and information I had gathered about fashion, creativity and human beings throughout the last few years. I did my dissertation on these subjects and graduated in July 2014.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices?
Ali Karami: It is difficult to choose one person since there have been many people who have greatly influenced my career choices - from my father with his helpful support to my great teachers. While researching quantum physics I was influenced by Carl Gustav Jung and his concept of collective unconsciousness in psychology; Dr. Bruce H. Lipton and his theory about Epigenetics and his researches on belief system and genes; and Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and his researches on Morphology. I also found the work of Dr Amit Goswami very interesting as it gave me a clearer understanding of Quantum Physics, and in particular his detailed explanation on the topic of consciousness in Quantum Physics.
Which disciplines inform your work - art, design, science, technology?
Ali Karami: Science, since I see "Quantum Fashion" as an innovative scientific approach to design objects and fashion events.
Can you introduce to us your installation on display at the Milan-based E27 Gallery?
Ali Karami: This is just my attempt at visualising the basic concepts of Quantum Fashion, which I explained in my dissertation - "Quantum Fashion and Fashion Codes". In the latter I explored how we can explain and analyse fashion designs and fashion trends by carefully looking at the characteristics and behaviour of base particles and waves, which were discovered by Quantum Physics. Another issue I tackle is how we can develop the concept of creativity in design, according to the concept of consciousness and collective consciousness in Quantum Physics. In my dissertation I also designed the comprehensive model to explain the communication system between Consciousness, the field of information and the world of matter - I called it "Fashion Consciousness Model" (FCM). The dissertation closes with my explanation of the comprehensive coding system to codify reality. All information and programs are made as a binary code in a computer system from two codes of 0 and 1, all reality is also made from limited codes, which exist in the field of information and in my work I also try and classify the codes of reality.
What fascinates you about Quantum Theory?
Ali Karami: The concept of consciousness, since it is suspended between the world of matter and the world of imagination.
And what did you discover about Quantum Theory that you didn't know while researching your collection?
Ali Karami: The concepts of collective consciousness and subjectivity. The subjective point of view will open new doors in every kind of science, while consciousness is the factor that affects the results of all experiments in different scientific fields.
There is an interesting dichotomy in your collection, on one side the fashion and artisanal elements (the yarn and thread sculptures with integrated lights...) and on the other the scientific references with the light projections: what does this dichotomy symbolise?
Ali Karami: What we call art and fashion design is a mixture of information codes that our consciousness chooses and sends to the brain; our brain receives them and projects them out there as reality. In this process there are many effective codes and factors that change our perception from the reality that consciousness designed for us to experience. I tried to show that the reality and environment around us are the result of the mixture of codes that consciousness chooses for us. In short, as Prof. Rupert Sheldrake stated, "brains are more like tuning devices, more like TV receivers than like video recorders". Therefore if we have a clear connection with the system of consciousness, we have the power of choosing our garments and outlooks, but also of entirely changing our body, altering it with different colours, shapes and forms.
Can you take us through the exhibition?
Ali Karami: The gallery is divided into five parts. In "QB" - or "Quantum Body" - different pieces of body limbs are intertwined with fabric and threads. For this part I was inspired by the concept of the morphogenetic field developed by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake who analyses the field of information which designs the form and shape of our limbs and states that the program for the shape of our limbs is not in our genes, but this information is in the invisible field of codes and information. By cutting and dividing the limbs of mankind and the pictures of faces of people from different parts of the world, I designed certain areas like the windows of the shop to symbolise the way we can decide to change the shape of our body and limbs just like we choose clothes from a shop. The second part is entitled "Collapsing the wave function" and here I projected images on the threads, inspired by the definition of collapsing the wave function in quantum physics as the projected image is clearer and more defined when all threads are not moving. The third part "Projecting the reality" looks at the projections of images on the body and in this part I moved from the concept of the projection of reality that our consciousness choses for us to experience. The last two parts focus on the "Tree of Life" and "Window" concepts: I tried to show in the former how we can conjure up different feelings and evoke nature by playing with materials; the latter looks instead at the possibility of varying the composition of threads in the external space by altering their composition inside the gallery.
Do you conceive these dichotomies (nature and science; nature and technology...) that you explore in your work, as ways to refer to our world, divided between our more human and natural side and the fast world of technology?
Ali Karami: They are actually explorations of codes. The world around us - even nature - is the result of the projection of codes downloaded into our brain and sent out into the environment. Nature and technology are based on codes and in the past these codes where more precise and more easily received and perceived by human beings, but the technology of today is a mixture of the codes and information that created our amazing reality.
Would you like to take part in a creative programme linked to a scientific research laboratory such as the Arts@CERN?
Ali Karami: I would love to have such an amazing opportunity. Developing further installations and researches for creative programmes linked to an institution like CERN is not just a dream but the proverbial missing piece to my puzzle, as it would allow me to take my work onto the next level.
What's the next step for your research in Quantum Theory and fashion?
Ali Karami: The concept of "Quantum Fashion" and fashion codes has two different research fields – the humanistic and the technological field. For what regards the former I would like to start a research group in other design schools all over the world in order and collect information about students working on this topic or on collections inspired by this subject. I would like to classify the personalities of the students and compare them and their chosen research subjects to discover the relation between personality and designs.
What are your immediate future plans?
Ali Karami: At the moment I am working as assistant in my university. I would like to send my dissertation around to other universities as my aim is to find people who are interested in further studies on the same subjects that fascinate me. I would really like to introduce further design students to the subject of "Quantum Fashion" via lectures and seminars. My plan is to complete my research and work on the possibility of proving the hypothesis suggested in my dissertation and develop it further. I think I will be in Milan for the next few years, but if I have the opportunity to complete my research in any other part of world, I will certainly embrace it.
"Quantum Fashion" by Ali Karami is at E27, Via Edolo 27, Milan, Italy, until 30th October 2014 (opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7.00 p.m. - 9.00 p.m.)
All images in this post Courtesy Ali Karami
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