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In The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin remarks how the journalist Toussenel (a fourieriste), the contributor of articles on the natural sciences to fashion journals, considered woman as the mediator between man and animals, a kind of decorator of the animal world, at whose feet in exchange animals left their fur and feathers.

Some visitors to the exhibition may be rather surprised at the excessive display of femininity and its attributes, while others, of course, may be delighted (though perhaps this is a pleasure better concealed, for there is a soupçon of perversion about the whole enterprise).

There are rewritings of descriptions of Zola’s Nana, new labels for collars and culottes, a lovely tournure and its pouffe, paint applied as maquillage to photographs that are either slowly disappearing or become monstrous in the enthusiastic application of what both conceals and emphasises the image.The whole thing may end in explosions, figured in scented parodies of Molotov cocktails, but of course these may be no more than those little deaths, condemned, like history itself, to endless repetition.

Sharon Kivland.