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Shades Down in Tokyo Town

Sofia Hedman and Karolina Kling has taken it upon themselves to show the Japanese capital that sunglasses are an object of beauty

Shades Down in Tokyo Town is an exhibition curated by Sofia Hedman and Karolina Kling with the aim of illustrating how sunglasses can be transformed into an artifact. Artists and designers taking part in the show include Ann-Sofie Back, Bernhard Willhelm, Charlie Le Mindu, and Kling by Kling, with accompanying essay contributions from a range of academics, artists and style writers including Diane Pernet and Oliver Peoples’ daughter. Shades Down opens this Friday in Tokyo before heading to London, Gothenburg and Stockholm in 2011.

Dazed Digital: What kind of approach did you take to elevating sunglasses to an artifact worthy of a gallery presentation?
Sofia Hedman:
I am hugely inspired by how curator and exhibition designer Judith Clark visually translates her curatorial narratives into her exhibition designs. Shades Down in Tokyo Town is essentially the silhouette of a town. Karolina’s graphics visually translate the curatorial narrative; abstract outlines and shapes - inspired by historically important frames- abound as the historical is rooted firmly in the present through the stark bold outlines.  
Karolina Kling: When creating the set design, I started with creating my own characters (The Kling Tribe). I then used these characters to create an over dimensional set design for the space, building a small town of installations.

Dazed Digital: Why haven’t sunglasses been spotlighted in this way before?
Karolina Kling:
It was our friend curator Gemma A. Williams, who also is the editor of the exhibition catalogue and co-curator of our exhibition, who found out that there was an untouched archive of Oliver Goldsmith glasses at the Victoria & Albert museum. When thinking of how important sunglasses and spectacles have been in the history of film, music and fashion, it is strange that big institutions have not explored the subject more.

Dazed Digital: What is it about Tokyo that makes it the ideal setting for this kind of a show?
Sofia Hedman:
Japan has a history of amazing designers like Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake that brings in another dimensions to fashion - like their way of mixing traditional Japanese heritage and techniques with philosophy.

Dazed Digital: What fascinates you about sunglasses?
Karolina Kling:
There´s obviously the whole thing about shutting someone out, living behind the glasses, that you can see the person but the person can´t see you, it’s a feeling of mystic and power.   
Sofia Hedman: I get fascinated by how they disguise but also explore the space around the body. Oliver Goldsmith’s eccentric and ground-breaking designs from the 1960s and 1980s reconstructed my idea of what sunglasses can be– like his TVs, music notes, triangles and battery-driven miniature windscreen- wipers.

Dazed Digital: The exhibition catalogue contains essays about sunglasses, what kind of ideas are explored there?
Sofia Hedman:
The catalogue, edited by Gemma A. Williams, opens up a dialogue on the importance of sunglasses in culture. Texts from a wide range of curators, writers and academics offer new interpretations of sunglasses. Gus Wylie discusses the importance of sunglasses in film, while Dr. Will Brooker focuses on the power of sunglasses in creating a performing identity.

Dazed Digital: What are the highlights of the exhibition for you?
Karolina Kling:
Iris Shieferstein has worked with a real snake that holds the lenses with its teeth. Helle Mardahl’s glasses are made of textile shapes and fingers, all of them dyed and stitched separately, Charlie le Mindu’s fun and dark hairy creation, and Piers Atkinson’s sweet character, Skyward’s that is a hat and sunglasses as an all in one piece – a hat that you could just bring down over the eyes.  

Shades Down in Tokyo Town

1st Floor Asai Bldg 1-15-15 Nishiazabu
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031