In 2008, the global economy weathered a grave shock when the American mortgage-backed securities market collapsed, imploding the vertiginous architecture of financial instruments stacked upon it. Impugned for the crisis were subprime debtors, seduced by offers to pay later and then, as later came, held culpable when they could not. Their mortgages—aggregated together into high-risk, high-yield junk bonds—had become the foundation for a global derivatives market guaranteed rhetorically by the mythos of the American homeowner, a mythos slowly discredited by every monthly payment forgone. Therein lies the power of the subprime: taken for granted, untenably contracted, retroactively accountable for every errant speculation. At once integral and eminently disposable, the subprime can tear the whole house down.
As a body of work, subprime leverages the figure of the delinquent borrower to oppose the corporatized circuitry of fashion education today. It shunts the entrepreneurial, individualist, and reformist ethics perpetuated under the guise of social justice, refusing the burden of “the future of fashion.” Through interruption rather than disruption, subprime proposes a fashion practice of radical immediacy, insurgency, and destituency. It forefronts the logistical flows of the fashion industry as an infra-esthetic site of analysis, constellating a diverse array of critical theory (such as performance studies, Marxist economics, black studies, queer theory, and sound studies). Unfinished and unfinishable, subprime so far includes performance, film, music, garments, a dissertation, and a speculative fashion design curriculum.
Jack Davis is an artist, designer, and writer based in New York.
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