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Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past

Clothes for Living and Dying

Margareta Kern

08th Apr - 14th Jun 2009

Clothes for Living and Dying brings together photographs and video works exploring the role that clothing plays in two rites of passage, graduations and funerals, in Kern’s ancestral homeland of Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Graduation Dresses depicts young women who have recently graduated from secondary schools in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kern photographed the young women in their homes wearing dresses made by her mother, a professional seamstress. Their dresses are based on images supplied by the young women, found in fashion magazines and on the internet, showing celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Keira Knightly dressed for the red carpet. Two short video works, Coffee/Kafa and Desa reveal the intimate setting of her mother’s home business and the conversations between the women whilst getting their clothes made. 

Clothes for Death was inspired by the artist hearing of a relatively unknown custom amongst a number of Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian women, who prepare clothes in which they wish to be buried. Deeply moved, Kern met and photographed these women in their homes with their chosen clothes laid out on display. Her photographs offer an insight into the lives of women whose identities have been shaped by turbulent historical, political and cultural currents.

A Touring Exhibition from the University of Hertfordshire Galleries

Exhibition resources

Click here to download an information sheet about the exhibition (pdf 322kb)
Click here to download a large print information sheet about the exhibition (pdf 322kb)

What the papers say

Telegraph & Argos (pdf 244kb)


Julka (Banjica, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 2007 from Clothes for Death

Julka (Banjica, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 2007 from Clothes for Death

Margareta Kern

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge

Julka (Banjica, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 2007 from Clothes for Death Jovana (Nevesinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 2007 from Clothes for Death Natasa (Catherine Zeta-Jones / Elizabeth Arden dress), 2006 from Graduation Dresses Liza (Donja Vrba, Croatia), 2006 from Clothes for Death Ana (Jennifer Lopez dress), 2006 from Graduation Dresses Nevena (John Galliano Dress), 2005



Helen Gribbin

Margareta Kern’s exhibition is excellent. I’d initially read about it in Selvedge magazine as I work with textiles and run textile workshops. I have family in Saltaire, Bradford and it was definitely worth the journey from Greenwich. I especially liked the way the dying and hopes for the future were both interconnected with the short films about the political upheaval as the seamstresses were chatting with their clients and friends about their work with everyday conversation peppered with references to the scenes of disruption that they had witnessed. One of the most poignant exhibitions I’ve seen for some time.

Paula Silcox

It’s very fascinating looking at the young generations of people with different cultural values and juxtaposing it with the old women of Bosnia, very interesting

Exhibitions Visitor

Felt really stuck by the context between the generations, in terms of life style, aspirations and what ‘My Best’ clothes might be

Exhibitions Visitor

A thought provoking selection of images that one can’t help but react to on a number of levels. Both sets are so emotionally driven. Yet one can imagine each set of subjects may think they are worlds apart from one another. A very moving body of work.

exhibitions visitor

Absolutely loved your exhibition- when I saw the ‘Jovana’ photo I was especially moved, ( and cried a little ) Very interesting juxtaposition of ideas. Watching the video ‘ Coffee’ made me feel fat as they are so self-critical of their bodies !! Nice sense of an imminent departure from that community towards the journey of death. I love the range of expressions on their faces, and of course the range of clothes. Beautiful Work. Well Done !

exhibitions visitor