From the heavily social media-teased Life Of Pablo album release to the buzzed-about global merch pop-ups that were staged in August, 2016 has proven to be a year of not-so-entirely-surprising Kanye West surprises. And the latest of these predictably unpredictable moves came on Wednesday, when the hip-hop artist and fashion designer decided to withhold the location of his Yeezy Season 4 show until three hours before its start time–at which point it was announced to be held at Four Freedoms Park on the tip of Roosevelt Island.
The Siberia of the New York Fashion Week circuit, the often-overlooked sliver of land smack dab in the middle of the East River was accessible by a Kanye-sponsored shuttle (that departed two hours in advance of showtime), the F train or the old-school tram. No matter the option, getting there was a journey for members of the fashion industry and also part of what made the experience feel like a fun wild-goose chase. Until suddenly it wasn’t.
3 p.m. turned into 3:30 and then into 4, and as guests continued waiting in the heat, excitement gave way to restlessness, which ultimately gave way to frustration. Security guards who didn’t know how to handle the timing demanded that the crowd “get back” and “make a line” and then “get back” again. The irony, as one woman pointed out, was that the event wasn’t supposed to feel like West’s Madison Square Garden concert the night before. “We’re not crazed fans,” she exclaimed. “We’re here to see a fashion show!”
And the show, which was once again a collaboration with performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, was an extension of these tensions. Rows of models wearing an assortment of nude body suits — some with cut-outs across the stomach, most with cut-outs across the butt — had to wait in the brutal heat until a second cast of models appeared on the runway. During the wait time, their militaristic formation lost its intensity as some models sat down on the grass, with one woman eventually fainting while a massive set of sub-woofers rumbled.
But all the while, onlookers couldn’t help but wonder if the scenario playing out before them was part of some bigger artistic statement West was making. The more they waited, the more they questioned: Were the helicopters circling above the paparazzi or police or planted by West as a form of social commentary? Was the lone pair of pants with Adidas stripes on it a statement on his partnership with the brand or a last minute toss-in? Was the fainting and sitting down representative of disillusionment? Did the fact that the island once housed an insane asylum and prison actually mean something?
You could add as many layers to the show as you wanted, but West, who ran down the runway with a smile at the end of it all, was the only one with the answers.