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Speaking in Thongs

If ever an article of clothing symbolized the notions of desire and display that underlie women’s fashion, it would be the thong. The thong is as ubiquitous in lingerie shops and department stores (where thongs account for ninety percent of overall panty sales) as it is in the popular imagination. As the subject of casual cocktail party conversation, countless magazine articles, and even popular rock songs, the thong is now literally talked about everywhere. Fashion-conscious women ignore its original intent—invisible underwear. Instead, thongs are flaunted, worn wrapped up high over hips with backsides exposed by low-riding pants and skirts—the brighter, the better. As with bras in the eighties, the idea of a woman’s intimate apparel being an exclusively private aesthetic and erotic statement for the male gaze has been discarded. The thong has been reclaimed, and aggressively and publicly presented. Nowadays, the focus is less on who is looking than on who has decided to display. 

E.V. Day’s G-Force, a new installation in the Sculpture Court of the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, plays off this contemporary moment and the politics of desire and display—fantasy and fashion, femininity and fetishism—that have been of issue since women first got dressed. Drawing on elements of her earlier work exploring female icons, popular culture, and fashion, Day has cre-ated configurations of sleek flying objects from multicolored thongs and G-strings (black, silver, pink, and blue) that hang in groups from the ceiling. Approximately two hundred of these forms dive and swirl through the 40-foot-high space, transforming the cold, corporate architecture of the Sculpture Court into a kind of public aviary. The thongs, stretched and then hardened with polyurethane resin, create abstractions of flight and movement that animate the boundary between indoor and outdoor space. Caught in a moment of exploration and dynamic motion, they dart through the air with a purposive trajectory, imminently departing to parts unknown.