How to Centre the Vomit
On Struggles with Modern Aesthetics, Towards Pluriverse Aesthesis

Wei-Chi Su 2022

A thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Arts Critical Fashion Practices ArtEZ University of the Arts Arnhem, the Netherlands

Tutor_ Daniëlle Bruggeman

Illustration_ Candela Lejarrage

Design_ Wei-Chi Su

Typeface_ Caslon
Minipax by Raphaël Ronot
(Velvetyne Type Foundry)

Thank You_ Andrea Chehade
Hanka van der Voet
Lianca van der Merwe

// You can download the PDF here.

Senses are involved in every learning and perceiving experience. And one person's aesthesis is never the same as another’s. It is personal and incommensurable. However, the dominant Western narrative in fashion continually claims the West has fashion and the non-West does not. Our aesthetics and how we perceive the world are limited by the modern and colonial order. The structure of Eurocentrism has misled us to only pursue the recognition of Western industrial fashion while leaving behind all our skills, senses, and cultures that are defined as non-fashion. Yet, what if we embrace our aesthesis/senses previously rejected by Western dominant fashion, as vomit, and to centre it as a decolonial act?

Vomit here represents unwanted personal perspectives and emotions. It’s deemed to be disgusting, meaningless, and undesirable. Yet, the disgusting vomit also carries the threat of exposure to those who hold power. Built upon a power structure, in the current fashion system, ‘modern aesthetics’ are the unspoken rules that determine a design to be fashionable or not. Identifying the disruptive potential of “remaining disgusting”, centring the vomit which is our aesthesis/senses is an act of provocation to the unequal system but also a pathway to co-existing.

During my research, I have discovered that by focusing on the senses and the embodied experiences, design as an inner act can foster awareness of self and society. It can turn intimate experiences into more meaningful and empowering designs against Western hegemony. Therefore, I designed the project Centring the Vomit containing a series of workshops and sensory documentation. It aims to raise the awareness of the dominant modern/colonial aesthetics order and provide fashion students with a sensory approach to decolonial design. This thesis is developed along with the project and contextualises the theories behind it. Written in the form of a handbook, the purpose of this thesis is not only to offer a decolonial fashion theory but also to give the readers a practical guide on how to approach decolonial ways of design by recognising the struggle that Eurocentrism has caused and revaluing the aesthesis/senses.

This handbook is composed of three sections—Prep work, embodied work, and reflective work. With this structure, it leads the reader step by step, from analysing the impact of Eurocentrism in fashion, recognising the incommensurability of aesthesis/senses to starting daily decolonial practices. Adopting a feminist sensory orientation and an anti-capital feminist approach that both emphasise the role of lived and embodied experiences, I reorient aesthetics to a personal one and encourage a better understanding that to see differences is to see no one and nothing as on a higher level as anyone and anything. Therefore, awareness of the self and the others, individuals and society, run centrally through this thesis. And “reflective solidarity” is emphasised in the final section. With the theory and method that this handbook presents, design here is about the process of reorienting the senses back to the self and the relationship between the self and the world. It is to take responsibility for one another and to foster spaces for the pluriversality of non-dominant differences.

© 2022, Wei-Chi Su.