Art is the creation and expression of imagination and creative skill, geared towards the production of works which seek to inspire and awe on the basis of beauty and the force of emotional power. By nature, it is subjective, it is born out of personal taste, opinions, and feelings. Art exists for the purpose of beauty, the personal taste and feeling expressed within it stirs opinions, good or bad. Art is a vulnerability, it is courage. It is putting yourself out there in the world, no matter what the cost is, no matter what the reaction from the masses may be.
For some, it takes up their whole lives and consumes their relationships, that mere desire to leave a mark on the world, no matter how big or small. It requires sacrifice, hard work, consistency and resilience. The art of today, much like everything else is based on the principle of freedom of expression. This principle effectively means that creativity is unchained, it is not bound by certain requirements, mediums, or expression. It is, in essence, an action that is carefree and natural, it flows unbound by external agents. The Black Tape Project is an expression of such creativity, a form of art that is one of a kind amongst the various types emerging today.
Picture this: beautiful, tanned women of various body types, ranging from curvy to downright skinny scantily clad in nothing but pieces of electrical tape, which is placed strategically along the body in exquisite mosaic-like tiled patterns in various hues of silver, gold, reds, purples, pinks and blacks, strutting down the walkway or relaxing at the beach or dancing the night away at the club.
This is the Black Tape Project. This ‘scintillating visual extravaganza that has captivated audiences around the globe‘ was born out of a disastrous shoot. In 2008, Joel Alvarez was an amateur photographer working on a project with a model who had a vision of being clad in black electrical tape for her last look of the shoot. To Alvarez, the idea seemed bizarre, ironically enough he could not entertain the idea, nevertheless, he went along with it. The photoshoot was a disaster, so much so that the photos will never see the light of the day. However, it did plant a seed in Alvarez’s head.
The following weeks saw a series of experimentation with a couple of waitresses, who also modeled with Hooter Doral. The experimentation allowed for practice, as designs although basic and primitive emerged. According to Alvarez, the strategically placed tape would complement the women’s figures in ways that would put current fashion trends to shame.
Fast forward to 2012, Alvarez was hired by local nightclubs in Miami, such as Level, Space and Metropolis for his services. His work spanned nearly all the clubs that were in existence at that point in time. This allowed for his business to really take off. Working at these nightclubs provided him the exposure he needed to get recognition. During the MySpace era, clubs would put up the pictures of his work, which caught the attention of other venues, who reached out to him. This set the ball rolling and Alvarez found himself jetting across the world to Ibiza, Canada, Norway, and France.
As the age of the social media began and Instagram was introduced, Alvarez was provided with a medium via which he could put his work out in the world. His Instagram currently boasts one hundred and eighty-two thousand plus followers. This allowed him to really take root and thrive. His success has the force of social media behind it, as once he obtained the platform, countless messages from countries around the globe ended up in his inbox, making bookings and inviting him to numerous music festivals.
The title of the project ‘Black Tape Project‘ pays ode to the very building material upon which the project was based. Through the years, Alvarez took to experimenting with different patterns and designs as well as technique with types of adhesive. In 2014, he took up the reflective tape, but kept in touch with roots of black electrical tape, since it had made a definitive mark on the world. In 2017, Alvarez found himself working with a former Miss Puerto Rico. His tape of choice for her was gold from start to finish. A fifteen-second video of her shot with Alvarez’s phone, went viral on Facebook within three days, garnering over seven million views and fifty thousand shares all over the world.
Naturally, all of Alvarez’s social media networks, email and phone lines blew up. This provided Alvarez with an all-out exposure across various platforms, including interviews with radio and tv stations, as well as news articles and spreads across the national newspapers and magazines. His new-found fame astounded Alvarez, as he never imagined tape art taking root and blowing up into a major phenomenon. This opportunity allowed him to improve his skill, his life and meet people from all walks of life and trot the globe while showcasing his work. This is the story of the Black Tape Project.
As with all art, every artist waits with bated breath for feedback from the masses. The Black Tape Project, in all its uniqueness, found itself facing a huge backlash from various media outlets. It raised a number of questions and eyebrows. For some, the sticky situation was unfathomable, because of how uncomfortable it is expected to be to don and to peel off especially since people rarely have flawless, hairy bodies. Questions were also raised about the sorts of tan lines the patterns would leave. On the other hand, some critics see it as evidence for man’s desire to create sexy, nearly nude clothing for women rather than a fashion trend or a form of art. Some deem it as a form of bad fashion, drawing a line at the very idea of calling it ‘swimwear’.
However, despite the backlash, the movement has taken root. The Black Tape Project has been dubbed the sexiest swimwear trend of the summer. Alvarez showcased his work at the Miami Swim Week 2018. His thirteen-piece limited-edition collection straddled the fence between boldly stylish and straight out sexy models. This was one of his biggest events to date, and perhaps the most nerve-wracking, requiring all-hands-on-deck till the very last moment. All looks were completed just a breath away from when the show started. Alvarez has revealed that tapes are cut on the spot and in the moment, and it takes up to two to three hours to complete one look on a model.
Armed with just metallic tape and inspiration from a disastrous shoot, Alvarez has created a movement. The alternative fashion project no matter how undeniably provocative and sexy, some say almost nude images, is certainly here to stay as demonstrated by Alvarez’s rising popularity. Masses are openly fascinated with the notion of women donning tape and the holographic looks that are created as a result of careful placement. In the world of today, Alvarez’s personal expression is here to stay, and may, in fact, inspire and give many women the confidence to be openly comfortable in their own bodies. The phenomenon which took root with mere tape is certainly a powerful force to be reckoned with in the world of art.