Archive for category Fashion
© Huw Bartlett 2014
I have just finished an intense 3 weeks as Curator in Residence at the Community Arts Centre, Brighton. Despite a few suggestions against it I decided to start off the 3 weeks myself and invited two artists, whose work I admired and felt could benefit from the space and bring something different, to each have their own week. As I may have previously explained, the Work Programmes at CAC begin on the Monday with the ceremonious handing over of the keys to the artist and finish with an exhibition on the following Saturday.
I am particularly in love with the space and the freedom and inspiration that it provides and enjoy the thrill on a Saturday night of wondering just how differently people will interpret it. As I had already done a work programme last year (click here to see images from the previous year) I was quite apprehensive about how I would interact with the space this time, I was concerned that I would end up repeating things from last year and that it would pale in comparison. In actual fact I did end up mirroring (literally) certain things from the previous year as it felt like a progression of ideas in each room.
Whereas last year I had a physique bodybuilder performing, this year I performed myself. Following on from the confidence I had gained during the LADA workshop the previous week I knew that it had to be me and although this proved to be an extremely daunting experience, and in the week leading up to the exhibition and I constantly questioned if I was making massive mistake, but no matter how nervous I got I knew that there was no way that I wasn’t going to do it. Painting my nails pink, getting a spray tan, putting on the wig and then finally the bikini I covered up the ‘me’ aspects so that all that was left was my physical form, which could be any successful white body in terms that it is healthy, physically able, well nourished, not obese etc.
The performance itself took place over two hours and the audience where invited in for a one-on-one experience. My boyfriend was the bouncer on the door making sure that people waited their turn and I quite like the connotations that go alongside him being the one who allows others to look at me, there’s a kind of pimp dynamic and once inside the room has red lighting and a golden throne chair for the viewer to sit on, making it almost a peep show or lap dance type environment. The emphasis wasn’t on the sexual however, with farcical exaggerations of grandeur such as the ‘gold’ jewellery I was wearing, the clearly not my own hair blonde bombshell wig, the idea was more towards the failure of sexiness. I don’t have abs, so I had drawn them on with eyebrow pencil, I don’t have large bicep muscles so the bodybuilding poses that I was mimicking were exactly that, a mimicry, a parody or poor copy. The fake smile (which I almost lost quite near to the start due a twitching cheek muscle!) and everything about the performance was essentially fake.
Images © Alice Tenquist
After doing a DIY Workshop last year through the Live Art Development Agency I decided to apply for another workshop this year. The one that really caught my eye was run by performance artists The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein and Martin O’Brien.
Along with fellow participants Katy Baird, Sophie Cullinan, Ria Hartley and Emelía Antonsdóttir Crivello, the idea of the superhero as a catalyst for performance making was explored. My boundaries were well and truly pushed from the get go as we learned hip hop dances, frolicked in washing up liquid (not that I could let go enough to do much frolicking!) and recited Hamlet to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star.
I learnt a lot about myself over the three days, particularly about my attitude to success and failure. The tasks were specifically hard for me as I operate under the assumption that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything, that I need to constantly be in control of myself and my surroundings and on some perverse level enjoy constantly telling myself that I am doing it all wrong and failing. The workshop helped me to see how ridiculous these notions are and that the most interesting situations that open up a dialogue revolve around things going wrong, almost reaching their goal but not quite and just generally failing.
The three days were finished off with a photo shoot in which we show-cased our developed superhero characters. Mine was Kyphosisa (Kyphosis being the medical term for a hunch back which I have a mild case of). She represents the acceptance of flaws and failure, showing that when we finally do this great, powerful things can happen.
The whole experience was incredibly mind altering and where I had previously been using other bodies in my work I finally realised that my own body signified the same things, generic success in the sense that it’s able, relatively fit and white. I had previously wanted to train myself to the standard of a bodybuilder and use this point from which to create work and a discourse, however I now realise there is much a more interesting space in which to do this with my body as it is now. This has prompted me to do a performance myself which I will talk about in my next post.
Here is a make up promo video I have finally got around to finish editing.
It is for the make up artist Alice Stevens:
I recently volunteered at the box office of The Nightingale Theatre (above the Grand Central Pub) and am ashamed to say that I never been there before! Part of volunteering meant that you were able to get into the shows on that day for free.
Showing this particular night was Luna, performed by Pretty Good Girl Dance Theatre. Luna is based on the book by the same name by American author Julie Anne Peters, and tells the story of Liam, a transsexual teenager, but from the often overlooked view of someone who loves him, his younger sister Regan.
It seemed as if is this story was made to be danced as the movement added an emotional edge to the tale, and the sparce props and the way in which the dancers interacted with them was very poignant for me. The props consisted of a clothes rail with various flamboyant costumes hanging on it and two large strands of masking tape streched on either side of the clothes rail to the floor.
When Liam encountered a particularly important period of realisation about who he was he danced into the masking tape and got stuck in it as it wound around him due to his frantic movment. His younger sister Regan then helped to untangle him, thus shifting the role of older and younger sibling as she took over care of him.
Later, Regan had a sleepover with her friends and Liam didn’t react with disgust when her friends asked to paint his nails and her friends then began to question what was wrong with Liam, at this moment Regan broke her masking tape and became entangled, however Liam did not help her remove the tape and she had to do it herself.
As an older sibling this reminded me of when I was a teenager, and brought back memories of perhaps not being the one who was looking after, but being the one who was being looked after.
The storytelling aspect of the piece consisted of both dialogue between the two siblings and a narration by mainly Regan. At one point the two discuss what Liam/Luna is in relation to drag queens, are drag queens gay? are they transsexual? and Liam replies with, ‘Well, there’s shades of gray to every gender’. And then went onto to say how their father saw him as a masculine macho boy who played football, or at least this was how the father wanted him to be. This was something that really struck a chord with me as everybody feels these kinds of pressures to be what is expected of them, and what is expected of their gender.
The themes of ‘personal freedom, acceptance and unconditional love’, that ran through the performance felt relevant not only in the context of transsexuality, but in the wider context of gender/race/sexuality.
I posted a couple of months ago, I made a film called The Bet based on the fairytale of Beauty and The Beast, and also inspired by an Angela Carter short story.
I have finally gotten around to putting it on vimeo, so here it is!