ISLAND BRIDE: Costume and the ‘Abjectile’ in the Anthropo(s)cene
Island Bride is a costume-led, site-responsive performance, first created by designer Dorita Hannah in collaboration with artist Linda Erceg and three local performers on the Pacific island of Rarotonga (Cook Islands) for the 2015 Oceanic Performance Biennial. Devised as a spectral character and mythic guide, connecting events during the 3-day festival titled Sea-Change: Performing a Fluid Continent, three brides appear, each in varying landscapes, with their bridal garb as ‘actant’ assembled from nets, trains and coralline biomorphs that are caught with flotsam and jetsam found on the island’s shorelines. Both multiple and singular (played by performers across genders), ‘she’ (as ‘they’) is a melancholic shape-shifter referencing colonial newlyweds, ethereal apparitions, runaway brides, entangled fishing nets and tropical beach weddings. As anthropo-scenic figure(s), Island Bride alludes to the surplus brought about by human intervention that alters climates, as well as geological and oceanic conditions. Her phantasmatic presence responds to the specific terrain through movements and gestures as she drags looped and plastic nets, skirts and trains across a field, the beach and concrete. As postcolonial construction – maternal/virginal and mythical/visceral – she resembles the ghost nets found washed up on pacific island beaches, which, left at sea by fisherman, entrap sea life and filter trash. Rather than a celebratory newlywed, Island Bride is a figure of mourning who connects us to the shared plight of rising sea-levels and polluted landscapes. She also references the designer’s formulation of the abjectile – abject-object as event – which draws on feminist theory to trouble gender singularity; exploring Julia Kristeva’s ’borderline aesthetics’ while adapting the Deleuzean objectile as a ‘theatre of matter’ in which performer, garments and space are relational, contiguous, open-ended and always in motion.
Dorita Hannah is a designer and academic who focuses on performance space and spatial performativity. A scenographer, curator and theatre architect, she is also aligned with the University of Auckland (NZ), UTAS (Australia) and Aalto University (Finland). Through trans-disciplinary research, her Critical Spatial Practice explores intersections of the creative arts; addressing the dynamics, politics and intermediality of the public realm. Publications include Performance Design (2008) and Event-Space: Theatre Architecture & the Historical Avant-Garde (2018). Dr. Hannah co-convenes the Theatre & Architecture working group for IFTR (International Federation of Theatre Research) and co-chairs the Performance+Design working group for PSi (Performance Studies international). She is a regular contributor to the Prague Quadrennial – as an exhibitor, design director, architecture curator and workshop leader, and her current international research collaborations include Performative Urbanism (Concordia University, Canada) and Floating Peripheries (Aalto University, Finland).