Construction of an Icon
Matilda Pye is curator at the Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich and a Paul Mellon, V & A Research Institute Public Engagement Fellow. She studied Fine Art, at the Ruskin School at the University of Oxford and the Jan Van Eyck Akedemie in Maastricht. She has worked with museums and galleries for over 15 years, including with Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the V & A and the National Portrait Gallery. Matilda has worked on a number of international projects with the British Council, building networks and collaborations with artists, curators, producers and cultural institutions in the Middle East, China, Russia and Uzbekistan. She co-edited with Dr. Linda Sandino, Artists Work in Museums: Histories, Interventions and Subjectivities (Wunderkammer Press, 2013).
Working as a senior producer at the V & A for over a decade, Matilda became extremely interested in the relationship between design and performance and the power of costume. She worked closely with Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Keith Lodwick and Kate Bailey on conferences and symposia on topics including: Hollywood Costume, Fred and Ginger Rogers, Adaptations, Costume Design for Television and Designing the Spectacular. She has worked as curator and producer with performers and designers at many stages of their careers at Tate Britain, the V & A and Royal Museums Greenwich. She has lectured and taught widely in the UK and Internationally.
Construction of an Icon is a performance, a creative design and a communities’ project, offering new ways to share histories of Elizabeth I, and disseminate the iconic Armada Portrait painting with a broad range of audiences, in different locations. It raises questions through costume, performance and participation about:
how power is fashioned;
who has power; and
what role gender plays in our perceptions and preconceptions of power.
The Queen is embodied, by Olivier Award-winning actor, Christopher Green who is accompanied by a group of Ladies of the Bedchamber – their job is to create and construct the Queen and to take care of her in the public realm. This subtle exchange and negotiation between private and public, with power, care and knowledge is crucial to each performance. We have worked with different ladies of the bedchamber at each performance including, elders working with the Albany and Entelechy Arts, as part of Meet Me at The Albany, with Dover Museum and the Dover Greeters, a range of staff and volunteers from Royal Museums Greenwich and members of the Amies Freedom Choir.
In design terms, the carefully researched costume is a collaboration led by Bronya Arcisezewska, Oliver Cronk and Matilda Pye with students from the London College of Fashion, the Courtauld Institute, the Tudor Tailor and a wide range of designers and makers at different stages of their careers. The final performance and procession from Royal Museums Greenwich to the National Portrait Gallery included an anthem, the ‘Onipa’ or People’s anthem and a trumpet fanfare, composed by Peter Adjaye. The anthem was performed by the Amies Freedom Choir in multiple spaces between Greenwich and central London including the Old Royal Naval College, a Thames Clipper Boat and Trafalgar Square. Students from Trinity Laban and local community choirs accompanied the procession.
Construction of an Icon, Image: Rebecca Pierce
Dressing, Construction of and Icon Image: Rebecca Pierce