Haptic Tragicomedy: Contemporary Demon-tending Through Mask, Costume, and Design
Shadow Tender is an independent creative project and teaching methodology that investigates the psychological mechanisms of dehumanization/demonization at the root of extreme nationalistic policy through costume, mask, fantasy, emerging technologies, and performance.
Carl Jung described the Shadow as the part of the psyche in which we store aspects of ourselves we’d rather not acknowledge – things that make us feel weak, ashamed, afraid, and powerless. In rejecting our Shadows, we unconsciously project them onto others, creating monsters & enemies that may be more revealing of our own fears than anything else. The Shadow Tender project centers costumes and masks as external manifestations of personal Shadow and draws on exercises derived from butoh, physical theater, and martial arts to enter into dialogue with these symbolic wearable objects and ask: Who is the monster, here? How do we create the monstrous? How does it create us?
Rooted in previous collaborations in experimental and site-specific theater as well as research into trauma resilience, I have been developing the initial concepts for Shadow Tender since 2010. The project was officially founded in 2016, in collaboration with Maria Thomas (third-degree black belt/interdisciplinary artist) and Magdalena Kaczmarska (dancer- choreographer/ neuroscience researcher.)
In our workshops and performances, we strive to create haptic practices and tools that support the complex process of reconciling conflicting identities and narratives in a way that leads to cohesion and personal empowerment – particularly within the framework of embodied, kinesthetic, and symbolic experience. Since the inception of Shadow Tender, we have created two evening-length performances (Liber I, which premiered in Taipei, Taiwan in 2017; and Liber II, which premiered in Portland, OR in 2019.) In addition to this, we have taught a number of Shadow Tender mask-making workshops nationally and internationally, and lead multiple salon-style discussions on the subject of the Jungian Shadow, the psycho-somatic experience of costume, and the role of art in sociopolitical transformation and activism. We are currently developing a curriculum dedicated specifically to addressing women’s rage.
More information about the Shadow Tender project may be found at www.shadowtender.com
Natalya Kolosowsky is a Russian-American interdisciplinary artist, director, and designer based in Portland, OR. Kolosowsky was born in Siberia but grew up in the Sonoran desert, which created a life-long interest in bridging seemingly opposing cultures, histories, and perspectives. Her work frequently blends costume, performance, and illustration to explore the body as a site of physical experience, non-linear memory, and symbolic gesture.
Kolosowsky received her classical ballet training under Kee-Juan Han from the School of Ballet Arizona and went on to study and perform in circus arts, butoh, physical theater and puppetry throughout the West Coast of the United States. In 2010, she founded the Anatomia Dance Collective – a performance project focused on the psychological transformation of space through movement and costume. Her consequent projects have included collaborations with San Francisco’s City Circus, Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Theater, the Salzburg State Theatre, Michael Curry Design, Degenerate Art Ensemble, and many others. Since 2016, Kolosowsky has been the founder and artistic director of Shadow Tender – a creative project/teaching methodology that uses wearable sculpture and technology to interrogate psychological mechanisms of demonization at the root of extremist nationalistic policy.
Kolosowsky’s work has been showcased at various venues in the USA and abroad, including Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, the Museum of American Illustration in New York, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the 2015 Prague Quadrennial, the A. A. Bakhrushin Theatre Museum in Moscow, and the Taipei National University of the Arts.
Parallel to her creative work, Kolosowsky also has a strong background in psychology, with a focus on the somatics of trauma and resiliency. She holds a BS in Psychology and a BFA in Visual Communication from the University of Arizona, as well as an MFA in Costume Design from the University of Oregon. More about her work can be found at www.natalyakolosowsky.com
Image 1: Richard McConochie.
Image 2: Ian Lucero.