My flash talk illustrates the findings of my PhD research into ‘Insubordinate Costume’ with a recorded PPT presentation and video. Defiant, rebellious and unruly, ‘Insubordinate Costume’ is a protagonist, it is not dictated by a narrative requirement of the text, it does not bow down to the demands of a director or choreographer, nor is it defined by practicalities.
My research is located within the context of historical and contemporary examples of performance-defining costume which include, among others, Loie Fuller, Oskar Schlemmer and Leigh Bowery, as well as more recent examples that illustrate the blurring of boundaries between the disciplines of fashion, performance and theatre in the 21st century.
The flat-pack modular pieces I created for my ‘Insubordinate Costume’ research are simple repetitive shapes that can be assembled to create various three-dimensional forms, in much the same way as children’s construction toys.
Over the last two years, different performers have been invited to construct and play with the modular costumes in order to produce a final performance. The rule of play is essential to the approach to the costumes, both in the playful essence of the costume and in the way the body interacts and plays with it. Although the modular pieces are always the same, the resulting sculptural forms created by each performer have always been unique, as have their performances.
Susan Marshall is professor of 20th Century Fashion in the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York) Department at Milan Polytechnic and lectures on the Fashion Archive and Heritage Management course at AFOL Moda Milan. She is the costume designer for the prison theatre company San Vittore Globe Theatre and is undertaking a practice-based PhD at Goldsmiths University of London, in the Theatre and Performance Department, with a thesis on ‘Insubordinate Costume’, exploring the pivotal role of scenographic costume in performance and the fundamental importance of play in the performers’ creative approach to the costumes.
Alice in Wonderland performed by Tilde Knudsen, photo: Emil Carlsen