Costume: Written Clothing
3rd May – 2nd June, 2013
The costume can serve limitless purposes; apart from adorning and protecting the human body, costume itself is a symbol of culture and ideology. Costume can serve to disguise or mask, but also as a means to perform ones role in society and emphasise or display beliefs and ideology. As a vehicle for ritual and a means of appropriation and impersonation, costume has long been adopted by artists as a transformative device and to pose questions around gender roles and identity construction. This exhibition reflects on some of these themes and conceives of ‘costume’ as a device or prism through which to investigate relationships between performance, image and sculpture in artistic practice.
In his 1967 text The Fashion System, Roland Barthes defined the idea that clothing is in itself a language or a complex system of signs through which cultural meaning is constructed, or in his words “written clothing”. Barthes describes clothing oneself as an act of signification which manifests through symbols or convention, “Sign or symbol, clothing affirms and reveals cleavages, hierarchies, and solidarities according to a code guaranteed and perpetuated by society and its institutions.” This exhibition explores Barthes’ notion of “written clothing” and specifically the role of costume and associated themes of gesture, performance and representation. Orchestrated in the window gallery to resemble tableaux vivant, museum diorama or an ambivalent shop display, the exhibition design sets up a dialogue between cultural, historical and theatrical associations, exploring the dynamic between the function and symbolic meaning of clothing.
Many of the costumes and garments exhibited have been created for specific performances and within the context of the gallery space are re-contextualised as sculptural objects, some have been created as proposals or commissions specifically for the project. Costume: Written Clothing includes work by Rachel Adams, Pablo Bronstein, Steven Cairns, Matthew Darbyshire, Kate Davis, Tobias Kaspar, Ursula Mayer, Seth Price, Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, Alexis M Teplin, Rachel Maclean, Sarah Wright, Sophie Macpherson, Charlotte Prodger and Clare Stephenson.
Photography from top: Rachel Adams, Keith Hunter