In 2013, I co-founded the biennial conference and exhibition Critical Costume. This international research network has since expanded with events in Liverpool (Edge Hill University, 2013), Finland (Aalto University, 2015), and Czech Republic (Prague Quadrennial, 2015). My research on costume argues for an interdisciplinary understanding with a focus on the subversive and eventual qualities of costuming: whether professional, amateur, or critical.
In this article, I present an argument for a proposed focus of 'critical costume'. Critical Costume, as a research platform, was founded in 2013 to promote new debate and scholarship on the status of costume in contemporary art and culture. We have now hosted two biennial conferences and exhibitions (Edge Hill University 2013, Aalto University 2015). These events have exposed an international appetite for a renewed look at how costume is studied, practised and theorized. Significantly, Critical Costume is focused on an inclusive remit that is interdisciplinary and supports a range of 'voices': from theatre and anthropology scholars to working artists.
Costume is subversive. It subverts the rules of a fashion system and exposes the theatricality of dress. Accordingly, the politics of costume are arguably a politics of ‘othering’: how the conscious subversion of appearance serves as an act of bodily estrangement.
'What is 'critical' about costume?': Presentation at the Oslo National Academy of Arts (KHiO), October 2015.
Critical Costume is a research project on the status of costume practices within contemporary art and performance. Building upon an emerging interest in the dramaturgical significance of costume within the academy, the project's overall aim is to grow the intellectual and critical frameworks in which we discuss costume practices, both today and historically.
Double Issue Editorship
Editorship of Scene (Intellect). Published in 2014, this double issue of the new peer-reviewed journal 'Scene' on the subject matter of Critical Costume was co-edited by Rachel and Sidsel Bech. The double issue included material from a range of
Costume Affects: a theory of hugging. Scenographers and performers alike have long recognized the dramaturgical significance of costume and its influence upon the conception and reception of action. However, to date there remains little critical mass with which to define or describe the reciprocal interaction between fabric and body, movement and form.