“The chair confirms the shape of the body, taking its place in a sequence of skinlike receptacles: it contains the body-contained-by-clothing; a room, then, contains the body-contained-by-clothing-contained by chair.”(1) I have been always interested in objects that we use daily. In particular, I have been interested in the idea of containers and objects that can function as containers. Architectural structures are made for people to inhabit them and I like to think of them as receptacles. The inside physical space of an architectural space functions as a container to our bodies. Architecture functions as a second skin. Clothing is also our primary second skin, which in turn is our primary container.
Furniture, Closets, Wardrobes, and Boxes are elements that are associated with the idea of container. The house contains them thus they contain something else and/or someone. They all define different intimate spaces that are private places. The outside of all these elements defines the public side of them, exposed to the eyes of others.Thus, clothing defines an interior that is our private space/place. The body (physical and psychological) shapes this “space”, tri-dimensional and versatile.
The garment shelters our body and functions as an architectural structure, and at the same time it builds a representation of the self through its outside appearance. My room-like-clothe-container is supposed to be experienced from within. The dynamics that involve the exterior looks of clothing address a number of issues: the construction of an appearance subjugated by social standards and codes that are at work at a certain time in a society. As I mentioned before, the dress builds an identity manipulating style and visual means to present the body to the public realm.Vito Acconci has observed, in his writings, that furniture mediates between clothing and architecture on establishing an encounter of the isolated body and the domain of social space. For Acconci, all these objects that “furnish our environment”, that “we wear”(2), function as a way of externalizing identity. And this identity is not about the individual. Acconci implies “that furniture, which suggests the manipulation of the environment through choice and arrangement, subjects us to the control of convention, to the social incorporation of the individual through codified systems of belief. These supposedly personal objects are decidedly impersonal or, more correctly, they are cultural, reflecting an interplay between standardized taste and conformist attitudes of mind.”(3)
There is a relation between Acconci’s sculpture/furniture pieces, such as Sleeping Dog Couch, 1984, And People’s Walls, 1985, and my installation work. But Acconci’s uses these furniture pieces to reinforce a critique of a society based on commodity and consumerism. The “second skins” that his furniture pieces represent, also in his architectural units such as Raising the Dead (And Getting Laid Again), 1980, are used to invoke the fact that the individual is always conditioned within the social environment. Acconci uses architectural or furniture structures that are about containing the body, but not about sheltering, they represent an “Identity Kit” to construct personhood, to represent the self through the illusion of individual choice within the available stylized goods for consumption. The representation of the isolated body in Acconci’s work is always in relation with other bodies; it is about the social and public self.
Inversely, in my installation, I am trying to work only with what is not of the sphere of the public constructed self, but what remains as the private experience of the container of the body. The exterior and the shape of the garments I construct are white, blank, and as simple and generic as possible (if that is possible…). The uniform look of the garments, when seen from the outside, implies a social order. Seen from outside, one can read a group of characters that are socially equal, uniformly dressed, mute, ordered. It is inside the little spaces, roomlike small environments, that I want to stress the consciousness of the intimacy of the relation Body/and the mind with our second skin. But I want to address, also, that the private experience of the inner space is an isolated one.
The distance between the body and the outside world is growing. In the time of the proliferation of the digital media, we go inside the room and turn on all our appliances, computers and TV’s to interact with the outside environment. The body remains enclosed and solitary even when participating in public life through the electronic media. We live in the age of the body in front of a screen. I am interested in working what would be the physical relation to the closest space that exists between the body and the layer of fabric that dresses it.
In the writings of Louise Bourgeois I found a paragraph that illustrates the multi-function of the garment as an object:
“A tent is very important in my vocabulary – a form of textile sculpture to be entered – a form of collapsible architecture. In Africa, I remember the caravan blacks who wear clothes like tents and fold them around themselves, even sleep under them”.(4)The theatricality of the setting of the installation should point out to the fictional characters that would have inhabited them, or worn them. The experience of the inner space may recall the absence of another, or other bodies. The viewer is actually entering someone else’s domain.
The absent body of these garments is as important as the viewer’s own presence. Is the viewer entering someone else’s environment? Is this an invasion of a privacy or is he identifying himself with it? The perception from the viewer’s side is about entering someone’s shell or is it to become conscious of his own?
The different furniture that is within each space requires the viewer to participate in it, according to the function that the furniture suggests. We have a chair where the viewer can sit down, a bed where he/she can lay down, another chair, and a “floor” to stand on.
Once there, the viewer experiences the work from within. Sound is coming from the inside of the furniture towards a specific part of the body. Each one of the inner spaces has its own color. To the physical movement of the body I added two elements: one essentially optical, and the other audible.
In each garment I isolate one color. The whole inside of each space becomes a color environment. Essentially optical and non-tactile, color works on a psychological level. The audio that comes from the inside represents the existence of another immaterial element that combined with the color dwell the inside skin of each place. By using sound and color that inhabit a space I want to address the private, individual, psychological and emotional reading of this “in between layers” of containers and contained elements.
The single color environments belong to a staged fantasy. They separate, or try to separate, a different state of mind for each one of the pieces. If I am trying to analyze, on one hand, the experience of the viewer within the container such as the garment and the furniture, I also want to address that in this idea remains a place for fantasy. What are the consequences of being in a blue place? Or in a yellow place? What is the difference between them?
I made decisions regarding color in combination with a certain body position within the garments. But the relation between the color and the position of the body could be a different one. Color works on a psychological level but is also cultural, for that its perception is conditioned by a number of topics and it is not my ambition to dictate that yellow is about standing, and blue is about being horizontal. What is important to enhance about the choice of using the three different primary colors and gray is the difference between themselves. The difference stays on the inside of the garment. The four pieces can represent four stages of one identity as they can represent four different characters. In either reading of the installation, the importance of the color remains on the fact that whatever the differences are they exist in the inner space. Communication takes place inside, in contradiction with the white uniform that constitutes the façade of the dress.
The sounds are representations of body sounds. They are important as they suggest the remains of a used fabric and place by a human body. Sound itself generates a space that involves the body that in turn contains sound. Once more I am playing with the container inside another one in an infinite succession of containers and contained elements.Through my writings I have been talking about place as the space that I am representing with the inside of the garments and furniture. It is important to stress that place is different from space.
I am proposing a notion of place for the experience of the inner space of the garment and the furniture. My idea of place is not a portion of land/town/cityscape.(5) It is instead a kind of mobile bubble we carry around the body. Clothing and furniture imply mobility. The meaning of the word furniture, itself, includes the movable functionality of articles in a room. I am arriving at the idea that all this accessories constitute our place, like home. Home is actually anywhere we build one. So place is defined with and within these accessories and therefore is movable.
Lucy Lippard wrote about the notion of place. With her writings, I share the idea about place but I would extend them to my idea of the mobile place.
“Inherent to the local is the concept of place – a portion of land/town/cityscape seen from the inside, the resonance of a specific location that is known and familiar. Most often place applies to our own “local” entwined with personal memory, known or unknown histories marks made in the land that provoke and evoke Place is latitudinal and longitudinal within the map of a person’s life. It is temporal and spatial, personal and political. A layered location replete with human histories and memories, place as with as well as depth. It is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there, what will happen there.”(6)
The body In The Garment In The Furniture In The Room is about a place that exists in between the body, the garment, the furniture and the room. This place is filled with histories and memories and is deep. It includes what “happened there and what will happen there”. It questions who was there and is not there anymore, and who will be there.
Catarina Leitão, New York, 2000.
1 Linker, K., “Vito Acconci”, Rizzoli, New York, 1994, pp.14
2 Linker, K., “Vito Acconci”, Rizzoli, New York, 1994, pp.148
3 Linker, K., “Vito Acconci”, Rizzoli, New York, 1994, pp.148
4 Bourgeois, L., “The Fabric of Construction”, in “Deconstruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father – writings and interviews 1923-1997”, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998, pp.87
5 Lippard, Lucy R., ”The Lure of the Local”, The New Press, New York, 1997; p.7
6 Lippard, Lucy R., ”The Lure of the Local”, The New Press, New York, 1997; pp.7
-Bachelard, Gaston, “The Poetics of Space”, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 1969
-Bourgeois, Louise, “The Fabric of Construction”, in “Deconstruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father – writings and interviews 1923-1997”, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998
-Davis, Fred, ”Fashion, Culture, and Identity”, the University of Chicago press, Chicago & London, 1992
-Hollander, Anne, “Seeing Through Clothes”, Avon, Publishers of Bard, Camelot and Discus Books, New York, 1980.
-Lippard, Lucy R., ”The Lure of the Local”, The New Press, New York, 1997
-Jones, Amelia, “Body Art- Performing the subject”, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London, 1998
-Linker, Kate, “Vito Acconci”, Rizzoli, New York, 1994