Transformational strategies: the Margiela Rabbit and the Gecko Girl

Bagnall, Catherine
Collier, Katie
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Conference Paper
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Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology

Elizabeth Costello, the elderly fiction writer in J.M Coetzee’s novel of the same name, discusses the possibility of how a human being can feel what it is like to be a bat. She believes that to feel thus, one does not need to experience bat life through the sense modalities of being a bat but rather “to be a living bat is to be full of being: being fully a bat is like being fully human, which is also to be full of being” (Coetzee, 2004, p. 69). Elizabeth Costello isn’t interested in clothing but she does believe that to feel what it is like to be a bat one needs the sensations of fullness and embodiedness; the sensation of being a body with limbs that have an extension in space, of being alive to the world.

Wearing a dress with more than two sleeves gives me the sense of having more than two arms and in a dress with a tail I have a tail. The feeling of being in certain clothes offers me the potential to “become” something else and to feel expansive. This paper/performance presents findings from the work of two artists and designers who are both using the distinctively cultural form of clothing to explore the human/non-human animal divide. Both artists are putting into practice Deleuzian theories of “becoming other” as a transformational strategy to shift our relationship to our environment and our fellow non- human creatures using clothing, performance, photography and video to do this.

The questions we both ask are: in this moment of complexity and uncertainty that the world is currently in, what is the role of imagination in inventing new possible worlds? How can the transformative nature of clothing offer new modes of experience that are possibly more sensual and slower than what we usually give value to and can clothing help to shift our relationship with the environment and other living creatures? Kate Soper argues that if we want to maintain a sustainable world that both humans and non-humans can happily and healthily continue to live in, we need alternative outlets for transcendence” that are not provided by Western industrialist consumerist culture which removes us from a natural simplicity or immanence, rather than returns us to it. (Soper, 1999) Considering these ideas we are interested in attempting to refigure a world where we are the ‘animal’. Two women, possibly wearing tails, will present this paper as a scripted performance.

Transformative clothing , Elizabeth Costello , Transformational strategies , Becoming animal
Shapeshifting: A Conference on Transformative Paradigms of Fashion and Textile Design, 14-16 April 2014, Auckland, New Zealand
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