Costume Agency

This project researches the agency of costume in performance and how costume can generate or be a centre of gravitation in a performance.

Monks states that costume is that what is indistinct from the body, yet something that can be removed. We believe that costume is, – as all elements in the entity of a performance, mutually influenced by the other elements. We take Monks theory one step further and claim that costume is an interaction between the four components garment, body, action and context, and that theses four components form one dynamic whole. We want to research this unity from the starting point of the garment.

Over the duration of this project a series of performances will be developed where costume will serve as a starting point and core element. To ensure the fulfilment of the vision that is imbedded in the garment, this research requires the costume designer to take the creative lead in the project, responsible for the artistic vision from initial idea to final presentation.

Our research goal is to explore the full performative potential of garments holistically within the complex system of body-garment-action-context. The approach will be partly phenomenological and partly socio-political.

Research on costume is an emerging academic and artistic discipline. The international network Critical Costume, founded 2013, fosters intellectual and critical frameworks to discuss and practice the art of contemporary and historic costuming. A first international seminar for PhD students on costume design was held during World Stage Design in Taipei 2017. Other initiatives are the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ), especially the project Tribes in 2015, and the recent journal Studies in Costume and Performance.

The research is primarily approached in workshops lead by costume designers that pursue the vision embedded in the garment. The workshop format follows a set dogma that involves 6 designers and 4 performers for 8 days of rehearsals over a period of twelve days of explorations, dialogue and development. There will be totally ten workshops. We research the complexity of the interactions of the four components, and want to refine perceptual apparatus and vocabulary needed to reflect on this research.

Ongoing research is mostly academic and artefact-based, with less artistic practice based methods. We want to utilize the momentum in academic research to propose a complimentary project based on artistic research. The project maintains a dialogue with a reference group of academics. They will act as respondents, studying our findings and questioning the artists in their methods of working, thinking and creating. The final presentation, a festival in 2020, will be a platform where a larger group of artists and academia meet.

KHIO is the only school in Norway that offers higher education in the field of costume design. Competence gained within this project will benefit KHIOs performing arts departments and relevant programs at The Norwegian Film School, the Norwegian Academy of Music and The Norwegian Theatre Academy. International partners hosting four of the workshops are DAMU (Prague), Aalto University and Edgehill University.

The potential of the project to break new ground lies in a unique possibility for the costume designer to control the resources of the performance and the possibility for a common platform for academic and artistic reflection.