|picture by Iris Laverdent|
During a 3 months overseas placement with MA Performance Design & Practice in Kerala, I've been imbued with Indian culture. Indian style is usually not my cup of tea but I wanted to capture some element of the Indian style to make them mine.
When I was there, I went crazy with fabric, silk and material. When you go into shop, you feel dizzy in front of all theses precious bright colour fabrics and high quality material like silk that you can get for very cheap if you compare with European prices.
Because of the heat and humidity, I bought like 3 large foam pans, "This is really cool, i will wear that in London!" But when I came back to my urban life, I was "what is this"and just put them at the bottom of my closet (not throw them away…always could be useful!). I remembered that I actually hated this style of pacific spoiled westerners came in India for finding their true self escaping capitalism.
|Chanel pre-autumn/winter 2012-13 collection|
I can pick some element, the fabric, colours, use of gold and fake stone, introduce in my own style.
I got inspired by Paris-Bombay Chanel collection which mixes Indian and Western style, keeping the colour, the material, the use of gems, precious stone embroideries and gold thread, silk and fluid material but with Western cut for the dress.
|Chanel pre-autumn/winter 2012-13 collection|
For my birthday I wanted to wear a sari but they have a really specific and complex way to roll it up around the body. They show it to me in the shop but I couldn't get it so I created a new dress with the sari without following the traditional way of making it, so I rolled up around my body the way I found it nice.
|My own way to wear the sari!|
During the placement we studied different kind of traditional Indian dance & performance. We went to see Theyyam a popular Hindu ritual where performers dons the guise of God and propitiates the Gods through possessed dancing. Actually you really have to believe that you are a good to run during hours caring tones of material and fabric under an extreme heat. Theyyam are kind of installations, huge extension of the body. For example they wear large red metal breast plates, beautiful headdress with a halo of palm spines that looked alike a giant circular saw blade. The deity appears in to the shrine courtyard rattling her bracelets and hissing like a snake/ The very attractive features of theyyatam are its colorful costumes.
The make up involves very accurate face painting of different styles and body decoration. Although there is no fundamental difference in the costumes and make up of these theyyams, each category of theyyams varies from the other categories in accordance with the main characteristics. The use natural and organic element to make the outfits like splices of bamboos covered by red cloth, dress woven out of coconut leaves as they leap in to the fire or made out of bamboo splices and wooden planks which are covered with flowers and coconut leaves. In certain cases peacock feathers are also used. They also have nearly fifty to sixty feet high long crowns made out of areca nut trees and bamboo splices. These crowns are supported by long bamboos which are held by several helpers to keep the balance when placed upon the head of the player. According to the local customs, these long crowns are either covered with colored cloth or thatched with coconut leaves.
|the very long preparation for Khatakali costume|
Kathakali according to wikipedia "is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion" Once Kathakali dancers have put on their costume and make- up they are no longer themselves, they have assumed the life of the character they are playing…it's interesting to see how the costume make you becoming the character and not the character which defines the costume. The really long preparation (it can takes 4 or 5 hour to get ready) and the dressing up is already kind of ritual and it's part and parcel of the performance.
It's really fascinating the way they put lawyers fabric on a rope and roll up around the body in order to make to very bulky
I was really fascinated by the silver nails, I think it's look like kind of fashionable punk gothic rings that i find really cool
During our placement we create a divided theatre play in collaboration with performer from Calicut school of Art and Drama. The show was based on the story of Pinnochio.
|By Beatrice Colombo Serri|
We have no sewing machine so we have to stitch everything by hand, We didn't not a lot of material and have to deal with natural elements that we found in the jungle like bamboo or banana leaves or colourful fabric negotiated in Indian market.
|By Beatrice Colombo Serri|
On of my "epic creation" the fish costume (yes I swear there is ALSO a fish in Pinnochio story) , I was "don't worry, i can do it, it won't take me long" but I have to stitch one by one the fish scales made of cardboard under the pounding heat.
|...Fortunately I got some help!|
But the performer wasn't really happy with the design:
"Sophie, i'm not happy, I wanted to be a shark and you made me a Kerala fish".
|mending the cricket outfit in costume|
I helped Yueer, the costume designer to make a blue fairy costume which was a kind of installation with a wire structure, meter and meter of blue fabric hanging from the top of a bombe structure and fairy-lights integrated in the garment. It was half way between of kitsch virgin marry and a abba musical costume! We had so much fun with it, and everyone ended wearing it for our last party in the jungle!
|By Beatrice Colombo Serri|
I was a firefly who was turned into donkey (don't ask me why). i made a kind of tunique for myself (because we didn't have the equipment to do more complicated shape) lucky me, I had the All star converse of the same turquoise colour so it was more easy to run and gave a rock side to the firefly, firefly.
I'm now using the blue leggins as a pyjama. This summer one of my friend was "hey, I recognise your pyjama from your picture, this is part of your costume! "Yes dude, when you are a theatre maker you wear your costume as pyjama and use your set as your house decoration".
|by Beatrice Colombo Serri|
The video of the show "It all came out of an egg":
When we came back to London we had a party for the video where Beatrice presented her documentary Ten Nations in India about our experience in Kerala. With Ioanna we performed (stylish) Indian street sellers offering food to the audience. The dress was beautifully made by Yueer with high-quality Indian fabric. What made this dress original is that on the top of the Indian influence you can see some chinese traditional costume inspiration which make it very unique.
|Wearing Yueer dress at Khatakali Kabaret.|
During my trip in India, I also good really addicted with bindis, piece of jewelry worn in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of a sign or piece of jewelry worn at this location. Acording to their shape and their colours they have different meanings,signify age, marital status, religious background or ethnic affiliation.
The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. The bindi also represents the third eyes. I like the concept of a jewel for the skins which can complete well a finery, I think it's a good alternative to piercing!
|by Iris Laverdent|
But why having just one when you can have a lot? For the khatakali cabaret show I experimented a make up with a lot of bindis with make your face as encrusted with gemstone and confirm my obsession for accumulation!
During my trip, I took more than 500 pictures and videos of local people from Thrissur, Alappuzha, Kalamandalam, Varlkala and Fort Cochin while wearing my sixties yellow sunglasses.
In this project, I want to show how you can create an intercultural link through the mediation of an object. This western sunglasses appear like a funny anomaly in traditional indian landscapes.
Behind theses sunglasses there is a pair of either proud or laughing, dazed, shy, happy, embarrassed, amused or surprised eyes. With my camera, I enjoyed catching all the reactions aroused by this odd request made by a blond white girl.
I lilted to take picture of all kind of people, boys or girls, young or old, from every kind of social background, street sellers, waiters, drivers,shopkeepers, beggars, artists, cricket players, housewives policeman,gardeners, life-guards, workers, students, fishermen... those portraits allow me to draw my own mosaic of Kerala. It was really fascinating to see how people stage themselves with the glasses emphasising the cultural discrepancies between women and men after being exposed.
During the project, we stayed in Trisshur, a very un-touristic place where people barely see foreigners. Thus, the idea of this project, emerged from the fact that people were staring at us, and looked quite curious about us.
With Yueer, we created two dresses inspired by saris and traditional indian outfit but "westernized" and influenced by our own conception of style . So, the fact of being a stranger was emphasises by the fact of wearing a strange outfit.
We went to the centre of the busy city and we did everyday-life things (shopping, taking the bus, walking in the street...) as if everything was normal to the the reactions of people.
This project was an experience to see how you feel when you are observed (even through of the rearview-mirror of the tuk tuk driver!) and how people deal with alterity.
For me, it echoed to Sartre's conception of the gaze of the other. The other perceives the subject of its gaze as a being-in-itself, and can rob it of the freedom to create its own essence. The gaze of the other imposes its subjectivity on the other's objectivity and can make him feel as an alien. We perceive us perceived by the other and it can affect our way to behave and see the world. At the same time, being radically different also generates really positive reactions. If some people were chocked, dumbfounded, considering me as an invader in their everyday-life landscape, most of them were smiling, surprised, found me intriguing and wanted to talk to me or take my picture!