Choreographed by PhD researcher Jane Morley, Precarious Bodies was a live performed collage, exploring the relationship between garment and wearer in an expanded fashion practice.
A completely experimental project, the performance responded to the Open Box and Superstructure to take the audience, performer, garment and site through a fluid time based journey into a 3 dimensional collage.
Jane Morley’s research experiments with different ways she can work with bodies and materials in her creative practice, to explore the role of fashion practitioners in the emerging area of expanded fashion practice.
In her final year of PhD research, Precarious Bodies marked a key point in the final stage of her creative practice, as she now works towards writing up her research.
An entirely new work and way of working, Precarious Bodies was the result of experimentations with a number of methods that draw from improvisation and expanded approaches to collage.
Testing Grounds was selected to perform the culmination of these experimentations for the dynamic spaces available, but in particular, the emphasis on, and appreciation of, exploratory works.
Starting by developing a series of two dimensional collages, the iterative process of the project was to use these to design an installation in response to the Testing Grounds Open Box and Super Structure space. The collages became provocations for four performers, who then improvised by interacting with the garments and materials that made up the installation.
Development In Situ
From the beginning of the project, there were “unknowns” – working in an entirely new way, with plans constantly changing and evolving.
The physical spaces of the Open Box and Superstructure were integral to the development of the performance, with the Open Box acting as a driving force, allowing the work to expand, rather than limit.
The installations were developed as site-specific works and all the pieces were designed to be displayed on the hanging and standing frames unique to the space. The hanging frames became a central focus of the performed work as the performers improvised in the space in a way that utilised these metal frames.
The work was developed in discussions with the Program Director, who was able to offer insights in terms of how to work effectively in the space, and the Operations Manager, who helped work with the site and find ways to bring the installation ideas to life. The result of the discussions was to create a more dynamic space for the performers to work in.
The project benefitted greatly from having the time to experiment with the space, equipment and setup, which gave room to see if ideas worked, and to develop a clear staging choreography.
Working in the context of the Art Party meant that there were limitations in terms of the time Morley could access the space for setting up, but it also became a strength for the project in the end, as it gave parameters to find more innovative ways of displaying the work in the space.
Sharing the space with other performers and artists set a dynamic environment to view the work in, particularly as the projects PhD research seeks to explore the expanded contexts of fashion in dialogue with art and performance. It was extremely valuable to have the marketing support of Testing Grounds for the event, as it meant the work reached new audiences.
As well as providing an opportunity to try a new approach to improvisation and collage, the work was the first time during Morley’s PhD that she invited an audience to watch, which provoked a change in the way the artist involved herself – becoming part of the performance rather than the one who documents it.
The final result of the development was a twenty minute piece. The performers found the site and setup inspiring, wishing to explore new ways of working with it if the duration was expanded.
This lesson was noted as a valuable one, which will be taken forward in the future when setting the parameters for improvised work.
The work was shown as part of Art Party #5 in March 2018, offering a cross pollination of audiences and experiences from other works across the site.
The resulting piece provided a rendezvous between fashion’s more traditional notions of glamour, beauty and perfection, and bodies that resist and disrupt these myths. Materials performed, and the way they interact with bodies is central to how fashion communicates and how we perceive our bodies and express our identity. Through a series of two dimensional and live performed collages, The collaborative work considered how expanded methods of fashion collage can transform the body and destabilise the norms that dictate the nature of “fashionable bodies”. As part of the work Morely invited artists and performers to explore, improvise, collaborate, perform her installation on site.
The performance was a collaboration with Michelle Mantsio, Tim McPoland, Emma Langdon, Sarah Elsworth, Mark Brown, Elliot Forbes Gannon and Zoe Kostopoulos.
It was included in the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Arts Program. Having this audience in addition to those engaging in the Art Party provided a diverse crowd to explore the new project with.
As with other Testing Grounds Art Parties, the works by other artists that were selected to show at the event complemented the overall performance, and helped set the context for the work as a fashion practitioner exploring these particular spaces.
Showing the work at Testing Grounds was a really inspiring prospect for Morley, not just to show work in the arts precinct, but to be part of such a dynamic Art Party event. If Testing Grounds was not available, Jane states that she would most likely have hired a space much further from Melbourne CBD where her work would have been viewed inside a conventional gallery or performance hall environment – in isolation of other work.
To have work shared with a larger community of creatives and art-lovers in such close proximity to other cultural institutions and VAMFF events was greatly beneficial to the work and Morley’s emerging profile as a practitioner.
After The Performance
Morley has taken the outcome of this performance to contribute to the writing of her PhD dissertation. Using the experience of making the work to develop proposals for art residencies, she hopes to expand on the work further, planning some improvised performance work planned for late 2018 and 2019.