I am so in love with this Ecstatic Spaces collection from Trinidadian architect Tara Keens Douglas! The four costumes created from folded paper and twisted ropes form part of her masters thesis and addresses four operations: appropriation, exaggeration, submersion and sublimation in an exploration of the Trinidad Carnival as a spatial and physical transformation .
The concept and process behind any creative process is always the strengthening adhesive to the finished product, and the culmination of this ‘ephemeral architecture’ (as Keens Douglas describes it), is truly aesthetically, and theoretically exciting!
Read Tara’s personal description of her project here (sourced from www.dezeen.com)
The people of Trinidad communicate in the playful and sensuous nature of the carnival costume. They mock the seriousness of the political world, rejecting state and class. A medium for humor, the costumes stand in for the bodies we do not have; ambivalently, they both degrade and regenerate. Costumed, Carnival embraces laughter and the grotesque, and gives the community identity.
The chaos of parade, music, and dance fuses the body with the costume, transforming the individual, freeing him from inhibitions. The fusion of body and Carnival costume tells the untold story of the masquerader. The architecture of costume serves its wearers. Its significance lies in its affirmation of identity, while accommodating an emotional and sensuous experience.
New techniques, shifts in the local economy, and changing concepts of culture, have in turn, redeveloped the Carnival costume. New designs – departures – stand out. Carnival pushes this very idea. Over the years, costumes challenge the officials and the onlookers. They are daring, controversial, and crude. It is the contemporary female costume in Carnival that most challenges convention now. It is why I chose the female form as my muse for my costume designs, using the ornament of costume to amplify the grotesque. I began with the costume titled ‘appropriation’, a dragon costume for the contemporary female Carnival. It mimics the aggressive nature of the dragon costume and merges it with the highly sexualized female body in carnival. I used abstract forms that evoked the dragon.
Working with my hands, I mold and manipulate, pushing, pulling, creasing, and tearing to reach the desired volume. I compose based on a repetition of units. Three of these units make up a three-dimensional ‘spiked’ form. I approach its design with a sense of blind faith. Piece by piece, I assemble the modular ‘spike’ around the female form. I imagine what the series of spikes could represent, a twist in the dragon’s tail, the ridge on his back.
I variously scaled ‘spikes’ to draw attention to areas of the body used to communicate, whether as threat device or sexual lure. The completed costume is an appropriation of the dragon, made to suit the carnival female and their changing culture. Both the costume and the process of making it were transformative.
The four costume designs are grotesque, making extreme exaggerations and unfathomable representations of the body, violating the idealized, classical body. The costumes are an ephemeral architecture – fragile and mobile. They temporally distort the true nature of the body, transforming the wearer, perhaps disclosing new natures. They make a new “facade”, or emphasize one already in play. They are, in a way, architecture of the persona.