The dress on Jakarta Biennale # 14

6 Jan 2012 

Pintu Barat, Ancol, Jakarta, Indonesia

Author/costume: Julie Laffin

Performer: Ivana Stojakovic

About the artist: Julie Laffin is an American artist whose work walks the fine line between inverting stereotypical female iconography and reproducing it. Laffin navigates the territory where meaning gets mediated through the female body by creating a spectacle to engage the audience; the spectacle of a woman adorned with a gown of enormous proportions. In choosing specific sites that provide the appropriate context for her investigations, she often transforms mundane spaces into highly charged ones to meet her own agenda.

The theme of "the dress" has been an ongoing iconographic source in Laffin’s work for almost twenty years. The artist says this about her use of "the dress"

"Clothing not only engages the body in a direct way but is also encoded with existing meaning, often invoking class and gender politics. I couldn’t agree more with feminist theorists who have pointed out that women’s bodies are frequently the site(s) where ideologies get played out or "performed" in various cultures."

A consuming part of each piece is the process of making the garment, which includes the conception, design, construction, and installation of the overly large gowns. Each garment is always problematic and yet completely wearable. Laffin views the dresses as sculptures that are activated through her performances which are often durational in nature, each lasting several hours, and often traveling from one site to another. In recent years, the work tends to occupy public spaces rather than theatrical or private ones.

Though the artist’s actions and events occur over time, the work can often be viewed, abandoned and returned to again, much like two and three-dimensional art. Laffin describes herself as a visual artist working in a multidisciplinary tradition that requires the dynamics of time to complete the images she makes. In addition to numerous performances in Chicago and the American midwest, Laffin has shown her performances in New York at Franklin Furnace Archive, The Streetwise Festival of Live Art in Glasgow, Scotland and the New Art Gallery in Walsall, England, The Prague Quadrennial, The Dutch Theatre Festival, Amsterdam and most recently, Kings College, London.

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