Shapeshifty

2021

What: An embodied publication – garment in two modalities, each consisting of four elements: garment, scarf, hat with veil and tags. Made in collaboration with Sami Hammana, Karen Huang, Sarafina Paulina Bonita, and Sandim Mendes. Curated by Kris Dittel
Where: TENT Rotterdam, 2021

What does it mean to reveal emotions, memories and languages that have been entangled in the political, social and economic realities informed by the conditions of the margins?

And what is at stake in making embodied knowledges public on the very bodies that have been rendered invisible? “Embodied publishing” is a proposition, and a conceptual framework to explore these questions both in form as well as content. 

Shapeshifty builds upon my body of work, which engages with encoded forms of message transmission and fashion as instruments to carry and disseminate meaning. I invited makers and collaborators to engage with the subject of code-switching from the perspective of their own embodied knowledge and specific cultural contexts. The resulting piece is a meditation on the politics of visibility and invisibility, transparency and opacity, translation and the refusal to translate. This is reflected in the shifting states of the piece; between protective armour and safety blanket, magazine and garment, and human and mythological shapeshifter. Fashion designer Karen Huang collaborated in breathing life to the final form.

Sami Hammana draws from the numerical vernacular of Straattaal, a language spoken on the streets of the Netherlands. His contribution is simultaneously a contextualization of a specific code, as well as a process of meaning making within this numerical system. The work explores how numbers are used, and makes an attempt at highlighting the way this vernacular numerical literacy plays a role in attaining different social proximities.

In Cape Verdean culture both dance and Creole language are used as covert ways to reveal and conceal sensitive subjects. In her contribution, Sandim Mendes examines the Cape Verdean creole proverb ’N ta qui marra corda na barriga pam aguenta’ (translated as ‘I would tighten my stomach with a tie and bear it’), where tying a rope around one’s waist refers to discreetly signal resistance, endurance and discontent. Her contribution takes the form of a belt – a garment that can act as a tool for support in difficult situations, offering a form of safety as well as freedom.

In their piece, Sarafina Paulina Bonita explores the politics of the masked face. Written as a poem to be performed by a white body, Sarafina’s contribution explores what it means to ‘borrow’ a white face, voice and body as a conduit for their voice spoken in cultural institutional spaces that have been historically unsafe for BIPOC, Queer and Trans* bodies. 

Credits:
Contributing Artists: Sami Hammana, Sandim Mendes and Sarafina Paulina Bonita
Fashion Designer: Karen Huang 
Production Assistant: Hanna Franke
Photography: Aad Hoogendoorn (2, 6, 7, 8, 9) , Florian Cramer (3, 4, 5),  Amy Suo Wu (1, 10, 11)