Costume Politics

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Costume is subversive. It subverts the rules of a fashion system and exposes the theatricality of dress. Accordingly, the politics of costume are arguably a politics of ‘othering’: how the conscious subversion of appearance serves as an act of bodily estrangement. Yet, as evident in the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) tribes in June 2015, this othering is an active process that is undertaken equally by those engaged in the event of costuming and those who witness this act. Devised by exhibition curator Sodja Lotker, each PQ tribe was commissioned with an expected minimum of four individuals that were masked or costumed. Importantly, the group would take on a shared behavioural trait or characteristic when traversing a predetermined route through the centre of Prague, which included an underground train station and busy public squares. Each tribe would also interact directly with the inhabitants of Prague by spending 50Kč. Based on this broad outline, the PQ tribes were suitably diverse and focused on a range of different concerns. Some, such as Hideki Seo’s Jump!, evoked the logic and context of the fashion catwalk. Others, as exemplified by Simona Rybáková Swans, adorned costumes originally designed for theatrical performances. There were, however, a number of PQ tribes that aimed to enact or provoke an overtly political intervention: where the enactment of a tribe was a conscious act of rupture within the everyday flow of the city. Lotker’s call focused on this attribute most explicitly by noting that the PQ tribes ‘will install healing tribes on the weak points of the city of Prague to question everything’ (Lotker 2014). These ‘weak points’ included the exchange of money, the physical dimensions of the underground system, and the way public space is policed (whether formally or informally). Consequently, this interventionist quality of the PQ tribes invites a distinct focus on how the subversive qualities of costuming expose how appearance is recognised, understood and regulated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShared Space: Music, Weather, Politics: New approaches to scenography
Subtitle of host publicationPrague Quadrennial 2015
EditorsSodja Zupanc Lotker, Branislava Kuburović
Place of PublicationPrague
PublisherArts and Theatre Institute
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9788070083659
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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