Lou Baker, Living sculptures, 2018, research and documentation

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Lou Baker

Living sculptures Documentation of research and conversations at ‘Make space’, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, 18.7.18, at ‘disquiet’ exhibition, Walcot Chapel, Bath 18.9 - 23.9.18 and elsewhere

Wearing the unwearable? At some point during the process of making, I try on all my soft sculptures. It’s part of making them me and is also part of my ongoing research into the links between clothing, body and identity. They are all technically wearable yet they are, realistically, utterly unwearable.

Plastic surgery, 2012

Nobody 3, 2014

Other 1, 2015

Other 2, 2015

Other 3, 2015

Other 4, 2015

Other 5, 2015

Heart of darkness I, 2016

Living sculptures Normally, in an art gallery, there are signs saying ‘Do not touch’; what happens if the viewer is not only encouraged to touch but is invited to become a living sculpture by wearing an abstract soft sculpture? What would it look like? How would it feel?

Identity is often communicated through the clothes we wear, but, at a deeper level, the multiple selves we reveal to the world can conceal our true sense of self.

Using traditional garment-making skills and unexpected materials, I am developing a selection of more readily wearable sculptures which can be put on and removed independently by visitors.

I have carried out some research recently at ‘Make space’, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on 18.7.18 and at ‘disquiet’ exhibition, Walcot Chapel, Bath 18.923.9.18. This is the documentation of the research, feedback and conversations. It will all inform the next stages of this project. Many thanks to all my participants!

Living sculptures at ‘Make space’, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, 18.7.18

Living sculptures installed at ‘disquiet’, Walcot Chapel, Bath 18.9.-23.9.18

‘A knitted jumper would usually make me feel comfortable, but these make me question what makes us comfortable.’

‘Our clothes are like a second skin.’

‘I could have worn them for a long time. They’re very snuggly.’

‘Selfie? Self? Lots of selves?’

‘They make me think of the fashion designer, Christopher Kane, and his sleeves with multiple holes.’

‘It’s like being a kid again, with a dressing up box.’

‘They make me want to dance.’

‘It reminds me of those big communal changing rooms they used to have in womens’ clothes shops.’

‘It felt like I had a big itchy duvet on me. It was fun most of all : )’

‘You know the rules of knitting, then you deconstruct them, then you play with them!’

‘When I was little I used to wear my mum’s jumper and pretend to be a dinosaur.’

‘I think its really important to explore your dark side. It makes you whole. Own it, integrate it, leave it. Then there is no death.’

‘Very interesting concept. Great fun. A chance to dress up!!’

‘I like stroking them.’

‘They make me think of the book Women who run with the wolves. It’s about women finding their wildness. She says something about ‘knitting yourself into a many sleeved sweater.’

‘I like the fact that you can arrange them however you like.’

‘So cool!’

‘It’s a funny mix of fun and feeling a bit uncomfortable.’

‘It feels as if I can be whatever I want to be. It’s very freeing!’

‘It makes me feel like a model.’

‘I like the fact that you can choose how to put them on. Is that a sleeve? Or can I put my leg through it?’

‘Look at that!’

‘They made me think what, or who, are these made for?’

‘I can be whoever I want to be!’

‘FUN! Life - affirming! MAKE! DO! PLAY!’

‘This is a twirly one.’

‘Such fun!’

‘It interests me how they change when you wear them. They are primarily sculptural, but wearing them they become secondary to the wearer.’

‘Every time someone wears one and puts it back, it changes the shape of the sculpture.’

‘They reminded me of Elephant man, or some sort of monster. Maybe a creature, actually, as there wasn’t anything frightening in it. Is there part of me that this would fit? Is there part of me that is that creature?’

‘It’s a blue octopus.’

‘It makes me feel very regal. Maybe someone in Game of Thrones?’

‘It’s a strange but beautiful work! Thank you!’

‘I don’t like the meat hooks.’

‘I feel like a sea creature.’

‘It makes me very uncomfortable that they’re unravelling! I want to rescue them.’

‘What a really fun space! Thought provoking as well.’

‘They’re comforting. I had to touch them.’

‘I’m a singer and I’d love to wear one when I’m performing.’

‘I’m fighting an urge to rearrange the sculptures so that that one’s not touching the floor.’

‘Are the meat hooks part of the narrative?’

‘They look as if they’re hovering.’

‘They remind me of Freud’s essay on the Uncanny. You know it, it’s disturbing, you don’t want to know it.’

‘Thank you for the adventure - it was fun - your creative sculptures are inspiring. So tactile - so skilled!’

‘The colours are so vibrant and lovely, but the meat hooks make them edgy.’

‘I like all these hanging bits. They’re like paint drips.’

‘Seaweed, kelp, coral.’

‘It makes me want to move, to rock, like one of those rocking dolls…’

‘It all feels so suspended.’

‘It’s interesting that you allow people to touch them. It makes it very different.’

‘Brilliant. Frees you up about what you can wear, great fun breaking the rules. I shall go home and look at my wardrobe differently.’

In December 2017, I installed 11 of my soft sculptures in a disused dance centre and former swimming pool, they looked like this:

Multitude at PRILIC exhibition, 2017, Jacobs Wells Centre, Bristol

My dream is to install a room full of soft sculptures hanging from hooks which can be removed and worn by visitors. The passive viewer can choose to become an active participant, a performer; and, for the onlooker, the space will be transformed into an immersive, dynamic, ever-changing, interactive experience. Watch this space!

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