“Human bodies are essentially dressed bodies; dress is a basic fact of social life, an individual act that prepares the body for the social world.” – Dr Alexandra Allan, Exeter University
Last month I was awarded a £750 People’s Theatre Award from CPT to go towards the first 6 months of my new project, which I am tentatively calling ReDress.
With ReDress I am seeking to explore ideas around identity and self-representation.
(Image: Tyler Durden, Fight Club)
Over the last twenty-five years I have had many identities including raver, butch dyke, student, metrosexual lesbian, squatter, feminine heterosexual, arts administrator, backpacker and performance artist to name a few.
Through ReDress I am interested in exploring the way we inhabit and discard different identities throughout our lives and I specifically want to look at how we perform these identities through what we say, do, wear, drink, eat and live.
“The evidence on consumer behaviour suggests that consumer goods and services play a huge variety of roles in our lives. Among these roles we must include at least: the satisfaction of functional needs, the construction of identity, the pursuit of status and social distinction, the maintenance of social cohesion, social and/or sexual selection, negotiation of the boundary between the sacred and the profane, and the pursuit of personal and collective meaning.” Tim Jackson, The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption.
Some questions I am thinking about include:
Did I choose these identities or did they choose me? Do we construct identity through belonging or not belonging to certain social groups? In what ways do we construct identity through consuming particular products? If I change my outside identity will I change my inside as well?
ReDress is a three-year artistic research and dialogue project exploring these ideas and will include: open discussions, public interactions, a digital archive, a series of performances and much more depending on where the research takes me.
(Image: Sandy Olssen, Grease)
I will begin ReDress in January, starting with the first of three separate year-long performances in which I choose and inhabit an identity of my past. This first year I am going back to the butch look of my late teens (when I identified as a lesbian) and for one year I will wear only masculine clothes with the appropriate hair and accessories.
Each year I will get rid of my old ‘identity’ by selling every single item of clothing I own before starting afresh with a brand new wardrobe. This first year I am planning on selling them via a pop-up market stall in different locations over the first 6 months.
The first Market Stall will be at CPT in London during their Whose London Is It Anyway? festival so do please come and see me for a chat about this project and hopefully pick up a bargain from my stall whilst you are there.
More about Katy:
Katy Baird is a London-based artist and activist who often finds herself in uncomfortable situations of her own making. Her solo work is intimate and autobiographical, reflecting on gender, class and sexuality.
She has performed at Live Art festivals and venues across the UK as well as squat parties, clubs and raves.
(Main image credit: Richard DeDomenici)