Ritual & Fashion

Some people are surprised to find that I love fashion, but who doesn’t love wearable art? I’m pretty sure it must have been the poet/translator Alessandra Bava who pointed me toward ‘Embodying Pasolini’ a performance co-created by Olivier Saillard and Tilda Swinton. To honour Pasolini and his long film career, Saillard and Swinton evoke the embodied experience by choosing and putting on her body a wide variety of the costumes, some of which are challengingly complex.

“What those people who watch the performance see is two people figuring out how to embody Pasolini but honestly even Olivier and I, we don’t really know what we are doing which I think it’s a great place to start.” (via Reuters)

The chamber in which this performance took place offered a small number of mostly masked observers and technical supporters, a floor with taped rolls of brown packaging paper. The first step was bringing out the boxes, trunks, display forms, and other accoutrements.

Swinton chooses one after another of the costumes, and usually with a bit of assistance, puts them on over a series of neutral outfits that make the (not so) quick changes easier. There is a pause to feel the effects of the costume, to perhaps consider the original cause of its making. There is no guidance for the audience, but as you probably know, Swinton conveys a complex web of emotional reactions.

As you can see from the photos, some of these costumes were quite elaborate, and I can only imagine the exhaustion at the end of this performance that went on for quite a long time.

As you can see, there’s an amazing range of both costumes and reactions from Swinton. To call the ritual performance transformative may seem obvious; it is about changing costumes, after all. But it brilliantly evokes the richness of Pasolini’s work and that chameleon ability of Swinton to imagine herself through any eyes. In that hall the spirit of Pasolini rose, doubtless with pleasure to see the story of his work brought to vivid life.