Workshop # 4 Performing Materiality

January 25th till Friday February 5th 2021 at Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki University

Performing Materiality was a workshop in which costume designers were provided with conditions to create performances starting from their garments or textile materials.

LINK TO VIDEO DOCUMENATION WORKSHOP # 4 (17 minutes):  Please double-click at the video to enter full screen


Students at Aalto University were invited to join the workshop. The participants were costume design students or students of new media. Each participant brought garments og textile material and ideas that they wanted to try out in the workshop. 

Each student was provided with:

  • Individually 6 sessions x 2 hours daily, totally 12 hours with two dancers
  • Teamwise discussion sessions: 6 sessions x 2 hours daily, totally 12 hours 
  • All workshop participants met for feedback and brainstorming sessions to help each other think and create 2 x 5 hours, totally 10 hours
  • Individual tutorials with the research team
  • Access to a performance space, in addition to access to light, sound and stage equipment
  • Photo and video recording of the performance on the final day

Costume Agency workshop # 4 was hosted by Sofia Pantouvaki at Aalto University

Research supervisors Sodja Lotker, Christina Lindgren, Sally Elizabeth Dean and Sofia Pantouvaki

Designers Katri Nikkola, Maria Vidal and Jasmine Xie

Performers Katrina Tavi, Krista-Julia Arppo, Meeri Lempiäine and Salla Rytövuori

Interviewer: Sodja Lotker

Film recording and editing: Eero Koistinen

Photos: Sanni Siira

Recorded at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design & Architecture/ Department of Film, Television and Scenography, Helsinki, Finland under regulations following the Covid-19-pandemic


Designer Maria Vidal about the work with her costumes

The movements the dancer performed during the rehearsals were essential to the creation of the costume. We started to see different creatures appear and quickly disappear on another shape, while playing with fabric layers. A simple gesture, a step forward or an arm rising could easily create a sculpture and dissolve it. During the rehearsals we realized the interesting findings were not about obstacles, but about the shapeless creatures and the infinite possibilities this particular design was giving. We had to find and define with more clarity the relation the dancers had with the costume, between body and fabric. The new concept we continued working on was the concept of metamorphosis. This change was possible due to the constant feedback sessions that were encouraged with and by the professors Christina Lindgren and Sodja Lotker and the open dialogue with the dancers and our peers. 

Designer Katri Nikkola about the work with her costumes

This performance which I have named Liminal is an exploration of change, a liminal stage between known and unknown, recognizable and unrecognizable. It is a glimpse of a journey me and the dancers Salla Rytövuori and Krista-Julia Arppo took together as we got to know the two coats I had chosen as the costumes for this workshop. We explored different ways the dancers could merge, move and interact with them. Through touch and movement, the coat becomes alive and reveals its character and ways of being. Together with the dancers it goes through a metamorphosis from a recognizable coat to new unfamiliar shapes and beings. The performance becomes a changing landscape of transforming figures and shapes showing the fluctuation of dancer and coat as separate entities as well as them merging to form new alien lifeforms. We wanted to listen and feel what the coat could offer by examining its qualities like how its weight could lead movement, how it feels against the skin or in what different ways it could be in contact with the dancer’s body. Instead of starting with a story or predefined characters these were revealed to us through the process of working with and getting to know the costume. 

Desginer Jasmine Xie abouth the work with her costumes

The costumes were initially chosen for their material composition, and the aim of my research was to examine how the combination of material and form interacted with bodies in the form of performance. They were made out of transparent, iridescent PVC and reflective sequins, and I chose them because of their light-manipulating qualities – I found the ephemeral nature of light very intriguing, because it was both bound to the physicality of the manipulation of the material, and also, to a degree, shapeless and infinite in its reach. I wanted to see how the costumes could be used to create light art. The costume pieces were all forms of clothing, but when we worked with them, we explored their potential both on the body in conventional shapes and reconfigured to a more basic level of their physicality by wearing them unconventionally, or by removing them from the body and using them as accessory pieces to be interacted with. By doing this, we were able to explore how the form of the costume could inform the performance – how different types of costumes, made out of similar materials with similar light-affecting qualities, evoked different kinds of play between the dancers and the pieces.  

January 24, 2021
Written by christinasodja

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