By Takashi Kitano, First year Social and Cultural Theory
A paper dress conveyed the answer in Ellen Crofton’s exploration of the feminine identity.
I, Feminine, was a one-day exhibition held on January 21 at SPACE gallery within PRSC (People’s Republic of Stokes Croft). It projected to question, reinvent, and reclaim notions of femininity in today’s society.
It was the debut exhibition for Ellen Crofton. The 22-year-old artist and writer was employed as a creative assistant by the Bristol-based theatre company Raucous, and has kept working in Bristol by volunteering for Sounder Spoken Word poetry events.
Taking feminist courses during her time at university, Crofton realised that many people around her had very different ideas of femininity and feminism. Her experiences led her to take a deconstructivist perspective - recognising that the language surrounding femininity is easily reduced to ambiguity and becomes meaninglessness in the age of identity politics. Her work asks - what does ‘feminine’ even mean and why does that matter? Such questions are central to her active reconstruction of femininity through chosen medium – moving image.
To answer these questions, Crofton showcased a paper dress. In the almost liminal dark room, an ambient-coloured spotlight shone up the sleeveless dress, which was a masking-taped patchwork of classical patterns and old newspapers. On the wall a short movie was projected on a loop. It depicted two different persons in the dress (her mother and a friend of hers), who were filmed in a mountain and a city respectively.
Each figure in the fragile frock, at different places, made their own sense of femininity. The figure on the mountain path wandered with odd steps, while the person in the city was often stared at by people. Yet, the breeze on the hill and the coldness in the city invaded their body through the thin dress in the same way and made them grapple with their existence. For the viewer this signified the ‘tangibility’ of femininity, in its exposure to the surrounding environment.
From my perspective what should be highlighted was strength of femininity in this project. Both figures in the film certainly gave nuanced performances, insomuch as the figure's walking appeared almost as a dance of freedom, whilst the person in the city never seemed to lose their conviction whilst being in the dress.
Crofton encourages people, particularly young students, to disregard expectations and stereotypes, and instead always be true to themselves. This was a powerful project that was successful in making the viewer critically think about their experiences and encouraged people to construct their own identities.
Featured Image: Epigram
What did you think about this project?