Displacement in Dress





Displacement is a topic that elicits a surprised or confused response. Upon reading about this week’s prompt, I wanted to create images that were simultaneously relatable and perplexing to the audience. Therefore, I opted to displace daily actions and familiar contexts. The first thing that came to mind was to do a spin on weather. This idea came to me as I was sitting outside by the pool in shorts and a T-shirt in February looking at the weather forecast for the rest of the week, which included snow. I thought it would be interesting to displace a person fully clothed in winter gear lounging by the pool. However, due to poor weather conditions outside, I opted to move the photo inside and displace the model in the shower, a not as obvious context. The participant of this art piece was Nikki and she said that being bundled up in the shower made her feel cramped and stuffy. She felt very out of place. She was trying to be careful not to get her gloves wet or accidentally turn on the shower. Then we had the challenge of depicting someone in the shower in a normal context, because obviously we couldn’t take a nude shot. We searched in the towel closet and found a towel wrap and hair turban to dress Nikki in.
Next, I thought it would be interesting to also displace a person just out of the shower outside. Nikki went outside on the porch in freezing temperatures. She noted that it would be uncomfortable if any neighbors saw her. In fact, a few passerbys spotted her and stared from below because she was inappropriately dressed to be outside, let alone on such a cold day. Afterwards, I photographed the actions in their normal contexts- Nikki in the shower clothes in the shower and outside in winter gear. For both of us, it was fun participating in this photo shoot and we enjoyed brainstorming the best way to displace people and their every day activities in just a few photos. I feel that after doing this, I will be more aware of where I am and what I am wearing in different places and what is deemed socially acceptable. Writing this essay now, I am thinking of how great a social response it would generate if someone showed up to the library or a grocery store in a towel wrap or wore winter clothes at the beach. It shows about how these patterns and associations are unconscious and ingrained in our culture.
My representation of displacement reminded me Adrian Piper’s work, which addresses ideas of ostracism and otherness. Her projects such as riding the subway covered in vinegar, eggs, milk, and cod liver oil, and shopping in Macy’s while wearing a wet paint sign go against social norms of dress. While my project created a confused reaction, Piper’s must have caused an angry, annoyed reaction as she intruded on people’s public space. Another discussion on the module that related to my piece was the CowParade, which placed fiberglass sculptures of cows throughout various cities for artists to decorate. They were situated in front of corporate offices or train stations and defied the urban and formal vibes of these locations. Similarly, my project focused on dressing people inappropriately for where they were placed, interrupting the atmosphere of the context. Lastly, my piece can be connected to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain because it displaced an everyday object, the urinal, in a museum, in which case it was considered art. The urinal is a very private object as it is typically used in bathrooms. Similarly, my photographs took place in the shower, which is considered a private place. Making the private world public can be considered art due to creating an alternative representation. Displacement is a very interesting topic because when encountered, viewers stop to stare, but rarely do people stop and think why something is weird and evaluate the social norms behind it.