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Subliminal mythologies of the body


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Claiden, Rosemary 1997 , 'Subliminal mythologies of the body', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis focuses on the ways in which costume can articulate the
connections between the body and psyche.The work explores how physical
sensation and emotional memories are linked across the landscape of the body
The work blurs the boundaries between skin and costume.The skin itself
resembles a garment; especially when peeled back to reveal the internal organs.
The focus is on the 'empty dress' in order to evoke the body even
more potently through its absence. Clothing is suffused with the presence of the
body; its scent, posture and traits. It in turn, affects the walk, gesture and gait of
the body.Costume's intimate proximity to the body makes it a volatile conduit
between the interior and exterior realms of the body and psyche. It can signal
unconscious desires and fears.
The boundaries of the body are not sealed by the skin. The 'body
image' exists beyond the physical body. Its borders are osmotic and can powerfully
incorporate and expel surrounding objects , such as clothing (Grosz). A perception
of body image reveals the inseparability of biological and psychical elements and
the interweaving of body and costume.
As an extension of physical sensation, clothing is like a prosthetic
limb; at the same time alien to the body and yet integral to the body image. Once
devoid of their owners, both can appear to move of their own volition. By using
clothing as a surrogate for the body, costume takes on the aspects of the 'phantom
body'. It invokes mourning for what is no longer there and is suffused with the
presence of its now absent owner.The empty dress provokes a sense of the
uncanny by suggesting the absence of the physical body, thereby evoking fears of
an inevitable mortality.
The research is focused on the female body. The paper describes
mythological traditions that inscribe fears of mortality specifically across the
female form, in a feminisation of the flesh. Sensual garments that veil a
womans body become tools of a fatal seduction. An unconscious fear of women
has positioned them in a space of danger and desire, embraced in the 'femme
The research considers the primacy of vision in intellectually possessing an
object of desire.The installation subverts the safe distance of voyeurism and
engages all the senses in a visceral reading of the work. Costumes have been
constructed that resonate with the sensuality and mystique of the female form
but must be entered and walked through to reveal unseen layers.The installation
sets out a psychological striptease. The participants are involved in a
metamorphosis that enacts the ephemeral nature of the body and costume. The
visual language developed expresses a somatic intelligence which gives voice to
the senses.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Claiden, Rosemary
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1997 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1997. Includes bibliographical references

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