Undergarments and Armor
Tanya Marcuse - 13 October to 1 December 2006
Opening 12 October, 7-9pm. All Welcome
With the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship, I travelled to archives and museums in the U.S. and England photographing undergarments, armor, and the museum forms that populate the storerooms--objects like breastplates, helmets, corsets, bustles, mannequins and dress forms. The earliest objects date from the 14th century while no object is dated past 1900, ruling out the possibility of a living owner. I see these garments and suits of armor as sculptures of the body that, like a carapace, outlast their wearers. These personal effects adorned, constricted and protected the body all at once. Now they are archived as artistic and cultural artefacts, shells of the bodies that once inhabited them. The project extends my long-standing interest in sculpture and the body, presence and absence.
While visual and conceptual dichotomies are clearly present in the relationship between the undergarments and armor (male/female, hard/soft, outside/inside, armed/disarmed), no one simple reading is possible. A bustle is an industrial contraption, while a breastplate is delicately adorned. In the 14th century the term corset was used to refer to a breastplate as worn by a soldier. Though one might expect the feminine undergarments to be alluring, they often appear clinical, even dingy, divorced from the body's lingering presence. On the other hand the armor often conveys an aggressive sexuality, both gorgeous and cruel. Yet in both cases the garments are transformative. The undergarments enhancing and constricting the body to support the fashion of the outer dress; the armour shielding the body's mortal flesh, while concurrently turning its wearer into a terrifying war machine. Tanya Marcuse
Tanya Marcuse is a photographer whose work has investigated the body and the archive in a series of projects. Her book of photographs, Undergarments and Armor (Nazraeli Press, 2005) was supported by a 2002-3 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2003 Anson Kittredge Grant; the project won a 2005 JGS Book Project Award, She is the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts Award, and the George Sakier Memorial Prize for Excellence in Photography from Yale University School of Art, where she earned her M.F. A. Her photographs are in the collections of the Corcoran Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Yale Art Gallery, and The Library of Congress. Ms. Marcuse teaches Photography and Photography History and Theory at Simon's Rock of Bard College. She is working on a theoretical based photography project, "Wax Bodies," photographs of 18th century Italian wax anatomical models.
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