The excerpts Arabelle's been posting reminded me of some excerpts I've been hoarding. I picked up a book called Fashion, Interior Design, and the Contours of Modern Identity at work while I was working on some pieces I’m writing about The Hunger Games. I couldn’t justify reading the whole thing, but I read a few pieces and the introduction and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s one of the most exciting approaches to space, performance, corporeality and fashion theory I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also got a lot of really interesting historical pieces on Orientalism in interiors and fashion, and how this spacial-bodily relationship had so much to do with racial construction.
From the intro:
[Interior design] is the material culture which emotionally, psychically, cognitively and physically elaborates the contours of the home and body.
The author goes on to say that theorists and critics so often displace interior design, locating it between “fashion (fleeting and ephemeral)” and “architecture (permanent and static).” The authors position interior surfaces and spaces as sort of liminal, and recenter these circular arguments on the body. (You’d be shocked how rarely interior and architecture history actually centers the body as the subject.)
To elaborate, I turn to another clip I’ve been hoarding. This one is from Ronald Grimes’ “Masking: Toward a Phenomenology of Exteriorization.” This was written in the mid-seventies, and Grimes was a ritual theorist with a rearing in anthropology or sociology. “Masking” drew on all the (ENDLESS) anthropological lit about “tribal” mask practices that was produced in the first half of the twentieth century. It’s not really ethnographic as much as it is taxonomic, Grimes was trying to come up with some sort of unifying theory of masking practices.
Anyway, he talked about a few examples of societies that had “masks” that were actually giant or really small or generally never intended to actually touch or adorn a body but instead were formed to suggest the existence of a body. He referred to “the illusion of wearableness”:
…a semblance of an exteriority which iconographically presupposes a human or divine interiority.
What Grimes was talking about was a material contour which presupposes a body as subject even if the body wasn’t present. Further—as you might have picked up in all my talk about #surfaces—a “contour” can, as in this case, create an “exteriority” which forecloses an “interiority.” The enunciation of a surface which outlines is the enunciation of a contained interior.
Re: clothing. OR, these things invent the boundary which invents the discrete body and the discrete self.