Return to Do It Yourself Paper Dresses
A: Not really, the De Geuzen Uniforms are not about a 'new female subjectivity'; in fact they play with the identity we already have. In this case the 'we' refers to the three of us operating as women in a collective art/design group. Of course the negotiation between three individual female identities and its relation to female identity in general is always present while at the same time tenuous. Ours is not a black and white position when it comes to understanding either. If we perceive identity as not being fixed but perpetually in a state of flux, then guise and disguise are perhaps more useful terms. As a whole, the series offers us a means of thinking about our working process and the tactics we employ. For over six years we have collaborated together combining our craft, intellectual skills and cultural backgrounds, and the uniforms have been a visual platform for reflection on that front. As a series, the outfits constitute a set of evolving Geuzen vows, meaning they circumscribe a kind of work ethic or approach i.e.: Uniform 1: Utility and Service, Uniform 2: Frivolity and Folly, Uniform 3: DIY, Uniform 4: Simplicity and Ease, and forthcoming Uniform 5: Appropriation and Reclamation.
A: We chose 'Utility and Service' because it plays with the facilitory role we often assume within our work. It also highlights a feature we have tried to maintain throughout our projects which is a sense of 'hospitality'. For example, in the past when making the temporary archives we took on the role of a pseudo librarian. But in this case the librarian donates her own books, prescribes the spatial setting, dictates the entire content and choreographs debate. In other projects such as the dinner we hosted in our space profiling the writings of Michel de Certeau we were waitress serving the meal. On our aprons was printed De Certeau's description of the diversionary tactic 'la perruque'. In this case the artist (x3) is not what she seems to be and there is an ambiguous relation between audience, servant and author/artist.
Frivolity and Folly was more extravagant and the most self-explanatory. Collaborating with Margreeth Olsthoorn and Sandra Vanooij, we made three different garments of girdle material. Here we expanded on our name through a list of collected 'geuzennamen'. A geuzennaam is a Dutch term for a negative or derogatory name appropriated and reclaimed as a positive label of empowerment.
The DIY Uniform brings together a couple of key aspects of our practice. One being the ethic of distribution / open source which is why it has been printed on simple newsprint . Where the first two sets of uniforms were unique objects, this set in the series is a multiple fitting into the larger context of De Geuzen DIY projects. Primarily it is about the act of labour itself. In order to have it you must literally bring it into existence by working with your hands. Your are informed by the object stitch by stitch. It also plays with our own body proportions. If someone puts them on it is literally the imposition of one woman's body upon another. Just as any woman, none of our proportions are actual store-bought sizes. Of all the uniforms, the DIY version is the most absurd; aesthetically they are a combination between school girl dresses, amazon armour and an origami animal
A: Of course we acknowledge the militaristic connotation but there are other associations as well. From cleaners, to civic employees, waitresses, police, cooks and school children, uniforms are worn in a multitude of situations. As clothing they set a kind of stage. Whether true or false, they provide a legible context. It is an exaggerated form of dress code. But at the same time, codification is not just the privilege of uniforms, as Eco writes, "I speak through my clothes." In other words, all dress to some extent is a uniform to be decoded or in our case encoded.