My current practice in development for the 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011 to be held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, will draw upon research to be carried out next month at the ‘Archives nationales d’outre mer’ in Aix-en-Provence, France. Using the archives as a starting point the aim is to transport and transform imagery of costume and dress from pre- and post-revolutionary Haiti from its static archival storage in the Metropole. The project connects the past, present and future in its consideration of the female dress as a document, manifest with layered, gendered meanings both within and in transit between Haiti and France.
Documents, engravings, letters and other fragments will be used to piece together strong visual imagery of the fanm poto-mitans of Haitian history from the silences of the French archives. A series of 4-5 ‘costume facades’ will then be constructed in Haiti based on this archival research, using recycled paper, a material currently being used by Haitian artisans in the recovery of the local trade. The sculptural costumes will then be installed on walls, displayed like masks, around the Grand Rue locality. The fragility of the pieces will be open to disintegration and, like murals, external alteration. If worn, the garments would create an almost trompe-l’oeil flattened effect, comparable to the ephemeral bits and pieces of Caribbean carnival masquerade.
These performances of the archive aim to bring ‘official’ historical documentation of female costuming and gender roles into dialogue with the lived realities and circumstances of current gender relations in Haiti. The project therefore seeks to explore how such imagery can travel and make connections with contemporary audiences in Haiti.