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Critical Costume Exhibition 2020: Costume Agency online exhibition presents artworks that treat costume as their main medium, often as a starting point for a performance, and always as a crucial aspect of a performance. This exhibition aims to emphasize the immediacy and intrinsic nature of costumes to everyday human life and a person’s sense of self: connection to body, movement, identity, expression, sensuality, emotionality. The costume is a bridge between the body and the world.

Critical Costume Exhibition 2020: Costume Agency is built on two main strands of costume performances – communication and exploration. Eight further categories then unfold these two central ideas: Communication (Identity Agency, Political Agency) and Exploration (Material Agency, Agency of Senses and Sensuality, Emotional Agency, Agency of Technology, Agency of Body and Extended Space, and Agency of Play).




Communication demonstrates how adorned objects and garments posit between the wearers/actors and the viewers/audience, serving the role as “Social Skin” (an extended organ) in order to communicate, articulate, negotiate, and share socio-political and identity agendas of their artists (and wearers). In Identity Agency, costumes help the process of self-defining, assuring and stabilizing one’s orientations, heritage, and assigned roles. Costumes included in the Political Agency interrogate social norms and address specific dysfunctions of social conditions. They then evoke alliances among co-performers and audience to act — together. In Explorations, costumes are means that allow subjects to explore, experiment, document, and illustrate (the process). The costumes are props (or research tools) that aid wearers/actors with enhanced cognitive/sensual capacities to experience texture, materiality, sound, size, motions, feelings, etc., all of which affect how the wearers/actors experience the world. Consequently, they bring about new and unexpected discoveries, perceptions and perspectives to the wearers. Video Cabinet serves as an epilogue.

Finally, Costume Agency Exhibition illustrates discourses that are discussed during the Critical Costume Conference 2020 and explored in the artistic research project Costume Agency. The resulting broad collation of artists from around the world and of interdisciplinary fields — Theater, Fine Art, Fashion, Design, Craft, Film, and more — prove to us the creative and critical potential of costumes as relevant and emerging artistic expressions that depict and interreact with the neoliberal societies of today. We hope this exhibition will reach wide audiences. 

Prof. Yuka Oyama PhD (Curator)

Special Thanks

Pieter Nieuwenhuijs (Web engineering/3c Group), Christopher Sage (Curatorial assistant), Erin Wright (Text editing/Wright Services, LLC), Mark Hunt (PR video/White Noise Berlin), Kana Harding (Design advice), Brigitte Speich (Costume Agency logo design/jacquesetbrigitte)

August 2020

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