[A]Dressing death: fashioning garments for the grave by Pia Interlandi

* Click on the red time-stamp to go directly to each segment in the video

00:10 The Chair (SueAnne Ware) welcomes the audience and introduces the examiners: Prof Peter McNeil, Dr Samantha Spurr, Assoc Prof Paul Thomas

01:16 Pia Interlandi: Acknowledgements and introduction to her presentation

02:00 Background explanation

02:49 Explaining the exhibition - Structuring

03:29 The expanded breadth of the practice – from fashion design to funeral industry and forensics – Practice narrative

05:00 Influences: death of family member - Practice narrative

06:33 Influences: visit to a funeral parlour - Practice narrative

07:23 Natural or Green burials - Practice narrative

09:23 Four major ‘bodies’ of work Pia moved through in approaching the work - Practice narrative / Structuring

09:34 First focus: dissolution – garment & body - Practice narrative / Structuring

10:07 Second focus: Body moulds - Practice narrative / Structuring

10:38 Third focus: The Pig project - Practice narrative / Structuring

11:14 Fourth focus: Garments for the grave – Practice narrative / Structuring

11:30 Pia describes the ‘dressing’ of her grandfather - Practice narrative

12:42 Dressing a body – Physical demonstration

21:40 The symbolism of the double-knot

26:48 The dissolvable garment series – Project narrative

37:45 ‘Bring out your pigs’ Pig Project – Project narrative

44:00 The Shroud – Project narrative

49:19 End of presentation

49:49 SS: Question about negotiating culture, custom and religion

53:45 PT: Question about a certain lack of definition between terms – such as life and materiality and dressing and fashion

57:33 PMcN: General comments and compliments with questions: Are the garments genderless? What is the bodice made from?

1:02:10 SS: What was your decision not to leave that trace (of polyester)?

1:03:53 PT: Question about the scientific nature of the pigs project and why this is not discussed in the dissertation

1:07:17 SS: A question about surrender as a process

1:09:34 PMcN: How do you see your professional future? How does the dispassionate, forensic focus influence your perspective?

1:13:58 SS: From the poetic and metaphoric to the ‘hands in’ pragmatism of dealing with cadavers. How do you manage that shift?

1:18:30 PT: A question about what Pia thinks about the materiality of the clothes – fashion (to be sustained), and the dissolution of the fashion item along with the corpse. The contradiction between the superficiality of an attachment to the clothes and the genuine grief of someone’s death.

1:23:55 End & applause

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Abstract

This research explores the ways fashion design can directly approach the realities of the dead body, specifically, the moments between death and disintegration, and in doing so, seeks to contribute to the ways in which fashion design can play an important role in the way we approach the dead body and the rituals surrounding death. Fashion designers largely cater to living bodies. While there has been an increasing use of death related imagery within the fashion field, most notably in the area of advertising and digital media, this is vastly different from approaching the actuality of ‘the dead.’ While the dead body may be absent of life, it becomes part of a series of cultural, material, emotional, and ethical processes that have been largely neglected by fashion design. Generally, the dead body is approached by dressing and wrapping to cover and shield it (and the living) from its vulnerable, transient state. A key aim of the research has been to seek alternative ways to dress the dead body – both through the design of actual purpose-built garments, and in the way the act of dressing the body with these garments can affect our approach to death and the dead body. The research has been undertaken through a series of creative projects involving fashioned processes and garments. Projects have been produced and have evolved in response to the moments between death and disintegration in three primary ways. Firstly, through the design of garments that literally, dissolve as a way to explore the disintegration of the garment as an aesthetic process. Secondly, it is examined through exploring processes of growth and formation in the earth, where plant roots are grown in body moulds. The third body of work explores the realities of decomposition, engaging directly with the visceral nature of ‘disgust,’ through the dressing, burial and exhumation of pig bodies, done in the context of a scientific experiment. Ultimately, this research becomes the beginning of a new type of fashion practice, catering to the care and dressing of the dead. It makes contributions to ways in which we might deal with dead bodies, and to thinking about the potential role of fashion design as the fashioning of processes, rather than simply the design of garments.

Year: 2013
Examiners: Peter McNeil, Samantha Spurr, Paul Thomas  Supervisors: Assoc Professor Pia  Ednie-Brown, Prof Robyn Healy

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