At no time in history were costumes of greater importance than in the courtly world of the Baroque. They were meant to give the natural human figure imposing dimensions by turning them into walking sculptures using hooped skirts, padded bustles, and brocade clothes. Such accessories constrained all movement to basic regular forms, which in turn served as functional correspondences to courtly ceremonies.

The costumes by Gwen van den Eijnde (*1981) recall many aspects of the forms of Baroque costumes. Van den Eijnde, who was born in the Netherlands and lives in Paris, has developed a specific form of performance that situates itself between haute couture, design, craftsmanship, and sculpture. Drawing inspiration from contemporaneous pattern books, from films such as Jarman’s “Caravaggio” or Fellini’s “Casanova,” he meshes these influences into an individual style.

The costumes themselves are the result of a deliberate manufacturing process that begins with small design models and culminates in the completed costumes made using exceptional, and frequently highly valuable, materials. However, the artwork itself only finds completion in the artist’s performance: Van den Eijnde stages his compositions as if for a theater stage or the catwalk. Neither mime nor content are of importance, only the costumes and the frequently absurd outgrowths determine these performances.

This is also the case in the exhibition Isabel Halene curated at the Kunstraum Riehen that includes pattern collages and costume designs along with a video recording of van den Eijnde’s three-part performance staged during the Basel Museum Night. The shimmering clothes testify to what took place: “Le Lion habillé en fleur,” “Pam-Pam,” and “L’obélisque.” The poetic titles open imaginary spaces that evoke in us the desire to step out of ourselves and be absorbed into these imaginary forms. Anybody interested in the possible metamorphoses of collar plissés, silk chiffons, or head cages should not miss this subtly presented exhibition.

Durch das Pfauenauge, Gwen van den Eijnde. Kunstraum Riehen. Until 24th February 2013.

Maria Becker
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Samstag, 9. Februar 2013 . Nr.33


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Comment by chesley williams on January 21, 2014 at 3:57pm

So in love!

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