This performance parallels the conformity of the 1950s with the rise of right-wing family values. The pro/antagonist defends herself against racial and economic difference by clothing herself in the domestic architecture: the house/dress is her shimmering, clean fortress and her prison. Throughout the piece she reveals her fears (such as gravity or that “parts of my dangerously sagging self might end up in bad neighborhoods”) and her fantasies (including the elimination of her family, so she will have time to devote herself more fully to being a homemaker).
The wearable sculpture/costume has been frequently exhibited. It was purchased by The Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of their permanent collection.
This piece is part of The Dress Series (1989-1996), a group of performances that explore the dress as the female ceremonial costume and icon of femininity. In these pieces, cloth is replaced by unlikely materials, creating juxtaposition, new meanings and upending expectations. All costumes fabricated by Dempsey and Millan.
The Dress: wood, laminate, chrome kitchen hardware, screws, cloth, Velcro.
Duration: 25 minutes
First performed: February 1994, Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Alberta
For more information about Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, see shawnadempseyandlorrimillan.net. For distribution information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.