Feeling Fashion | A talk by Adele Varcoe

During the first AIRs (ArtEZ International Research school) meet-up in September 2017, Australian artist and artistic researcher in fashion Adele Varcoe presented her very unique perspective on artistic research and how she uses artistic research methods to investigate the social impacts of fashion, dressing and clothing. Dressed in one of her signature jumpsuits – this version a bright yellow one with black polka dots – Varcoe shared how she constructs participatory performances to explore the behavioral implications of fashion. Many of her projects have their roots in her own ‘personal performance’ for which she has not worn any other garment but one of her onesies for over four years. Sharing the joy of wearing onesies with the world, she devised the project Onesie World 2017 for which she dressed 650 people in locally produced onesies, aiming to bring together the local community of Bloemfontein, South Africa through making and wearing onesies.

Varcoe also discussed the way in which she has built up her own artistic practice surrounding her research in fashion. During her recently finished PhD research at RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles in Melbourne, she found several roles for herself as a performer. Selfing contains her own personal performance projects. Scoring is the method she uses when constructing participatory performances involving other actors. Even we as an audience were participating during her talk, when she asked us to shout phrases at her, adding to her growing collection. This collection comes from phrases collected during social interactions over the years, and form the base of her drawing role: a way of catching the reactions to her selfing in quick, daily drawings and dialogues.

Adele Varcoe’s talk ended with a very special premiere of her song Jumpsuit Girl. The title of the song references the nickname she has been given by her audience over the past few years, and the energetic performance featured one of the audience members crawling around and dancing through the audience wearing one of Varcoe’s silver-sequined onesies.

— Chet Bugter