Research for Phantom Muse
“I’ll ask them to tell me about the owner of the address book, whose name I’ll only reveal in person, if they agree to meet me. Thus I will get to know this man through his friends and acquaintances. I will try to discover who he is without ever meeting him, I will try to produce a portrait of him over an undetermined length of time, that will depend on the willingness of his friends to talk about him-and on the turns taken by the events.
Sophie Calle’s The Address book
The initial inspiration for this research began at a young age, trying to understand and create a face for a father I had not met, nor had I any idea what he looked like. I created character’s personalities based on 80’s TV stars around at the time and would imagine it would be him. These characters where often fictional superheroes from Japanese manga cartoons to Jackie Chan.
When I finally met him 7 year ago, my fascination for searching and creating characters continued and then recently I came across Sophie Calle’s work. I became interested in Calle’s method of developing a persona for a person she’s never met and wholly relaying on 2nd or 3rd hand information. I find this an interesting way of creating a character: parts fact, parts imagined and parts a result of Chinese Whispers.
Calle’s way of developing a character lead me to approach my research in a different way for this piece. I normally spend a lot of time in the studio, quite early on in my process but this time I wanted to create my characters taken from many sources: online blogs, personal face to face interviews, social media, news channels, sitting for hours observing in airports and train stations, public places in cities such as Copenhagen, Carlisle, Berlin, Manila, Amsterdam and London.
I have chosen to start with a blank canvas of 4 bodies with no history, personality or bodily expression. Each body will consist of 7 different personalities and histories from 7 different people, found from people watching; close encounters or online searches.
This is an example of how I start to build one of my characters:
- Click on a random profile who are not connected to you and your friends list.
- Continue clicking from the first profile you have chosen, down to friends and their friends friends; 7 profiles along the line stop.
- From that last profile, search more about that person via other forms of social media and search engines.
- Search comes to a halt depending on what is found, then extract history.
When I have my profiles, I’ll begin work in the studio and this is where I will develop the costume and movement together. The costumes will influence how I want my characters to move e.g. a movement will start off fluid and then I introduce elements of design that has an impractical use in the body, which will influence the quality and texture of the choreography.
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My costume collaborator Valeria Olkhova’s work has the right aesthetics and texture in her designs. Her work gives my work another layer and highlights the characters individuality.
If the final piece is performed in a close proximity (which is an idea I’m thinking of) the details of the movement and her textures in the costume design will be magnified 100 percent. My aim is to create an encounter that’s honest and inclusive, thats blends real emotions from the characters I created, with the physical and the fictional.