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"The Way You Touched Me Tonight" is a participatory and socially engaged performance project, engaging with collection of used clothes as means for artistic research, up-cycling and humanitarian causes. The mission of this work is to disclose and put in question the exploitative and life threatening meaning of consumerism on a social and cultural aspect. Working with the themes performatively, and participatory our vision is to explore new forms of participatory choreography associted with forms of social and cultural outreach that mobilise audience to take action and support socially engaged art. 

The Way You Touched Me Tonight” is a performance that in 60 min can show only a snippet of things we would like to communicate to our audiences, therefore we are developing the project further to be able to voice out the majority of the content we are interested to communicate. At the centre of the performance narrative is the architectural incident taking place in Bangladesh - the collapse of the commercial building Rana Plaza. The incident killed 1300 workers of the garment factory, marking a catastrophe in fashion industry.

 

A performative “Sammlung”

The project (2015) was initially fuelled by the idea of “gathering” (Sammlung) in performance. I became interested in diverse and possible meanings and use of this concept in performance; gathering audience, gathering participants, gathering materials, gathering of knowledge and resources for artistic, collective as well as humanitarian causes; a performance activism, which in return displays particular modes of participation (in performance), such as sharing, and exchange. My aim was to devise a performnace project to mobilise audience into a collective cause with beneficiary outcome. 

Parallel to the concept of gathering in performance I was developing an interest in clothes as performance material. I became attracted to the affect clothes had on the body, as well as associating clothes with the notion of protection. What fascinated me the most was to compare a garment to a design of a flexible structure that protects the body, yet is made to adapt form to accommodate human needs and movement. Yet, while conducting research, a project of ongoing nature, I learned that protection, in the industry of body and foot wear, and fashion accessories, is a concept that exist only in the direction of protecting the customer, not the maker. What I encountred instead was far more extreme - exploitation of human labour and killing of animals. 

 

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The narrative

The central narrative of the performance is the infamous architectural incident and failure, which happened in Bangladesh, in 2013; the collapse of the commercial building Rana Plaza. The building accommodated banks, shopping centre, and a garment factory, located on the ground floor. Despite several warnings that the building is endangered to collapse the owners of the garment factory ignored the warnings, and asked the employees to return to work. Rana Plaza collapsed the next morning, killing more then 1000 workers of the garment factory, with the difference of the shopping centre and bank employees who were safe. Fashion Revolution Week, and Fashion Revolution Day became global movements in memory of this incident, fighting against exploitation in fashion industry. I took this example as a symbol for exploitation of labor and working conditions as a general issue in production and labour worldwide, touching any kind of industry, economy, politics, as well as arts, education, and more.

In the act of greed, exploitation of labour, endangering safety for the sake of profit, I began associating casualties of the incident, not the incident itself, with consumerism and capitalism. There was no sense of protection and safety, or adaptability. No safety for the workers but capitalising financial needs and safety of a capitalistically oriented leading sector. Towards the end of the performance we gather all donated clothes on a pile, and begin developing a scene where all three performers wear, one by one, as many clothes as possible. We begin developing three figures and a scene that represent the essence of our work: artistic statement that critiques excess, consumerism, exaggeration, greed. We associated the overdressed figure with a building or structure that is about to collapse, an inflexible idea of consumption.

 

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“The sensation of wearing so many clothes at once is claustrophobic. The clothes begin to feel extremely tight, exerting stress and pressure onto the body. I can feel how my blood is pumping into the veins. It feels horrible, yet I continue with dressing. I feel compressed. My limbs are immobilised, I can hardy walk and move my body in this oppressive structure. I can hardly pick up the shirt I want to wear. It feels how this structure begins to exert control over my body, sense of freedom and movement. I feel awkward, and rigid. I can Ìt defend myself, yet I continue burdening myself. I can collapse any time, and if I collapse I am unable to pick up myself. I cannot defeat this pressure. Unless stopping and asking for help to get out of this building that has just collapsed. I become extremely dependant on the help of the others.”

"How do performance art and culture interact to provide new sustainable dynamics for each other?"

Engaging choreographically with modes of audience participation we are interested, in the actual performative potential of this project; to address our audience with a choreography of sharing. By participating in the development and creation of this work the audience doesn´t only contribute to the development of this work, but engages actively with a choreographic activity, which aims to represent the sense of sharing and networking in the culture of today.

 

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The project has been developed in dialogue with: 

Tomaz Simatovic (concept, research, choreography and performance) & Mirjam Klebel (research, choreography and performance), Rocki Jian (performance), Andreas Poschl (sound design), Frank Lischka) (light design), Christopher Eberle (film), Alexander Stürzer (graphic design), May Rifaat (fashion researcher), Janett Sumbera (upcycling designer), Südwind Salzburg, tanz_house Salzburg (festival venue), and SZENE Salzburg (co-production, venue)

 

Financially supported by:

Land Salzburg and Salzburg Stadt Kulturfonds, BKA