Stuffed Bird

Stuffed Bird – Rrose Sélavy’s lifetime wardrobe

(formerly Polarity) revised and performed 5 December 2008, page expanded 10 January 2009

Many thanks to all the people who stopped to talk with me during the performance of Stuffed Bird at Freaks, Geeks, Frills and Spills. You are an important part of the art. Not only that, I enjoyed meeting all of you and found the conversations thought-provoking. Finally, your contributions made performing the piece a great deal of fun.

See these production notes and also the biographical stories about the history of Rrose.

New vision – a live performance as part of the installation Freaks and Geeks on 5 December 2008.   The clothes are assembled into a hybrid identity split vertically and  stuffed with other clothes. Several contrasting layers are worn by the performer, then taken off one at a time and stuffed into the figure while stories about the history of Rrose are told.  Construction of the piece is videotaped and the audience is engaged in a discussion about the significance of the clothes and the work.

There is a placard with the following text (in the gallery above, I have added scans of the original journal entry planning out the text for the placard):

Do clothes really make the man or woman? Layers of fabric, layers of time, layers of self – what does the surface show about the core of a human being?

Rrose Sélavy was a surrealist artist and this is her lifetime wardrobe. She had many traumatic experiences, but each time rose like a phoenix from the heap of clothing shed in her transformation. This art piece is an attempt to reconstruct her layers of self from the clothing she left behind.

But what are these clothes – costumes, camouflage, or uniforms? Are they play, the expression of fantasy, desire and dream? Are they disguises, meant to cover over the self for the purpose of hiding and blending in? Are they donned for the performance of a serious role as an emblem of acquiescence, a matter of pride, or an ironic turn? The investigation raises more questions than it answers.

The attire changes over time. The body expands and shrinks inside the clothing. New layers supersede the old, covering them over like layers of dirt that must be excavated to unearth buried artefacts. Sometimes identities split off, alternating concurrent but contradictory visions. Is one layer more real than another? Can these identities eventually be reconciled into a continuity of personae that enrich each other?

As Marilyn Monroe once said, “I haven’t changed; it’s just the clothes that are different.”

Who do you see when you look at a person? A hippy freak, computer geek, polished professional, or yourself?

The previous idea about the blow-up doll was rejected, as I wasn’t sure the audience would get the irony.  Once I had the idea of stuffing the figure with more articles of clothing, the piece took  on more depth, so I was glad I did it that way.


enhancement 25 August 2008

Same as original idea below but with videotaped documentation of the process. This is to include the transaction of purchase of the doll in two phases as a potentially ironic and transgressive act:

  • inquiry – dressed as ‘geek’ persona matching top half of figure
  • acquisition – dressed as ‘freak’ persona matching bottom half of figure

Explore the reaction of the vendor in response to the two personae (this is yet to be created).

There may be a venue to exhibit this piece, together with the documentation of its creation.

original idea 12 July 2008

This is a sculpture consisting of two types of clothing on a life-size blow-up doll. It is related to ‘In / Out of the Box’ and ‘Crack / Release’.

The top is wearing a business-like blouse and jacket. The bottom is wearing an old pair of jeans embroidered with ‘hippie’ designs from the 1970s. The clothing is attached such that the doll can be turned upside down without disturbing the clothing (i.e. the jacket will not droop).

The jeans might look like these:

embroidered jeans, front

embroidered jeans, front

embroidered jeans, back

embroidered jeans, back

Photograph the dressed doll right side up, upside down, front and back. If desired, create a Flash object so that the viewer can flip the view.

Also place the sculpture in the living room, next to the sculpture from Crack / Release.

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