Pieces of Scarlet

Pieces of Scarlet, street performance, Chamberlain Square, B’ham City Centre, April 2001

Pieces of red material with symbols and letters were placed in 25 layers of white undergarments, which were removed layer by layer and each piece of cloth handed out to the public.

Fascinated by gendered histories of text and image, representation and belief structures, this performance was a metaphor for the palimpsest of the self and the layers of gendered historical symbols that result in invisibility and confinement for women.

Both symbols and letters were historically believed to have magical properties if worn next to the skin. These beautiful pieces of scarlet cloth were not legible, any more than the gendered body or subject of performance. The transposition of archaic belief in text  contrasted with the modern/Victorian architectural site, in which the public display of removal of clothing drew in crowds of people waiting to see how far the spectacle would go.

It stopped when I was still fully clothed, and I put on a coat as it was very cold. Humorously using the dissonance between the performance of gendered gift and a masquerade of femininity, to share tokens of belief without magic.

Video documentation: still thinking about whether to place this online!