Rose Megirian’s film; “Garment Shadow” explores what it is to be dressed. Megirian was a part of the third year studio “Shadow”, taken by RMIT lecturer Adele Varcoe. In this studio students were encouraged to consider articulating their research through an alternative medium to traditional fabric garment construction.

Megirian worked alongside director Yianni Warnock to create a film inside RMIT building 8, level 10 transforming the faculty into an environment no longer recognisable to those familiar with it. She achieved this through the use of saturated deep hues, contrasted against vibrant spools of cotton, coloured pencils and metallic silver industrial machines. The anticipation and mystery of Megirian’s film is established through the use of sound scape developed by Timothy Slattery. This interview goes in depth into the generation of Rose’s ideas and philosophies which lead to the production of this film. Enjoy!

Interview: Georgia Head

Director: Yainni Warnock

Creative Director: Rose Megirian

Cameraman: David Rusanow

Sound: Timothy Slattery

Model: Lucy Knox

Model: Johann Rashid

GH: Last semester Rose you participated in the studio “Shadow” with Adele Varcoe, what was the studio about?

RM:  It was essentially exploring what it means to feel dressed. initially we carried out a series of in-class exercises to broaden our ideas of dress. One such exercise was to construct garments out of 4 different types of materials; semi solid, a series of units, viscous fluid and 2d – i used soap, lentils, glue and paper. we were then told to put our garments on and we could interpret this however we saw fit, for example putting on a soap garment could be working up a lather on the skin.

It was really refreshing to be involved in a studio that wasn’t limited to the same basic structure we’d followed through 1st and 2nd year of garments, cost and spec sheets, mood boards, theme boards, tech sketches blah blah blah…

GH: How did these exercise help to generate your ideas/ design concept for the semester?

RM: Well Gigi, i came to the somewhat confronting conclusion that it’s a lot easier to define what it is to be dressed than what it is to be naked – Once clothing is removed are we not still dressed in our bodies, in the way we speak, walk, hold ourselves, our hair, skin and nails. If one was to be undressed, but still ‘wearing’ these extensions of self are we not still packaging ourselves in the same way as we do when we wear clothes?

Rose Megirian, Shadow Studio (2010)

Alternatively, when we take our clothes off before stepping into a shower, are we not appropriately dressed for that situation? And furthermore if we surmise that when we physically interact with something we are wearing it are we not then dressed by the water that runs over the body once the shower is turned on?

When external environment is removed is clothing an aesthetic object separate from the body it encases, or does it protect and enhance the human form? A central concern is not only the clothes that cover our bodies, but the bodies we recover under our clothes.

Julie Rrap ‘Body Double’ (2007)

The psychological theory of The Looking Glass Self, a notion brought to light by sociologist Charles Horton Cooley examines the idea that an individual and society or environment do not exist as two separate entities, but rather one is the product of the other.

There are three parts to the concept;
* How the individual thinks others perceive him/her
* How the individual thinks others judge that perception
* And the reaction of the individual to those perceptions and judgments.

The theory points postulate that we are simply products of our cultures, our physical surroundings and the human beings with whom we associate and interact with.

Are we then only truly naked when we are unable to see the reactions of the individuals we are seen by? Or do people have the ability to ascertain societies prospective view of them without direct interaction?

My research was beginning to direct me to the idea that we are so dressed by everything it would seem that the only way to be entirely undressed would be to no longer exist….

Sneaker Freaker, Advertisement

i was beginning to feel fucked in terms of creating a ‘garment’ to reflect this concept…

GH: Why is it that you felt you had to construct a garment? did the brief require this?

furthermore how did you begin to push through these theories to develop a concise idea?

RM: sorry, in this instance, i use the term ‘garment’ loosely – the brief was simply to create a ‘garment shadow’ which could be interpreted how ever we saw fit.

As well as the class exercises we were introduced to a multitude of artists, one of whom was contemporary artist Erwin Wurm, more specifically, his One Minute Sculpture Exhibition.

Erwin Wurm, The One Minute Sculpture Exhibition (1992)

For this exhibition Wurm provided a series of instructions to the audience and had them replicate his vision and hold for 60 seconds within the gallery. One of which was a shirt on a hanger hung from the lip of the wearer – the general response from our class as to whether she was ‘wearing’ the shirt was “from some angles”

Wurm’s work got me thinking about the objects with which we surround ourselves with and how we interact with them;

If a person stood in the middle of a room and the objects moved closer and closer to the individual at what point would he/she be dressed by them? Is the act of wearing something purely subject to proximity to self;

unknown source

or is it more dependent on the accepted manner or representation of how a human would traditionally wear something?

Phillip Toledano

Clarity was finally found through combining this idea of people’s belongings and the psychology of dress.

In more concise terms i found that the feeling of being dressed transcends any fabric construction made to interact with particular parts of the human form. It’s just as much mental as physical and the way in which we express this feeling through physical things is the environments we inhabit and the things with which we surround ourselves with.

GH: What made you decide to use film and how did you manage to project these ideas through that medium?

Because any one person and their environment is so vastly different from the next i chose to focus on the panel i would be presenting my work to at the end of semester as the individuals, and RMIT city campus Building 8, Level 10 as the environment. The film was created to capture this familiar environment in such a way that was unfamiliar to the viewer. Slight physical changes were made to the environment, mood was altered using sound and lighting and certain elements of the space not often focused on were made paramount.Alongside these environmental changes a series of objects or replicas belonging to the panel were placed within the space.i essentially had to stalk them for a couple of weeks.

All participants remained anonymous to each other as well as unaware of the film’s intention. Upon seeing the first familiar object the viewer experiences a feeling of recognition and then another is seen and the viewer starts to give way to a feeling of unease as they feel a piece of themselves being exposed.

It is this feeling in particular which i feel best illustrates what it is to be dressed. It is less about the physical object and more about the cognitive and emotional response to that object. Ultimately, the intention of the film was to trigger this response.

It is interesting to note that this feeling of nakedness and vulnerability experienced by the owner is accomplished despite the fact that external viewer’s judgments, based on their perception, is ambiguous due to their inability to associate the owner with the object, disrupting the theory that the reaction of an individual is dependent upon the perceptions and judgments of the people around them.

GH: How did you find working with other people to communicate your vision? What were the challenges/benefits?

RM: I guess, in this course specifically, when you work alone you have complete control of your design from initial research and concept development right through to final outcome. You have a vision of what that outcome will be and the skills to execute that. Initially it was difficult to articulate the vision in my head to another human, especially one who has totally different objectives than someone who designs clothing – i’m more concerned with the human form, functionality and construction whereas a director needs to think about all the technicalities of film and how it will translate through that medium. There were a lot of alternative film ideas we ran through before settling on one we both agreed on, and even then it was almost impossible to know how it would look until the editing was complete.

But then in the end that’s  the beauty of collaboration it’s the visions of all involved coming together to create something that wouldn’t otherwise be conceived.
GH: Do you think you will choose to use film again in your future fashion endeavours?

RM: For sure, it’s hard work but definitely worth it. Unlike static photographs film captures the movement of a garment, the movement of a fabric/cut being just as important as any other design aspect, and let’s face it, we’re designing mainly for humans and most humans move.  In relation to catwalk you’re not limited by venue, stylist’s, models and catwalk appropriate music and lighting. It also means you have the ability to tell a story and make that story universally accessible via the net.

GH: Thanks for chatting rose

RM: Thanks Georg

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