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Ursula Pelczar

25th July - 8th August 2019


The Blessing, 2016. Video, 03:30.

The video invites the viewer on a hypnotic journey through the process of self-discovery. While "The Blessing" mimics the structure of a TV Beauty Makeover Show, it explores the intersection of spirituality and self-enhancement. Why do we strive for 'the better'? What is 'the better'? Is a state of mind another commodity we can buy?


Interview


Georgie Brinkman (Curator, The New Flesh): Could you introduce your work and give us an overview of the some of the ideas or research ideas that are driving the piece?

Ursula Pelczar (Artist): Hi, my name is Ursula and the work I’m presenting is ‘The Blessing’. ‘The Blessing’ takes the audience and its main characters on a dreamlike journey through self-discovery.
In my practice, I’m interested in examining different popcultural narratives and image modes that surround us. I usually take them as a starting point and twist, bend, obscure them, and add my own elements until they are barely recognisable.
In this particular video, I was looking at TV fashion makeover shows, from an aesthetic, technical and psychological perspective; by that I mean the looks and the way contestants were presented, the narrative structure, camera and edit and also the fantasies these shows evoke.

GB: Could you talk a bit about the use of costume in this piece?

UP: I closely worked with Begum Berdan, who is a fantastic fashion designer and worked as costume designer, costume maker and stylist on this project. We were talking a lot about how these TV formats support a standardisation of our understanding of beauty; we wanted our characters to be able to break out of these norms. We worked in parallel on the story, script, the characters and costumes, and we were sharing our research and mood boards continuously with each other. Looking back, I think it was a very organic process.

As a fashion/costume designer Beg took on the lead on interpreting the characters and making the costumes. One idea revolved around making a ‘second skin’; to create a costume that acts as a true extension of the body and even more the inner self.

GB: What role does costume play within the rest of your practice?

UP: I see costume as a major element in my practice and my video work is informed by my continuous collaboration with Beg. I view costume as a container of different, sometimes contradictory meanings, as it can be interpreted in different contexts, such as history, materiality or status. It can signify the wearer’s characteristics, but is vague enough to be easily misread.

GB: There is a stark contrast between the homogenous, white outfits and the outlandish colourful outfits throughout the piece. Do you consider these figures to be specific characters or represent specific entities?

UP: We wanted to highlight that the characters are going through a process of change. They also might represent different feelings or moods. The colourful characters, their costumes and the way they act are very loosely based on types of looks that used to be quite common in print magazines: the date, party and work outfit. We had the actors interact with different props to make this reference a bit more apparent, but while editing I realised the figures are so powerful by themselves that any props would take away from their energy.

GB: Would you say that the these costumes cross over to fashion? I see a suggestion of this with the way the clothes are very overtly modelled, and the work is suggestive of being a beauty advert.

I think they border between costume and fashion, or maybe there are even fashion outfits as costume?

GB: You say that in your piece you are questioning whether the state of mind is a commodity that can be bought. This leads me to think that these costumes are a visual representation of a state of mind. Is this how you to intend to be the work depicted?

Yes, the characters in the video are not people with a backstory, but more proxies or personified moods or emotions. Also the voice from the off, the ‘narrator’ mainly focuses on emotions or ‘mind states’ when talking to the characters and audience. I would think that the audience goes with the characters on a joint journey.

What is the difference between costume and clothing - when is someone in costume as opposed to simply wearing a costume?

To quote RuPaul - ‘We’re all born naked and the rest is drag!’