The Material Directs: a reflection on the visual costume research project ‘SESSIONS’

Lorraine Smith, Daphne Karstens

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


In this video flash talk, which will combine audio-visual documentation, costume designer Daphne Karstens and dance artist Lorraine Smith will reflect on and analyze their collaborative costume research project ‘SESSIONS #1, #2, #3, #4’. During this 5-day intensive project, Daphne and Lorraine experimented with various (non-fabric) everyday objects on the (moving) body to create innovative costume pieces.

Varieties of (recycled) materials were used to explore sculptural and narrative capacities and the effect on the moving body. In each experiment, the quality of the material was used to direct the design and performance process. The experiments demonstrated how ‘simple’ everyday objects, such as bottle caps, plastic cups and cardboard boxes can be used in an abstract way to create innovative costume pieces, repurposing the material from ‘practical’ to ‘sculptural’. The outcomes also strongly highlight the potential transformative nature of everyday manmade materials into visually stunning costumes resembling organic forms that connect to current environmental and sustainability issues.

Working from the ethos ‘the material directs’, the artists engaged in a collaborative making process, allowing the qualities and possibilities of the material to guide the design and performance process. Daphne and Lorraine will reflect on their experiences of working in this open way. This will include the importance of discovering the ‘sculptural essence’ of each material through experimentation, manipulation and structural repetition, and the heightened responsiveness of the performer towards the costume by engaging in the making process.

The artists will conclude with a discussion on the potential creativity and innovation generated when the material is given agency in the design process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020
EventCritical Costume 2020: Costume Agency - Oslo National Academy of the Arts - Online (COVID)
Duration: 21 Aug 202023 Aug 2020


ConferenceCritical Costume 2020
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Due to COVID19 and related social distancing measures, CC2020 will be presented via an online presentation platform. Video presentations will be published via an online video library. The use of the video library is non-commercial, and the purpose is education and research. The content of the video library will be available for free for the audience. The video Library will launch on August 8th at 15.00 CET, at:, remaining accessible to the public until December 1st, 2021. The Costume Agency Artistic Research Project will retain the rights to present an archive of the contributions as part of the Critical Costume 2020 (CC2020) conference of which it is a host, indefinitely as an archive offline.

An online conference working group for this video flash talk will take place on Friday 23rd August.


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