The Secret Life of Stuff

Lorraine Smith (Co-curator), Jennifer Essex (Co-curator), Daphne Karstens (Co-curator)

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


This interdisciplinary project, commissioned by Festival of Thrift CIC, is a continuation of Lorraine Smith’s costume research, particularly the impact of costume on the wearer, and Jennifer Essex’s investigations into audience/performer interaction.
The project concept is based on the collaborative experimental costume intensive SESSIONS # 1-4 between Lorraine Smith and Dutch costume designer Daphne Karstens. The intensive explored the concept ‘the material directs’ using different man-made materials (i.e. non-traditional costume materials) on the moving body. The artists also discovered the potential transformative nature of everyday manmade materials into visually stunning costumes resembling organic forms and futuristic characters, connecting to current issues relating to the environment and sustainability.
The Secret Life of Stuff was a community project commission for Thrift Fest Upcycled 2020 (#iwill Grant Funding, County Durham Community Foundation) that involved designing, making, and inhabiting wearable sculptures from everyday manmade materials. The project was made of four strands:
1. Video teasers and demonstrations of various approaches to developing wearable sculpture performances out of everyday manmade materials.
2. Project booklet (part of a Festival of Thrift activity pack) with guidance relating to the following:•What types of materials to collect•Making and pattern ideas•Suggested tools•Working with and ‘listening’ to how the material feels on the body•Choreographic ideas•How to film your creation/performance
This booklet was in printed and online formats to allow for increased accessibility.
3. Online workshops with participants to create their own wearable sculptures and bring them to life through movement.
Using manmade materials, such as bottle caps, plastic cups, cardboard, rubber gloves, etc., participants were facilitated in creating visually stunning wearable sculptures that reflect organic / futuristic creatures to raise awareness of environmental & sustainability issues. The leading concept was to explore the stories of the “rubbish” we leave behind to make the audience consider how we tackle a throwaway consumer culture. The workshop participants were young people (4yrs-15yrs) through the Link Charitable trust (Link CT). Link CT provides low-level support to families at risk of or suffering emotional wellbeing and mental health difficulties in Redcar and Cleveland. 
 4. Secret Event and Secret Life of Waste project film 
Jennifer Essex and Lorraine Smith performed as interactive walk-about characters in wearable sculptures as part of the Brotton secret local community event. The artists also took part in the event parade with the Link participants (dressed in their wearable art designs). The Secret Life of Stuff project film premiered online on Saturday 12th September as part of the Festival. 
The project was ambitious and reflected the ethos of the festival, particularly the drive to create opportunities for transformative individual and collective experiences. Throughout the project, the professional artists inspired the participants to develop new artistic abilities and life skills and prompted the young people to ask questions relating to sustainability, society’s throwaway consumer culture and the need for environmental change in an unusual and curiosity-inducing way.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2020
EventThrift Fest Upcycled 2020 - Online -due to Covid
Duration: 12 Sept 202013 Sept 2020


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