Synaesthetic Dress: Episodes of Sensational Objects in Performance Art, 1955-1975
University of Kansas
History of Art
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This study examines the significance of clothing-like sculptural forms in the performance practices of three international postwar and contemporary artists: Atsuko Tanaka (Japanese, 1932-2005), Hélio Oiticica (Brazilian, 1937-1980) and Robert Kushner (American, b. 1949). These three artists occupy a special position within the development of performance and body art during the postwar decades for their focus on the sensorial and interactive properties of clothing-like objects. I propose the new term of synaesthetic dress as an interpretive concept to characterize and study the wearable, multi-sensory, and participatory forms in their diverse practices and as a strategy for collaboration and social engagement. My research seeks an understanding of how Tanaka, Oiticica, and Kushner draw upon the language of clothing—a form that typically contains and defines the individual body—to create alternative material, social, and artistic sites for collective experience. Counter to traditional interpretations of clothing that tend to view it as a marker or relic of the artist’s body, or as a material that can construct, perform or contest various identities, this study proposes to see—or rather—sense clothing in a new light, through the thought-provoking performances of artists who foreground the multisensory experience of their audiences and participants. This project advances the importance of embodied experience in performance practices and contributes to an evolving body of art historical scholarship that addresses the entire human sensorium in aesthetic encounters.
- Art History Dissertations and Theses 
- Dissertations 
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