A spot-lit figure emerges from darkness. It walks slowly towards the centre of the room, where it stands still. It exposes itself to the audience’s gaze – subjects itself to scrutiny. The space is filled with low tones that, accompanying the minimalism of the figure’s slow-motion gestures, lead to a suspension of time. As a result, the audience ceases to expect ‘action’, ‘happening’. It can focus on the figure itself, the presence of which is so intense that there is no need for a stage that would mark the boundary between the space of illusion and the audience.

Gwen van den Eijnde presents his works on his own body. Costumes drawing heavily on baroque aesthetics, with its excess of detail and lavishness of form, are presented in successive scenes of identical dramaturgical structure. At the same time, their monstrousness, oversized scale and the reception-dominating aesthetic value mean that they possess the solidness and regularity of three dimensional objects. Essentially, the performer is neutralised here, covered, absorbed by the costume – packaged. It is the costume that determines the performer’s movements, restricting them to the necessary minimum, as well as interfering on the suggestive level in the shape of the body through the hunchbacks or big hats. We learn nothing about the figure itself except that it is a costume; that it has been subordinated to the function of presentation.The relationship of affiliation between dress and body is thus reversed. It is not the body that becomes a medium, as in the case of traditional performance, but the costume itself. Gwen van den Eijnde pulls the viewer into a kind of illusion show where a paper made ruff is visually identical with an original one and a quilted cotton wool coat perfectly imitates expensive fabrics, challenging the cognitive power of the eye.

 

Agnieszka Sosnowska