It is what you can describe. But what about everything that you can’t describe?

On the lookout for access to four costumes by Gwen in Warsaw. He sends me the pictures. Four strips of film, and on them views from all directions, right the way around. I ask him what he has done. He passes me the “composition” that I have to translate into my language. I translate using a dictionary. While doing that I come across pieces I don’t know. Jabot, apron, lining. Why does my knowledge of clothes only begin with B for bikini, go via K for kimono and end with S for sari? I know what you can buy, and what I have worn myself. I start looking at – and reading – the clothes. Elytra wing cases. They have beetles that can fly. I can see that it is complex.

I saw Gwen in Stuttgart in the hall of mirrors at Solitude Castle for the first time between the mirrors. The gestures of Gwen, who was not moving, or only a little, shaking lightly over shreds of paper, pleased about small bunches of autumn leaves, looking up from among sophisticated wigs and hats through the world of animals and peoples, the world of fashion and mythical creatures. The costumes make sounds that are barely audible like satin, muffled like cotton, or like the rustling of paper. The shoes, the “supporting plates” of the costumes, are so durable that they can take a step towards a metamorphosis.

Gwen’s colours were still there as always. Shimmering, multifarious, refined contrasts.

The series consisting of four costumes from Warsaw introduces the grammar of his costumes. Warsaw is black and white. The irresistible magic of the compositions from headgear, a collar, a neckline, an overlapping fastener on the back of the clothing, hardly any skin, only the white face make-up, the wrapped around waist, feet in shoes or boots, and under all that a petticoat. Wildness, lightness, a still of a certain kind of movement.

The costume takes me on the trail of the onnagata (male Japanese actors playing women). I think of the words of Tamasaburo in “The Written Face”: “From an isolated space capsule they (people who can play like children) create a cosmos.” And how in this genre of play, the costume is the sum of possible words, the movements of an unusual being; beings of the very essence of the costume.


Isabel Halene