An Exquisite Diversion (2013)
DVD Video projection, duration 7mins. 4 secs., commissioned by Unravelled for Unravelling The Vyne
A costumed performance to camera
Chute, Walpole and their friends shared an aesthetic sensibility and enjoyed dressing up. Within this film they re-enact themes of secrecy, love, pursuit, jealousy and betrayal in the guises of Harlequin, Columbine, Eagle and Cupid, and experiment freely with different personas and genders. The role-playing keeps their true identities concealed, and enables the group to ignore society’s restrictions and expectations concerning gender, sexuality and class.
My styling and the construction of the hybrid costumes alludes to the feminine, but allows for the possibility of the existence of alternative genders and sexual identities. The characters’ repetitive, affected gestures within stylized tableaux and the film’s soundtrack reflect the type of over-arching camp that is found in both theatrical melodrama, and in the avant-garde performances of the early glam era. During Venetian carnival time, costumes and masks similarly maintained a person’s anonymity and any perceived transgressions remained unchallenged.
Visitors to the house and exhibition encounter various discarded items of clothing, which represent traces of the frivolity as the self-styled ‘Committee of Taste’ abandon their usual decorum and their responsibilities.
I was commissioned to make this work after submitting a proposal that related to John Chute, who owned the The Vyne during the mid-late 18th century.
My inspiration was the collection of Lattimo ware that Chute collected whilst on The Grand Tour, which was when he met Horace Walpole who subsequently became Chute's close friend. The iconic Venetian scenes depicted on the collection evoke images of the city’s celebrated masked carnivals that Chute, Walpole and their friends would have experienced whilst in Italy. Many young men adopted extravagant and unconventional dress and behaviour on their return from such travels. This was seen as unnatural by society and so they were nicknamed ‘Macaronis’. I have conflated the challenge to 18th century notions of masculinity by these ‘Macaronis’ with the gender flirting and fantasy role-playing of the 1970’s Glam rock era, both of which were derided and perceived as outlandish and effeminate.