Against Bourgeois Costumes

Posted: April 1, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Immerse yourself in the creative explosion that was the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet). Ballets Russes: the art of costume includes costumes by Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, André Masson and Giorgio de Chirico. The vivid and innovative dance design of the early 20th century is brought to life through 150 costumes and accessories from 34 productions from 1909 to 1939; one third of the costumes have not been seen since they were last worn on stage. The exhibition also features photographs, film, music, artists’ drawings and more.

(click images to see excellent website)

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The Ballets Russes Showcased Some of Picasso’s and Matisse’s
Most Experimental Work

  1. Jiahui Chen says:

    I had no idea that such well-known painters like Picasso and Matisse designed costumes and sets as well. It’s quite interesting to see how their painting styles manifest in the costumes, and imagine how the movement of the dancers would’ve contributed to the overall aesthetic.
    I didn’t know about the existence of Ballets Russes before this post but it seems like I should have. The amount of collaboration of notable artists as well as promotion of new artists that occurred due to the company is impressive. I didn’t know Stravinsky’s most notable works were all commissioned by Ballet Russes.

    • Yes, the Russian Ballet was a major force in modern art and culture, a meeting ground for various aritsts and medium. Unfortunately, our memory of this has been blocked by the current ubiquity of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. It’s exciting to exacavate behind the monuments and see how exotic, exciting and inventive ballet used to be. I’m so glad you found this interesting.

  2. Colin Hancock says:

    I definitely see parallels between Artaud’s description of costuming and current postmodernist costume. It seems that every play (especially award-winners like Sweat and Oslo) use modern outfits. Of course, they also depict modern events and issues of human concern, which Artaud also protested against. But even in many retellings of Shakespeare and other historical plays, the postmodernist trend is to “retell” by tearing from these plays the spectacle (e.g. the costumes and sets and even themes) and replacing it with this “relatable” drama by placing the action in the realm of contemporary comfort. Between Artaud and Brecht, it’s hard to decide whether it’s better to have a text-central play or not, but one thing’s for certain: both would hate the current construction of plays as dramatic embodiments of everyday, non-mystical life.

    • I think you capture a lot here. Where there are some similarities between Brecht and Artaud, what they most have in common is a contempt for everyday middle-class life and its ‘realistic’ depiction on stage and in films. More, though, I see them as complements to one another. While Brecht tries to make his audience increasingly conscious of the artificiality of realism and so-called normal life, Artaud instead tries to call forth the audience’s unconscious. To use you very appropriate term, I’d say that while Brecht tries to demystify theater, Artaud tries to amplify as much as possible what little mysticism remains.

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