Bachelor of Fashion (Design)
Bachelor of Fashion (Design) (Honours)
( I. )
Adam Kassar is a multi-disciplinary artist who recently completed a Bachelor of Fashion (Design) (Honours) at RMIT University. His performance practice combined with a research practise focused on the intimate body as a site for intervention through the cloth.
Humanities, fashion and the transforming/performing body create a space for discourse that, inherently, expands upon the potency of the fleshed existence and it’s phenomenological affect, situating the independent body as a site for transformative discourse with social and cultural causal affects. My research expands upon the Michel Foucault theory and framework of biopolitics and the utilisation of the body as an instrument. How is the clothed body both weaponised and concealed? My methodology is auto-ethnographic, derived from my strip-based performance practice as a burlesque artist. As a burlesque performer, I strip layer by layer to reveal a fleshy existence that is empowering to my conditioning. With my performance practice situated as my methodology, I believe it applies as a means of understanding and exploring the fashion experience. Why? The late Alexander McQueen used his own complex humanity as a source of inspiration for his collections. He communicated this not only through his clothes but also immersive displays of chaos, distress, beauty and tragedy such as Voss (2000) and No.13 (1999). The body’s instrumental role in the expansion and development of social, cultural and political constructs is paramount in re-conditioning our thinking when accessing the instrumental and weaponised body. Why? I’d rather show you than tell you, but first — pay me. My existence is valuable, my body is my commodity. It is how I express my pleasure and displeasure with a world order that is mostly unjust. I am drawn to fashion for it’s constant renewal of the embodied, clothed experience and it’s constant reinterpretation of the body. Fashion, as a system, is one that has weaponised the body more and more as a veiled vehicle for transformative discourse.
( II. )
Mode(s) of Work.
My practice see’s me exisiting on both sides of the cloth, as both maker and wearer. I design, construct and perform. As the maker, it’ my role to fulfil a brief — a motivation, intention, feeling, thought concept. It’s my responsibility to understand the intent and limitations/scope of the intent, and it’s through this understanding that I’m able to fulfil the role of maker. A maker is an engineer, dissecting the components of the requirements.
Prior to undertaking my studies with RMIT, I existed primarily as performer and secondarily as designer/maker — my practice situated in resolving the performance. I worked with producers and stage technicians to inform my making, working within the scope of their roles. I understood my role through being complementary to the the roles of the those that stage, an education in it’s own that I have taken with me throughout further studies. Since undertaking my education with RMIT in 2017, I have longed to establish a connection between these two streams/modes of work that would compliment and culminate in a unified practice that allowed me an authentic existence and contribution to the arts (inclusive of fashion). I have been challenged over the past 9 months to further develop my practice and under lockdown restrictions in ways I didn’t imagine. During this time, the gap between maker and wearer narrowed ever further.
Designing/thinking through making is fundamental to my making practice. To understand the cloth at hand and be guided by a function. I’ve learnt to make through moulding and sculpting to a form and allow the garment to exist as the veil of an (often) absent body. I build upon the form, for the form. Traditional modes of construction to modify the silhouette through reduction and expansion see the corset, tailored jacket and body-veil as crucial constructs to my making practice. I can trace back all of my garment outcomes to these three archetypes and it’s there unique modes of function that continue to inform my practice.
Critical to the development of my practice this year has been to understand making with a body absent and constructing for the body to remain absent. I developed a series of body-veils and coverings throughout the year that captured the form through crude material that allowed the constructed veils to exist, and perform, without the body. They captured a rigid silhouette and the fleeting movement of sweeping gestures. One of these veils is currently on display outside the State Library Victoria as part of Melbourne Fashion Week’s capsule installation (right). As someone who understands, and relies, on the performing body, this past year has seen my practice expand and push to work with the performing garment. The construction of performing garments, body absent, is how I would describe my making process.
I have worked as burlesque artists since my late teens. I take off my clothes through a carefully curated and theatrical five minute performance. What I do is no different to stripping, in fact it is exactly what I do. Burlesque is a female dominated and created industry. I do not wish to stand upon the shoulder’s of the industry pioneers before me, I kneel at their (often stilettoed) heel. It’s not something I trained for nor have I been pushed into, I stumbled upon through the heavy metal scene in Sydney (where I am originally from) in the late 2000s. It became a vehicle for expression at its most raw, liberating and potent. I am a CIS gendered, effeminate, gay man and this allowed me to be so without shame or persecution. Industry standard for acts are five minutes and take months to prepare. I always start with a concept that’s based around a mundane ritual (dressing, walking, waiting, etc.) and then insert an amplified expression of my identity into it. I work with a team of peers and professional to develop these acts and they take months to realise.
Since commencing my studies in 2017 I chose to not work during semesters and limit touring to the allocated time-off. Though I work with a team of people to realise my performances, I am self managed, directed and produced. The burlesque industry is unique in that the majority of performers work this way also — you have to be independent in your performance practice and you have to learn to do everything. The industry is split into three sectors: private, corporate, and ticketed. Each sector has its own pricing and not all performers work across multiple, most keep to one. I work across all three, which means each act of mine has three variations to account for the difference in operation between each sector. For example, though it pays best, it’s not safe to work in private without confirming the the name/number of security prior. Corporate usually will not provide a space for you to get ready, so you must turn up ready. Ticketed is my preferred, though it’s not easy to be booked on a premium production.
I am so incredibly lucky to do what I do and it has afforded me the most extraordinary opportunities and ‘voice’, none of which I take for granted. I never forget the privilege I am afforded to have done what I’ve done and to be able to keep doing it. This is my performance practice — It is complex but yields me the utmost creative freedom and liberation. It has also pushed me to assess my practice continually as I cross and collaborated across many disciplines and boundaries. It’s an asset to understanding, developing and communicating. I have spent the past three and a half years trying to see opportunities of intersection with this and fashion through my studies, mostly identified through later stages of studio through creating documented media. I see this as the ‘wearer’ and not the ‘maker’.
( III. )
Body(s) of Work.
( IV. )
Site(s) of Work.