Catrine Val
The female wisdom

THE CHANGING ROOM

Identity
Project

The CHANGING ROOM
in collaboration with the Depature Lounge / Intercultural participative project, 2019

Garments are charged with memories and guarded as testimonies of their own identity and culture heritage. Our own wardrobe is often full of gaps, which can be collaged into highly fashionable wardrobes. In my artistic work , I often build up synergies  within the identity of  fashion, as a vehicle of self-expression.  Changing Room is a new processual concept, which was first realised in London/  Luton 2019, and open up one increasingly powerful intervention  into the local social urbanity.

At the heart “The Changing Room” is a temporary, staged fashion boutique that is at once: a photo studio, an exhibition space and a meeting place. Each visitor is invited to try out their own or others’ clothes and reinvent themselves into a new persona. Protagonists are accompanied, treated, portrayed like in a professional fashion shoot. “The Changing Room” examines the internal processes and involvement of a multicultural society. The project explores this by examining the image of migrant women as an integrative constituent, revealing the polarity between the diverse cultural heritage of the protagonists’ countries of origin on the one hand – and the similarities in their everyday lives, –  on the other. Explores the image of migrant women in the context of modern British society where they are trying to fulfil social requirements while complying to cultural and religious dogmas. Migration is inevitable. We all have routes and not just roots. The portraits and the movie focus on the importance clothing plays in personal and cultural identity and on the “double lives” lived by women, who may not always feel that they can dress as they want. Based on the question ‘who are you, and who you want to be? In a time of post-capitalist global unrest and strengthening of right wing extremism, the growing influence of religion that limits women’s rights again.
The project is liberated from being a purely everyday object, consumer service and commodity. No salaries are paid and nothing is sold. Participation and curiosity are in the forefront. The outcome is a mosaic that stands as a confident statement for a modern, self-conscious image of womanhood.

The Changing Room presents a picture of women from all walks of life who are at turns hardworking and professional, nurturing and caring, glamorous and performative in a project, which asks searching questions about how clothing and (staged) photographic portraiture can define and redefine us. We are facing a situation in which women must fight anew for the rights that had been won long ago. If we look inwards, not as a retreat, but to ground one’s self, one’s being. We can be light and playful, fearless and fragile, free just to be. To live in a world of equality.

The project `The Changing Room is celebrated as a promising pamphlet, the diversity of modern womanhood in shaking a the idea as world citizen. For months I plunged in the  buzzling  highly underrated cocoon of a run-down working-class city Luton,- with so much  bad reputation so close to London-, fascinated by the town’s spectacular diversity and the fluid relationships between people of different ethnicities, faith communities and cultures.  There I create a series of portraits examining the town’s numerous female identities. The Changing Room, transformed into a custom fashion studio combining a bespoke changing room, photographic studio and gallery.

I approached all women at random and invites them to be photographed. Based on the question ‘Who are you and who do you want to be?’ I believe the human figure and how we present ourselves – the clothes and adornments we choose – is a window on the soul.

The Changing Room presents a picture of women from all walks of life who are at turns hardworking and professional, nurturing and caring, glamorous and performative in a project, which asks searching questions about how clothing and (staged) photographic portraiture can define and redefine us. As an artist, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality.