Who hasn’t had the desire just to be someone else for a while? Dressing up is a way of creating an alter ego, a second skin which one’s behaviour can be adjusted to and causes a person to be perceived differently. ‘Just the two of us‘ by Klaus Pichler deals with both costumes and the people behind them.
The tradition of dressing up and wearing costumes has been part of many
traditional special celebrations in society for centuries. They are usually part of a
spectacle, a display or a communal activity which often turns everyday routines
upside down and gives permission to behave in a way which is not acceptable in
‘real life’. In recent years, in addition to the traditional practices of wearing costumes,
several new individual trends have become established where dressing up is either
the main element or a vital part of it. In this series of photographs, a range of
different traditions are portrayed in order to highlight the huge variety amongst the
wide range of costumes which is currently available.
Regardless of the motivating factors which cause somebody to acquire a costume,
whether it is part of a cultural heritage, fandom, a prop for a game or a complete
reinvention of one’s own identity, the main principle remains the same: the civilian
steps behind the mask and turns into somebody else. This increasing desire for
transformation, the creation of a kind of parallel reality and identity, can without a
doubt be related to increasingly difficult circumstances in society. Therefore,
dressing up and related activities can, in this context, be regarded as a temporary
withdrawal from civil life. The selection of a certain mask is never a coincidence-
the preference of a certain costume is always based on a conscious decision- which
may be a passion for the thematic background of a costume or the identification
with character traits of the individual figure. The sheer amount of time which is
invested in the creation of handmade costumes is evidence of the fact that the
decision to dress as a certain character is usually well thought through.
Therefore, each costume indirectly conveys information about the person behind it.
For the photo series ‘Just the two of us’ I visited owners of elaborate costumes in
their own homes. The choice of location is not a coincidence: Nowhere else is the
(abstract) link between the person behind the mask and his or her alter ego as visible
as in their own home. Nowhere else would it have been possible to portray the mask
and, figuratively speaking, the person behind it on the same picture. The costume-
usually full body costumes, which completely conceal the ‘private’ person-
represents the alter ego whilst the surrounding living space, so to speak, the
‘backdrop’ or stage design cautiously impart information about the person behind
the costume. The circumstances in which the costumes are usually worn are
purposely reversed to the exact opposite: In most cases, dressing up is inevitably
linked to social activity. On the photos of this series, however, the costume owners
stay ‘at home’. In order to further emphasize this reversal, the people on the photos
are (opposed to the original purpose of the costume) pictured quietly pursuing everyday activities.
This setting allows the person behind the masquerade to shine
through- the home and the individual activity are ‘themselves’ and the activities are
not exactly what would normally be expected of the character the costume portrays.
The purpose of this setting is to create questions: Why did the person choose this
particular costume? Does the decoration style of the home give any kind of clues?
And, most importantly, the question at the centre of it all: Who on earth is hidden
behind the mask?
COSTUME TRADITIONS DEPICTED IN THIS PROJECT
The ‘Krampus’ is part of the traditions during the time of advent in central Europe. He is the
companion of St. Nicholas and is active in the night of December 5th. Whilst St. Nicholas
rewards ‘good’ children with presents, the ‘Krampus’, equipped with devilish masks, horns,
fur and cowbells, punishes ‘bad’ children with twigs of willow. The majority of ‘Krampus’
impersonators are part of local ‘Krampus Societies’ which organise local ‘Krampus’ parades.
The tradition of ‘Perchten’ originates in areas of western Austria and Bavaria and it consists
of young men in ‘Perchten’ (including ‘good Perchten’ and ‘bad Perchten’) costumes
attempting to ‘exorcise’ winter during the ‘Rauhnächte’ (the twelve nights around New Year).
The ‘good Perchten’ wear wooden masks with human features and bless residents with
good luck during the day. The ‘bad Perchten’ play their role during ‘Perchten parades’ by
night. They are noisy, terrifying creatures with masks, horns, fur and large bells.
LARP (Live Action Role Playing)
During live role play the players represent their character in person. Role plays are based on
various scenarios, usually from the genre of fantasy. Players obey a certain set of rules and
they are encouraged to improvise freely in order to give their character a maximum level of
credibility. In the LARP scene, the often highly elaborate costumes and the deceptively
realistic looking latex weapons are dramatic props which help to make characters seem
even more ‘real’. LARP events usually take place in locations which closely resemble the
location of the game context. Spectators are usually not welcome.
Fasching, Fasnacht, Carneval
The tradition of celebrating excessively and getting dressed up in the time leading up to the
six week period of lent is widespread throughout catholic countries around the world. This
is known as ‘Fasching’ oder ‘Fasnacht’ in German speaking countries. ‘Fasching’
commences on November 11th and ends on Ash Wednesday the year after, whereby
celebrations reach their peak during the two days before on ‘Rosenmontag’ and
‘Faschingsdienstag’. In German speaking areas ‘Faschings Guilds’ organise ‘Faschings’
meetings, parties and parades. Costumes worn in ‘Fasching’ are not based on a particular
theme but they serve the purpose of turning everyday circumstances upside down,
resulting in even more excessive celebrations.
Cosplay (made up of ‘costume’ and ‘play’) is a practice of Japanese origin which is all about
recreating costumes portraying characters from Mangas (Japanese comics), Animes
(Japanese cartoons) and films. Players value the detailed and authentic recreation of
characters as well as the imitation of their behaviour. Cosplays, which are often highly sophisticated, are sometimes made especially for ‘Cons’ (Anime Conventions) where they are judged in special competitions.
Furries / Fursuiter
The collective term ‘Furries’ describes people with a special interest in the humanoid
representation of animals on pictures as well as in film and text format. Furries often view
themselves more as animals rather than people. They create an animal alter ego and their
Furry existence constitutes their life philosophy. Furry- Fandom is predominantly expressed
on internet platforms and fan pages but there are also annual conferences (e.g. the
‘Eurofurence’) where Furries from all over the world congregate. Opposed to Cosplay, where
already existing characters are recreated, Furries develop their own avatars and its individual
character traits. ‘Fursuiters’, a sub group of Furries, recreate costumes of the
anthropomorphic animal characters which a worn in public during ‘Suitwalks’. Costumes
are usually highly elaborate one off pieces, designed and often hand made by the Furries
Star Wars / 501st Legion
The ‘501st Legion’, the official worldwide Star Wars fan club, was founded in 1997, based on
George Lucas’ film series. Meanwhile over 5000 members are active in international
Garrisons or Outposts. All members share a passion for Star Wars and own an authentic
costume representing the ‘baddies’ in the film. For many Star Wars fans, their fandom
becomes a philosophy which dominates large parts of their personal life. Besides the
members of the legion, a large number of people practise their passion for Star Wars without
a membership in an organized society.
Carnival of Venice
The annual historic carnival of Venice is not just a tradition and a tourist attraction but also
the reason why many people in different countries around the world spend most of the year
planning and crafting Venetian costumes. In recent years, a loosely connected worldwide
scene of people has formed who travel to Venice year after year in order to present their
new, always imaginative carnival costumes to the public.