COSTUMES – THE CURIOUS ATTIRE OF A HYBRID WORLD
A fitting tribute to the power of the human imagination, the costumes of KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities are the result of a visual exploration of the beginnings of science, of the discoveries and inventions that led to the industrial revolution of the 19th Century – from the steam locomotive to electrical power to electromagnetic waves. They embody and celebrate the advancements of science, but in an imaginary, parallel world. While the visual references may seem self-evident, the show’s curious yet familiar characters and costumes transport the audience to a time suspended somewhere between past and future, in an alternate reality, as if science had evolved without the internal combustion engine and as if the golden age of the steam engine had continued on, uninterrupted.
Hybrid forms and oversized shapes
The costumes of the Visitors from another world (Mr. Microcosmos, Klara and Nico) are the result of unusual blends and odd associations: e.g. the attire of the Seeker Assistants (the Kurios) – oddball half-human, half-mechanical characters built from scraps and recycled parts by their ingenuous and ingenious creator.
Costume Designer Philippe Guillotel explored unusual shapes that have affinities with the costumes of the Bauhaus or of Alfred Jarry’s Father Ubu to create startling and often amusing characters.
Mr. Microcosmos – The “bigger is better” ethos that drives the retro-futuristic aesthetic of the show is on the opposite side of the spectrum of the miniaturization that characterizes the electronic era. A case in point is the costume of the potbellied Mr. Microcosmos. “He’s like a mechanical Obelix [from the cartoon characters Asterix & Obelix], but instead of holding a tiny dog in his arms, he lugs around a small lady in his belly wherever he goes, and he’s hardly aware of it,” says Guillotel.
Mr. Microcosmos carries Mini Lili, his intuitive counterpart, inside his costume using a sling not unlike a baby carrier. Antanina Satsura, the artist who plays Mini Lili, is one-meter tall and weighs 18 kg. She lives inside her host’s overcoat. Through the door in Mr. Microcosmos’ belly, we can see the furnished interior of Mini Lili’s quarters, which include an armchair, a chandelier as well as other essentials of a Victorian home. At the beginning of the show, an extension of Mr. Microcosmos’ coat unfolds into a locomotive out of which emerge a swarm of travelers from the 19th Century.
Nico the Accordion Man – Nico’s accordion costume allows him to bend way down or stand way up so he can be at eye level with absolutely everyone. His pants are folded like a piece of origami from an unwoven textile (like the material normally used in shoe lining) and are inspired by the darkrooms that were part of early cameras.
Klara the telegraph of the invisible – Klara wears an antenna skirt made of hula-hoop-type rings. By swiveling round and pointing her apparatus in various directions, she can receive invisible electromagnetic waves. Her hoop skirt is inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and is shaped like early parabolic antennas. The print on her leotard evokes electrical circuits and connections.
Transformed basic materials
Philippe Guillotel chose five of six main materials that he used extensively and in all possible forms. For example, the collars, certain parts of the Travelers’ costumes and the upper half of the Accordion Man’s costume are made from a stretch material to which metal foil was added. This comfortable and washable material makes it easy to create very realistic imitation leather. The images on the metalized polyester jersey fabric are actually photos that were printed using a technique called sublimation, which fixes the images in the fibers of the material.
3D printing was also used to create volumes that seem heavy but are in fact as light as they are tough and durable. This technique was used for the props held by the artists who carry the hats and clouds. The clouds per se are made of thermally molded pieces of Plastazote (polyethylene foam).
- During the Russian cradle duo act, the costumes worn by the two “mechanical dancers” that emerge from the box like Fabergé jewels evoke a pair of wax dolls. The cut is inspired by early sportswear and vintage circus costumes. The materials, however, are quite modern and highly sophisticated (velour effects and imitation leather cuts in gold).
- The costumes in the acro-net act are an allusion to the way film director Georges Méliès imagined Martians; hence the scales as well as the fin and fishtail grafts.
- The rola-bola specialist wears a gold-lined, translucent aqua-colored overcoat. The fabric is reminiscent of the first plastics such as Bakelite and Rhodoid.
- To make the Accordion Man’s attire, the costume-maker spent an entire week sewing inside the costume!
- More than a hundred costumes were created to dress the cast.