Documentation
Fashion Plate by Cindy Baker
Artist
Cindy Baker

Canada
www.cindy-baker.ca

Cindy Baker is a contemporary artist based in Western Canada whose work engages with queer, gender, race, disability, fat, and art discourses. Committed to ethical community engagement and critical social enquiry, Baker’s interdisciplinary research-based practice draws upon 25 years working, volunteering, and organizing in the communities of which she is part. She moves fluidly between the arts, humanities, and social sciences, emphasizing the theoretical and conceptual over material concerns. Baker holds an MFA from the University of Lethbridge where she received a SSHRC grant for her research in performance in the absence of the artist’s body; she has exhibited and performed across Canada and internationally. Helping found important community and advocacy organizations over the course of her career, Baker continues to maintain volunteer leadership roles across her communities.

Performance
Fashion Plate by Cindy Baker

Cindy Baker invites you to get designing and turn her into a Fashion Plate. This two-week interactive performance is presented by FADO at The Drake Hotel. Sponsored by The Drake Hotel.

For Fashion Plate, Cindy Baker will set up a sewing machine and various fabrics and pattern samples at Toronto’s The Drake Hotel. Audience members can drop in daily to meet with Baker and design an item of clothing – or perhaps an entire outfit – for her. Visitors are asked to take the process as far as cutting out the fabric, and then Baker (or her assistant) will finish the sewing job, with the results to be shown at a clothing launch on the last day of the performance.

For Baker, this process is about asking audience members, “to think about a large woman’s body, about someone else’s body, regardless of size, about that body in relation to their own and in relation to fashion, (a visual translation of society’s rules or standards about bodies).”

Baker goes one to write:

“One of my interests with this project is in examining the dance people will do between wanting to create something that will fit (and look good) on my (relatively enormous) body, while avoiding creating something so large as to be farcical… This project asks the viewer to look at me not as a performance artist but as a model—they are the artist/designer, so there are many possible layers of awkwardness.

Fashion Plate is about taking categorically/traditionally/predictably disappointed expectations, culminating in nervous-viewer-meets-nervous-artist, and trying to come up with small solutions. What interests me about disappointed expectations is finding the truths hidden within: set up an unrealistic task, and map the strategies used in trying to achieve the task to reveal something real.

I usually take on these tasks to learn more about my limitations, but this project sets out to present small tasks to others who are willing—and I will share with them in return. For this to work, we must both be willing to be a bit vulnerable. It’s a negotiation; the more they share, the more I can share, and the more information changes hands, the more interesting (and perhaps wearable) the end product.

This performance was presented in FADO’s IDea series (2005–2007), curated by Paul Couillard.

Series
IDea

Curatorial Statement by Paul Couillard

Issues of identity are at the centre of IDea, FADO’s multi-year international performance art series. Chris Barker writes that cultural politics are about “the power to name; the power to represent common sense; the power to create ‘official versions’; and the power to represent the legitimate social world.” These powers speak to identity in a territorial, institutionalized framework, but performance practices offer the possibility of turning their presumed weaknesses—contingency, ephemerality and aterritoriality—into strengths, by offering a potentially decolonized, non-institutional forum.

The concept of identity has been at the forefront of art discourse since the 1980s. Performance artists have been particularly concerned with how our various identities are constructed, how they mark us and how they influence self-understanding. At the same time, artists have also used performance tactics to problematize and transform their identities. In recent years, the debate has shifted to examine identity issues in subtler, less didactic ways, using the territory of identity as a ground for complex and often ambivalent readings of subjectivity, hybridity and representation. IDea draws from this growing body of work.

The series considers a broad range of identity labels, including gender, skin colour, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance, familial role, economic status, political affiliation and profession, to name a few of the more obvious possibilities. In blunt terms, the series will circulate around an underlying set of interrelated questions. How do we accept or resist these multiple identities? Which do we choose to embrace, and why? What identity labels are misleading, unhelpful or irrelevant, and in what ways? How do these labels intersect with one another? How do they determine the nature and quality of our lives? How do they contribute to a sense of belonging or alienation?

While these questions inform the series, they are only a contextualizing lens, not a prescription for how individual projects should or will be structured. IDea is not about representation, or the politics of difference, which is to say that the intention is not to assemble a collection that presents one of each kind. We are not encouraging strident political statements (though there is certainly room for them), but rather, featuring works that reveal something about how the creators understand and situate themselves. Along the way, we also hope to track how artists use performance tactics to circumvent prescribed attitudes and behaviours around identity.

IDea seeks to consider a range of bodily identities—physical, social, political, emotional, and spiritual. To provide further context for the series, commissioned critical that respond to each of the performances. These texts will come from an interdisciplinary variety of thinkers in the realms of philosophy, religion, politics and science.


The IDea series presented 12 performance projects between 2005–2007, and was curated by Paul Couillard.

Series Purple

An ode to FADO's history, Series Purple is composed of a collection of purple fragrance materials dating back to the Roman Empire. Dense, intense, and meandering, this fragrance tells us non-linear stories.

Top Notes

huckleberry, violet

Middle Notes

cassis, lilac, heliotrope

Base Notes

orris root, purple sage, labdanum