Essay by Caroline Evans Anna-Nicole Ziesche’s States of Mind and Dress

Caroline Evans

In a bare room (shiny floor, white walls, maybe a dance studio or gymnasium) a naked man and woman stand back to back. Duellers or dancers? Adam and Eve or vaudeville comedians? Briefly, they laugh to camera, then return to solemn silhouette. Action: out of nowhere, green trousers appear and “grow” up the woman’s legs, like vines. The man extends his arms, and blue pieces of fabric jump from the floor to his neck, as if obeying his command. Gradually, the blue fabric grows into a garment, spreading imperceptibly down his arms and torso. It is agonisingly slow. Surely even hair grows faster than this.

Finally the fabric grows into a sort of tabard, the man’s outstretched arms relax, and the side seams join to form a jumper. The woman’s trousers suddenly transform into a bust-high romper suit and, in a series of jerky rough-cuts, things speed up alarmingly. The clothes themselves spring into action, as if to combat the inertia of their wearers, whose principal gestures consist of raising and lowering their arms for the convenience of the garments. These actions create a circuit for the jumper and trousers to travel between bodies, slithering up a torso, down a limb, as if they have a life of their own. At one stage the garments seem to be chasing one another around and around the two bodies in a circle. Like children playing tag in a small space, it’s hard to tell who’s chasing who. The wearers, meanwhile, can barely keep up. They only succeed in terminating the action after some minutes by stripping and flinging the garments away from them, out of frame.

“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them,” wrote Virginia Woolf in Orlando (1928). Clearly the clothes are wearing the people in this comic dialogue between a jumper and a pair of trousers. Both garments have an uncanny life of their own as they enact their inert wearers’ psychodrama. It’s like an early silent film – Keaton or Chaplin – filtered through an art sensibility, but one in which the clothes are the protagonists. If you don’t know whether to laugh or not at Ziesche’s avant-garde slapstick, that’s because in commodity culture we live out our relationships through things and this can be both comic and tragic. “Am happy-end bleibt” sings the female voice on the soundtrack towards the end. The phrase, like the film itself, is open-ended. Ziesche proposes three translations: “at the happy-end there is … ”, “at the happy-end stays … ”, “at the happy-end remains…”. Is this film slapstick for clothes, or is it about relationships? Is it funny or solemn? Both.
States of Mind, States of Dress: a Cartographic Shift: Thomas Groves

Beside myself with you. Feeling the warmth of your skin backed up against mine, I anticipate an immanent acceleration. As if at the water’s edge, I give myself to the fracture that will become our undoing, the unpicking of our material history. I lean back into the flow of exchange. The parallax comes into place. It grows on you; it grows to like you. Then, it weaves its pattern around us, disorganising the assumptions that have become our condition. A new map of our shifting positions comes into effect. An effect without condition or conditioning, without genesis or structure, but as a procedure, a sparkle, an extending moment of clarity. But this is only the beginning, the preparation for a series to follow. How and for how long this adjustment will take place I do not know. It may be a symmetry, a symbiosis or translation. It might fuse our fissure, or even seal our precious arc. Whatever. Facing away from you, crossed dressed and arms raised, I turn and kiss you and allow the transaction to begin.

© Caroline Evans 2006

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