Old medium, new design : in search of alternative aesthetics of Taiwanese aboriginal woven textiles in theatrical costume designs
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The main purpose of this practice-led research is to explore the relevance of present day Taiwanese aboriginal weavers’ work to contemporary society and how it might be integrated into today’s production processes, and used on stage as well as in exhibition. My research focuses on my costume design work for two theatrical productions, Africussion and Romeo and Juliet, for which the costumes were made with traditional Taiwanese aboriginal woven textiles, and is based on the assumption that the process of costume design affords a space to explore other aesthetic possibilities for aboriginal woven textiles, and that the theatre provides a context in which the conventional conceptions of Taiwanese aboriginal textile design can be challenged, broken apart and renewed. This research deals with both the theoretical and the practical considerations that apply to aboriginal weaving, and examines the intellectual traditions of the philosophy of art and aesthetics to be found in its theory and application. My thesis challenges the notion upheld by many of today’s aboriginal weavers that their ‘traditions’ are fixed and unchangeable, and argues for the importance of individual creativity if modern, contemporary needs and tastes in textiles are to be met by materials woven in the aboriginal way. My practice-led research is grounded on the techniques of aboriginal backstrap loom and weaving and basket weaving, which were learned from aboriginal weavers in a 20-month tribal fieldwork. This project approaches aboriginal woven textiles as artistic objects in the context of theatre productions and performances instead of as mere commercial entities. It also argues that theatrical costume design is much more than just the making of simple costumes that complement performances.