Fashion and identity are deeply intertwined with one another and in situated performativity, entailing not only individuals but atmospheres and relations to others and the Other. Something drawn upon by fashion retail, perhaps most noticeably through mannequins (living or dolls). Comparatively, fashion museums can be argued to have difficulties evoking similar reactions and participation even though often ostensibly operating with the same tools.
This can be argued to depend on a number of factors, including degrees of interactivity and directionality. While mannequin dolls are seldom directly for interaction, their incarnation in commercial space represent interactivity to commodities in, within, and through spaces around them, and they have a temporal as well as an ownership directionality that proposes identities and identification. The logic of the mannequin, as Vanessa Osborne names it, is dependent on this, as well as an abstracted or de-personalized character of the mannequins, requiring the viewer to participate through completion, often involving placing oneself in the mannequin’s place.
A situated experience rather than a person-object relation architecture, atmosphere, other mannequins, and other consumers participate. Thus the understanding of the mannequin can be said to be dependent on understanding its situatedness on a stage of multiple actors and actants where consumers complete the composition, much like Giovanna Stavroulaki and John Peponis observes the choreography of statues in Castlevecchio demands the visitor to complete their internal, configuratively staged narrative.
By balancing the concrete and the abstract, providing enough information to trigger reading but not enough for stable interpretation, these situated presentations draw upon the viewer‟s imagination, allowing and requiring completion. In this sense, the mannequins perform diagrammatic operations, as discussed by Gilles Châtelet, but ones situated in space as almost bodies, almost persons.
The recent exhibition at the Dance Museum, Stockohlm, Koroly’s Costume Drama, offered a unique opportunity to investigate this in-betweenness, as well as questions of situatedness, abstraction, expression, atmosphere, and various forms of interaction – from directly completing or participating in the staged drama to ignoring them altogether, to treating them „as is‟; that is, as inanimate objects. As few other exhibitions it allowed touch and interaction, and the staging was elaborate, dramatic, and playful. It allowed questions of architectural staging, situation, identity, and the curious operations performed by the mannequin dolls to be investigated in hands on experiments, upon which this presentation elaborates, comparing to material on mannequins in commercial as well as traditional museum environments.
2nd Nordic Research Workshop in Fashion Studies, Stockholm University, Stockholm, December 14th, 2012