Ibsen's Nora is haute couture in London

 Date:27/10/2006 - 25/02/2007
 Type:Culture, Fastion & Contemporary Art
 Location:England, London

In an installation of more than 30 photographs, London's The Wapping Project employs a simple metaphor to take a sidelong look at contemporary British fashion. A series of photographs, shot in Oslo, uses Ibsen's heroine Nora from 'A Doll's House' as a fresh, filmic way to tell fashion stories.

Taking models, male and female, as his subjects, photographer thomas zanon-larcher inhabits the backstage world of fashion in Paris and New York. Moving quietly and unobtrusively, he photographs them at rest and work. His intense pictures – un-posed, free - invite us to ask: who are the dolls? Where are the protagonists? Set alongside a sequence of framed images staged by director The Wapping Project, Jules Wright, zanon-larcher photographs model Felicity Gilbert’s performance of a modern narrative – imagined by Wright as a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s play, The Doll’s House. In the 1890s, the sound of Nora slamming the front door, leaving a controlling husband and two children, rocked continental Europe. Does the thud of the door still reverberate? Where are the dolls? Who is the protagonist? It is in the juxtaposition of zanon-larcher’s penetrating and elegantly framed images that the complexity of contemporary fashion may be read. Again The Wapping Project and the Jerwood Foundation have found a fresh way to unzip a tightly laced world.

Jules Wright, director at The Wapping Project, has previously directed Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’ at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh (1988) and ‘The Lady from The Sea’ at the National Theatre, Norway (1991). It was these two experiences which led to the idea that the framed images should explore the journey of Ibsen’s protagonist in a 21st century context and led to the opening scene, set in the green room of the National Theatre, Oslo – a room in which Ibsen wrote and his first Nora waited.

"In order to look at contemporary British fashion, we chose a new Nora as our protagonist," Wright says. "We imagined her as an actress caught in circumstances that paralleled those of the woman she portrayed on stage, Nora in 'The Doll’s House'. If theatre has any power, it has the power to change the way people see the world and themselves in it; this of course includes those who stand on a stage and represent a writer’s view. Our Nora, we concluded, would escape her world immediately after a performance and so we set the first scene in the green room of the National Theatre, Oslo and then asked, what would a 21st century Nora go on to do. The photographs disclose the story, and Felicity Gilbert inhabits and performs the role with an intelligence and intensity that comes through zanon-larcher’s images to talk directly to the viewer. Of course, the choice of Nora in respect of how women are portrayed and represented within fashion was deliberate; our story – flight, by choice alone, into an unknowable future - enabled us to show British clothes in a way which acknowledges the acuity of the women who buy them; it obviously raises questions about their representation as contemporary “dolls” and affirms as an aside a fresh, filmic way to tell fashion stories."

Henrik Ibsen’s controversial play, ‘The Doll’s House’, in which the central character, Nora, leaves her husband and two children, was first staged at the National Theatre, Oslo in the 1890s. Ibsen’s ability to put himself into the shoes of his female protagonists is unparalleled, apart from Shakespeare. He understood profoundly, Nora’s circumstances, her need to escape her oppressive relationship, the revelatory experience she went through when she finally understood that she was kept as a “doll”. He knew too, the repercussions and the controversy that would follow.

Jerwood: Free & framed
25 October – 25 January 2007
The Wapping Project
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station
Wapping Wall, E1W 3ST
020 7680 2080

Wapping Food
Open daily, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, brunch (Sat & Sun)
Closed Sunday evenings

Model Felicity Gilbert dressed in Margaret Howell at the Deichmanske Library in Oslo
Photo: thomas zanon-larcher

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thomas zanon-larcher's series of fashion photographs from Oslo will be on display at The Wapping Project until 25 January 2007Photo: thomas zanon-larcher

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