Judy Radul’s performance works engage and investigate the nuances of public life, in particular the broad etiquette of social interaction. Radul installed a series of costumes based on her observation of Vancouver street fashions in the windows of the Contemporary Art Gallery. The project stemmed from Radul’s extensive research into the methods actors use to ‘get into character’ while preparing for a particular performance. Vancouver Costume synthesized the idea of the ‘theatrical rehearsal’ with the artist’s development of characters drawn from local observation. Accompanying the clothing arrayed in the gallery’s street front display was a video drawn from Radul’s voyeuristic public interrogation.
Judy Radul’s interest in the performative enlivens her use of the street front vitrines of the Contemporary Art Gallery as an environment in which art objects are likened to props, clothes to costumes, and the windows themselves to a stage-like area of indeterminacy between the realms of public and private. In the glass vitrines that face Richards and Nelson Streets, and those in the alleyway behind the gallery, Radul hung a number of items of clothing below short descriptive texts and next to full-length mirrors. The texts are a list of audition monologues on the topic of art which suggest a character, a ‘place’ and the length of time it takes to perform the speech. Some of the clothing is from Radul’s past performance works, but the majority has been collected from Vancouver thrift stores. The ambiguous or ambivalent quality of the outfits is purposeful, keeping them from suggesting a stereotype of character, and pointing toward their potential for imaginative possibility as costumes in some unspecified future drama. The mirrors allow an amount of self-reflexivity for these imaginative possibilities, but integrally refer to, in the artist’s words, “the predicament of the gallery windows” as both part and not part of the gallery proper, and therefore a site of anxiety. The windows address passersby on the street, and are modeled much like store front sales vitrines, to which Radul’s installation refers. But the mirrors also allude to a common glazing technique of modernist architecture, which utilizes mirror glass to mask interior space and reflect the outside world back onto itself.
Within the gallery’s small catalogue room was a further component of Vancouver Costume —a video which utilizes a chapter from Konstantin Stanislavski’s (1863–1938) authoritative text, Building a Character. Stanislavski was instrumental in the development of a methodology to acting, and influential in the development of American Method acting in which actors ‘become’ the character they play. His ideas reflect a Romantic notion of identity and 19th Century ideas about the subconscious, and the text seen in Radul’s video hinges on a story of inhabitation, of donning an ‘old morning coat’ and becoming a character which this clothing suggests. The text is intercut with shots of Vancouver pedestrians to whom Radul occasionally speaks.