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Henry Chan

first performed on October 13, 2016
Theatre Centre and Geary Lane, Toronto, Canada
performed ongoing throughout seven days in 2016


Toronto, Canada


“Body Traps” explores the myriad ways that our bodies are interconnected with clothing and how the relationship between the two functions to construct identity, shape desire, and display taste. The work is a contemplation of the relationship between my body and the clothing I move in and out of, calling forth a rich exploration of the forces that govern the production, circulation, consumption, and ownership of garments.

The first part of the piece took place over the course of six days, during which I sat at a table and stitched together a large-scale collage of pre-owned garments. The rules were simple: I would sew each article of clothing along its edges to retain its functionality so that it could still be worn—the sewing would take place in the space while the visitors were present. To produce this work I began the process by sewing my own clothing into a tapestry. People were free to offer me theirs, and in turn I would sew each contribution into the work, thus acknowledging them as part of the larger group. While engaging in the act of sewing I instigated a dialogue with each donor, asking them questions about their clothing and how their choices are an expression of their taste or desire.

On the seventh day I completed the sewing. Fifteen large bundles of clothing were additionally moved into the space. Once there, I proceeded to spread them out at regular intervals along the walls. The audience was invited to sit on them and watch me open the large-scale collage I had stitched previously together.

Over the course of forty-five minutes, I began to force my body into openings of pant legs, sleeves, collars, and waistlines. Ill fitting, at times I became completely entangled in them. My intention was, however, to focus on working through as many clothes as I possibly could. I would at times hold poses in order to display each garment to the audience, which, in turn, revealed how the garments were interconnected, even though negotiating my movements was extremely difficult and restrictive due to the quantity and weight of the stitched together garments. At the conclusion of the performance I left the artifact from “Body Traps” spread out over the floor of the space.