13:50 / 26 Dec 2020 / interviews / text: Valeriia Raskolnikova
The Body and The Dress
Many outfits - many personalities. Fashion pushes us to discover unknown fragments of our own psyche. If we are eager to play with it, the result can be unforeseen in many ways.
The actual exemplification of an outfit affecting the perception of a human body is extraordinary. The dress goes as an essential supplement to one's own internal world; it lends a hand when it comes to its daily materialization. As a universal phenomenon, dressing up can uncover numerous concealed qualities to all the parties involved: to us foremost, to people around, to the cultural chroniclers. Fashion is a semiotic system speaking its own language - sometimes we can decode it, sometimes not.
Courtesy of Diana Fedoriaka
Owing it to the social psychology of the dress, we have the backup research about costume's effects on the meanings. The length of a women's skirt can give hints about her tolerance towards random sexual encounters even though it may not match the reality. Sexual harassers, in many cases, blame the victim's sartorial choices despite their own violence and lack of control. Power dressing makes us feel powerful - the reason why you will never see a nation's leader dressed in jeans. The various colors may suggest differing messages. The percentage of the body uncovered by clothes present a potential possibility for self-objectification. Escaping symbolism and subconscious flows is nearly impossible when you go out on the street.
"As a universal phenomenon, dressing up can uncover numerous concealed qualities to all the parties involved"
But what if one wants to portray the pure form? One that is free from attached meanings and prejudices about a character? With Diana Fedoriaka's "My Naked Friends" and "I am Diana" photo projects, we may assume only by the number of wrinkles, tattoos, or postures. I know Diana for more than 4 years now, and she has always been a profoundly inspirational friend of mine. Her aesthetics are radical, and she adores to portray taboo topics from a Ukrainian citizen's perspective. Bodily sensual moments marinated in search of meaning in post-soviet space. An actress for a short film representing the LGBTQI+ Ukrainian community and dogma surrounding it. Chronicles of freaks and weirdos all over Ukraine: from the Carpathian Mountains to Kyiv. Director of music videos for eclectic Ukrainian singer Ingret. Diana's latest project is very personal - she is picturing her good friends and herself completely undressed. By doing so, she creates a feeling of complete trust and intimacy between an artist and a muse.
In that interview, I am eager to discover Diana's attitudes towards clothes, photography, and why she opts for the nude form.
Diana, tell me a bit more about your initial inspirations for this photo project? Why have you decided to portray this theme?
It is interesting to me as well; it seems like I always wanted to portray nudity. I do not really recall when something apart from sexuality interested me to such an extent.
Courtesy of Diana Fedoriaka
You chose photography and film as your art medium. Why?
Because it is multi-media, nowadays, you have a lot of angles to those art forms. Take, for instance, film. It is almost like a dream. You have every component you may desire, event scents, if you wish to. I think film and photography impact modern people much more significantly than any other form. We, as humans, struggle to learn, to listen, to see. I dare to say we are lazy in those matters. Film permits people to receive an idea much quicker. It is more democratized, and effortlessly reaches the masses.
By doing your art, you aim to deliver food for thought to the masses and make them eager to learn?
Absolutely. The lack of general curiosity always bothered me in humans. Usually, it is a minority who reflects. In the beginning, those people have a sentiment of loneliness in their surroundings. But the moment they come around something similar to their views, thoughts, or dreams, they start to feel alive again. Like there is someone near them, even though physically, it may not be so. I always recall Umberto Eco, my mentor, despite the fact that we never saw each other. Art's pleasure is in dialogue with astonishing people regardless of their location, position, and identification.
"Art's pleasure is in dialogue with astonishing people regardless of their location, position, and identification"
Do people photographed by you in this project feel entirely uninhibited in your presence? Why do you think it is so?
Yes, I absolutely think so. After I started the project, I had many close friends, contacting and asking, "Can I participate?". I believe those experiences give people so much freedom. I am very grateful for 2 funny situations that the Universe granted me. In the beginning, I was shooting 1 or 2 persons, but then the other evening, my friend invited me to a birthday party in a company of 5. We had a wonderful evening, wholly unrestrained and full of love. The other situation was so random and so "magic realism": I worked the whole day, staying up almost till the last metro. I was super tired, and when I stepped inside a wagon, a group of 5 naked guys came inside as well and sat just in front of me. One of them had cake smashed all over his head. I am a person who is never without my camera. I recall, during this period, I shoot naked people almost every day, and it seemed they just run into my arms without hesitation.
Courtesy of Diana Fedoriaka
How do you go with the photoshoot process? Does it happen spontaneously, or you carefully plan?
I barely think before the shoot; everything happens spontaneously. Normally, the whole process can take me a maximum of 2 hours. The composition is built automatically - I fully rely on my subconscious. It is delightful that together with my friends, we can turn it into the celebration of life - just pure joy with the absence of any meanings or symbols.
I know you are working on a bunch of documentary projects all the time. In those settings, the clothes help you or inhibit you? Why?
From a documentarist point of view, absolutely they help. It is like an open book. Initially, what can describe a person better than his/her clothing? However, I have 2 sides to it - like a documentarist and a person who adores portraying nudity. Everything depends on the topic. Foremost, in my personal projects, I want to vocalize that the nude body is totally OK. People assume there are tons of sex in the naked body. Nevertheless, sex and sexuality are 2 different subjects. My goal is to make people explore their attitudes towards sexuality and realize that body is fascinating on its own.
"Bodily sensual moments marinated in search of meaning in post-soviet space"
I know you as a person with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinematography. Do you have a particular favorite moment captured on film?
Of course! It is a scene from the film "Gun Crazy," which is also known as "Deadly Is The Female" (1950) by Joseph Lewis. I never saw anything in cinematography that captures human sexuality on that level. The plot is about a gun-obsessed man and woman. They met during a carnival, fell in love with each other, and began to crime spree together.
Courtesy of "Gun Crazy" film, 1950
The scene when the female protagonist displayed her firearm prowess at a festival and, eventually, made the male protagonist crush on her was full of sex. I wonder if porn scenes could have ever competed with that type of energy.
"My goal is to make people realize that body is fascinating on its own"
What do you think about poor costume design? Do you think it can somehow affect the director's vision, or talent can not be spoiled?
I believe that cinema is teamwork and every component of it is equally indispensable. There is no hierarchy, no lower importance, nor a higher one. Lighting is essential, the plot is essential, the cameraman is essential, the costume is essential.
Courtesy of Diana Fedoriaka
How do you perceive clothes yourself? What do you like to wear, and why?
I really value comfort. One of my favorite pieces of wardrobe is a sweater, given to me by one girl. It is super comfy, the warmest thing I have ever had, and it portrays churches in the fields. I really like the esthetics of this sweater. I am also a big fan of black clothes. I think they serve as camouflage.
Wearing the jeans jacket, Diana explains the history of its making. Her boyfriend has decided to put the garment in the ground for a few months: the outcome resulted in the alteration of primary color. Using the technique Chalayan emphasized back in époque, Diana is now the owner of a distinguished piece of apparel - recalibrated by time and land.