The Walking Women, 2010
"The Performance: Two women, one Asian and one European – the artist – dressed in silk pyjamas (recognized as luxury clothing) carry out cameras.
In the company of Ivone, we went to the Portuguese Consulate in Shanghai to register my presence in this city. By this act, I intend to reaffirm that the clothing used isn’t inappropriate in acts of official nature or in places of any other order. Then we head to Plaza 66, a building that gathers some of the world's most luxurious brands and entered its shops.
The idea of being seen and seeing others is achieved by the fact that, as performers, we take pictures of others staring at us. At the same time, we are photographically documented during this performance.
This clothing problematic reflects a way of being and, essentially, a Shanghai lifestyle, which confronts the 2010 government directive that aims to repress the use of pyjamas outside the living space – “Not going outside wearing pyjamas, become a World Expo civilized” person” read in big red banners all over the city.
In this attempt to control dress codes, and to dignify once more (“resignify”) the pyjamas as a possible outfit o get out of the intimate space, all we had left to think was that, in fact, “what we are being restricted of aren’t the pyjamas, but freedom.”
On the one hand, wearing pyjamas for leaving home is a comfortable way of making the public space an extension of the house, as long as it’s worn in its surroundings, for housekeeping, shopping nearby, walking the dog, or play badminton with neighbours or friends. On the other, it reflects an appropriation of public space, where the dwellings are integrated into small housing estates and where the norm is a more communal lifestyle. Otherwise, wearing pyjamas in a non-domestic context reflects a social status in a demonstration of belonging to privileged areas of the city.
Going out in the street wearing pyjamas is a “customization” and a “humanization/feminization” of public spaces and is also an achievement. Exposing yourself to others is also assumed as self-awareness.
The introduction of western pyjamas in Asia can be traced between the 18th and 19th centuries through cities such as Macau, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The western use of pyjamas dates back to before the 16th century, when the Portuguese arrived in India; the word is a transliteration of a Persian term meaning “loose trousers tied at the waist”. Later, the English popularized the pyjamas, after the occupation of Bombay, in India, which they received by weeding dowry of D. Catarina de Bragança with Carlos II, in 1661.
Considering that the Portuguese were the second-largest group of foreigners in Shanghai for several periods before 1949, this performance of a Shanghai and a Portuguese is a re-enactment where a time of living and exchanging between the two communities is recovered."