A letter for Hannah and Tamay by Ben Whyman


Dear Hannah and Tamay,


I have recently worked on a dance project called In the Ink Dark, devised and choreographed by dance artist Luke Pell (https://www.intheinkdark.com/). I was asked if I would work on this project as a design consultant with Shanti Freed, a costume designer. We also worked with a number of other collaborators including musician Scott Twynholm, visual artist Brian Hartley, poet JL Williams, technicians, producers, PR people, BSL interpreter, consultants and the list goes on.


In the Ink Dark is about memory and loss, absence, the push and pull of emotions when we lose someone but gain something else. I was asked to explore with Luke and Shanti how we could capture something of this in the costumes we were to make for In the Ink Dark.


My interest in this is academic: I explore materiality, intently looking at the wear and tear of men’s clothing in PhD research I am currently undertaking. This performance was the perfect project for me to work on.


Luke had a very clear idea in his head how he wanted himself and eight wonderful performers – Kitty Fedorec, Robert Hesp, Alex McCabe, Katie Miller, Janice Parker, Carolina Ravaioli, Jak Soroka and Richard White – to be dressed. Luke is a facilitator, a communicator and interpreter of ideas. As part of the performance, he read poetry he had written in response to interviews with people he had undertaken in the research stage about their memories of loss.


In establishing our design ideas, Luke, Shanti and I talked about landscapes, and memories captured in the shape of the moving and still body. We talked about physicality, clothes worn on the body and how they are imprinted with landscapes of folds and wear and tear. A very special, personal mark-making.


We talked about the hues of grey, how the colour takes on so much and allows space for things to happen and be re-imagined. We also wanted to work with linen – an age-old material that offers the world in terms of materiality, the wear, the folds, imprints of the body marked on the surface. It is a fabric that holds memory. We agreed on volume and a generousness of cut, allowing the landscapes of the performers’ bodies and the clothes they were wearing, to emerge.


Shanti and I designed and talked and designed some more, and with Luke, settled on a collection of simple pieces for the performers to wear – trousers by Shirin Guild, loose, lanky sleeveless tops with wide collars and deep armholes, and some shifts.


For Luke, we needed another element, another layer of (material) meaning to help position his space in this collaboration. I am the proud owner of a Tamay and Me knotted 21-dip indigo jacket, and I thought of it immediately. On trying it on, it was the obvious choice for Luke. In its design, we had found the right length, silhouette, a generous open collar, and volume. He felt at home in it. I described to him the company who had made it, how I had met Hannah and was excited by her work making garments in a collaborative way with Tamay’s, and others’, families in North Vietnam.


Given we were working in linen, and in different hues to the indigo of my jacket, we had to make a copy for Luke to wear.


In our own small way, we could offer up our own celebration of collaboration, just as Tamay and Me does through every stitch and the time taken to craft each of the jackets they make.


In the Ink Dark was very much about collaboration. We worked as a team and any hierarchy was eradicated to allow freedom and trust to inhabit our work and the different spaces the five performances in Edinburgh were presented in during the middle of June 2017.


From one team of collaborators to another, we are grateful to you both for offering us the contribution of the jacket design. Your generousness of spirit is to be celebrated.


Ben Whyman


July 2017



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