Refuge Wear Intervention London East End 1998

Studio Orta - 2002

Date: 1998
Ref: 2002
Materials: Diptych Lambda photograph, laminated on Dibond
Dimensions: 170h x 120 cm each
Catalogued: pp46-47 Lucy Orta Body Architecture, Verlag Silke Schreiber 2003
Exhibition history: 2019 Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, The Nederlands; 2001 USF Contemporay Art Musem Tampa, USA
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta

Lucy Orta began the Refuge Wear series during a period of severe economic recession resulting from the 1st Gulf War, in the early 1990's. Prompted by the hummanitarian ais appeals for shelter and clothing for the Iraqi and Kurd refugees fleeing war zones and the increasing population of homeless young people living on the streets of Paris, she created a number of portable habitats that convert into anoraks and backpacks, designed for personal comfort and mobility for nomadic populations. The transformation from shelter to clothing and vice versa is fundamental to the concept of freedom of movement, free will or choice, new relationships and new cultural exchanges, the homo mobilis. They incorporate arm and hood appendages, or pockets that contain both functional and symbolic objects. Their ergonomic forms allow for a minimum vital body space and they employ cutting-edge design innovations such as telescopic carbon armatures that raise the fabric above the chest to eliminate the effects of claustrophobia. The materials contain technical properties such as microporous Rip Stop with or PU coatings, metaphors for body comfort and protection.

Throughout the 1990's Lucy + Jorge Orta staged public interventions to challenge acts of social disappearance and to render the invisible populations, visible once more. Peripheral urban spaces such as squats, railway stations, housing projects, bridges and subways were chosen as arenas for simultaneous happenings. These interventions –warnings, alarm bells, distress whistles– signal out social issues that the media were ignoring at that time. The interventions staged in London’s East End were photographed by John Akehurst for a Dazed and Confused magazine commission.