The traditional Arles costume represents the visible part of a way of living, of thinking, of celebrating life, whether shared... or not.
In Arles and its surrounding areas, it can be worn throughout the year, and may vary with seasons and events.
It is the subject of detailed historical research.
Its precise codification complicates its approach. "Getting into costume" is considered, by some, a philosophy of life. What exists here is an entire world, within the confines of contemporary society.
A unique universe, vital and vibrant, and a reflection of Western society.
Often a family affair, it involves a deep commitment and a choice prompted by different motivations, depending on the individual.
It may be driven by a desire to engage with the outside world and meet other people, to dance, to belong to a group, to assert one’s identity, or by an interest in historical research, in needlework... amongst other triggers.
The Arles costume is for me a quintessential idea of refinement.
When I was young, our mother would dress my sister and me. Getting prepared was a serious and meticulous affair.
Once we were ready, freedom and the joy of reuniting with family and friends were all that mattered.
In her embroidery of traditional mireille and arlesienne headscarves, my mother sought the most faithful result. The precision, the required concentration and the activity’s relationship to time itself, all remain a strong lesson in terms of symbols. This self-contained quest for accuracy and the contemporary textile creation process, using elements of the past, are an intimate part of who I am.
During the first lockdown, I had the opportunity to pass on to my own daughter these simple and universal ancestral gestures. They require not only a demanding eye, but the courage to undo your work whenever necessary, to do it over,for the better.
While they might not say everything of who we are, our choices in clothing reveal a lot.
The diptych format allowed me to delve deeper in my research on the way we embody a multiplicity of beings. The "natural" t-shirt and face act as contemporary markers, placing everyone on an equal footing.
Through this contemporary, complex, serious and festive social phenomenon, I wanted to soberly address the thousands of committed individuals, who might go unseen... like Bizet’s Arlesienne.
Cecil Ka, 2020