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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 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. It is an entire world within the confines of contemporary society.

A unique universe, vital and vibrant, as a reflection of Western society.


Often family story, it involves a deep commitment and a choice prompted by different motivations depending on the individual.

It may 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 Arlesian costume is for me a quintessential idea of refinement.


As a child, our mother would dress my sister and me. Getting prepared was a serious and meticulous affair.

Once we were ready, the liberation 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 remains a strong lesson in terms of symbols. This discreet 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 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 thousands of committed individuals, who might go unseen... like Bizet's Arlesian.

Cecil Ka, 2020

ARLESIAN _ Jean-Paul Cassulo, psychoanalyst

Cecil Ka's double portraits of Arles, captured in American shots with an obsessive precision, beyond their plastic quality, refer us to three essential themes :

1. Duality :

When Alice crosses the mirror of Lewis Carroll, it is not in the land of dreams that she finds herself, but in a country unknown until then of her consciousness which is none other than her psyche.
The adventures that she will live there will upset her to the core, without leaving any trace of the journey that she has made within herself. "L''Arlésienne en tenue" is not the Arlesian outfit. Cecil Ka makes this clear to us through the mirror that reflects the light of his models.
The duality of the gray t-shirt and traditional costume  questions us, through these on the reality of the envelope that both covers and contains the person.

2. Representation :

A basic rule of optics (except the pretenses) states that when one sees you can be seen.
The scopic representation allows us to take a place in the visible world, or at least to try to take our own place.

But this place is far from being clearly defined. It can be the one that we fantasize to occupy facing the reality that others send back to us.

How do the models of Cecil Ka' see themselves? Do they inhabit each of these outfits in turn?
Which one truly represents them?

3. Identity :

The singularity within a group constituted by invariant elements of belonging that can evolve without altering the cohesion of the whole constitutes here a powerful meaning of the Arlesian costume.
Cecil Ka sends each model back to back to the group to which its history and territory attach it. Who is Arlesian ?
Would the costume be only one picturesque sign of belonging among others? Cecil Ka's look at the double skin of her models asks us about identity. And this question of identity touches us because it refers to the reality of the personality  within
 each of us, a reality that is constantly being under construction.


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