Sussex artist wants your underwear to tour the world in show designed to be completely pants

By Ben Miller | 04 June 2010
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A close up photo of underwear

(Above) Smalls could take your knickers to the world

Where most artists pursue time, patience and adoration, Jenny Edbrooke goes a little deeper.

The artist-in-residence at Kent and Sussex outdoor art hub The School Creative Centre is after your underwear as part of a cheeky plan to construct a "grand costume" (including a two-metre woven skirt) entirely from pants, bras and frilly knickers as part of an Arts Council-backed project with an underlying theme of female identity.

"Smalls isn't small at all," she tells us, pointing to the thought bubbles sparked by taboos and calling woven undergarments "a binding together of possibilities and thoughts".

"In a globalised world it seems to me that things are really reaching melting point. Things are breaking down, becoming introvert and self-absorbed, there's a lack of responsibility and discipline. As the planet changes, we need to change with it."

She reckons live art is one of the most straightforward ways of doing this, exemplified by the thorny topic of undercracker sturdiness.

"A simple conversation about which underwear is best to catch wee drops is actually very unifying," she says, citing the commonality of toilet indiscretions as a celebration of "humans in all their beauty."

"It's about bringing all people together and encouraging a communication between us all.

"As a performance artist, I view my body as a tool and my mind as common text. If I can use these things to make other people smile then I feel compelled to do so."

A photo of three artists working on garments in a studio

The team have won support from lingerie and childcare market leaders

For this exploration of our complex relationship with our pants drawers, Edbrooke has worked with members of a residential home, teenagers from two Sussex schools and women from local mother's groups, as well as textile specialist Simon Young and theatre design graduate Ruby Antonowicz-Behnan, whose Iraqi-Polish background gives her inside knowledge on traditional Islamic costume.

Working from a joint studio, they've secured support from lingerie firm La Senza and maternity experts Hotmilk.

"It has been an interesting but amusing challenge using unconventional yarns such as bras, thongs, plastic straps, knicker elastic and negligees," says Young, who confesses to a certain knowledge gap.

"Smalls is different to my usual work. It's been an opportunity to submerge ourselves into the unknown."

Donors will be rewarded by seeing their former smalls tour with the show, previewing in July before heading around the UK later this year and internationally in 2011.

Unwanted underwear can be given to the School Creative Centre in Rye, by emailing Jenny or by telephoning her on 01797 229797.

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