reenactment – dealing with pandemic

Responses to pandemic then and now!

From the Ever After project at National Theatre Wales – Mike Pearson and Zoe Laughlin. Zoe [Link] is also Director of the marvelous Institute of Making at University College London [Link].

Mike: I thought you might appreciate the attached images.

Following the death of her aunt, Zoe Laughlin spent last week at her parents’ farm away from her usual resources. So, as her contribution to our weekly Ever After NTW project meetings, she restaged a number of photographs from the Spanish flu epidemic and after.

They feature her Mum and Dad and Zoe herself in clothing they put together from personal wardrobes; and protective gear constructed only from materials she found in the house. The ‘beaks’ are polyfiles.

Zoe: I made these in homage to techniques of improvisation and the paraphernalia of the 1918 flu pandemic. In making and looking more closely at the original photographs, it dawned on me that two of the images are not from that era, so it’s more of a homage to pandemic apparel and historical PPE in general.

The two images that I’m convinced are mid 20th century are the ones that use thin plastic sheeting; so that’s the bag-on-head one and the cones one. The woman who has the plastic bag on her head is wearing a 1950s A -line style skirt and the hair style and jacket lapels in the cones image are very 1940s. These dates would align much better with the presence of clear plastic sheet materials. Polyurethane, for example, wasn’t even invented until the late 1930s.

The images with the pipes and metal boxes was found on the BBC here – [Link].

I can’t find the source of the image of the two women with tea bowl style cloths over their hats, but the clothes read as a perfect example of late Belle Époque meets early 1920s so I’m convinced the period is right. (It never fails to surprise me how useful my A-level in fashion and textiles has been!)

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