To answer the first question it seemed unavoidable to give a short history of how Klara Kelvy became aware of the importance of clothing and has used it in her work up until Uniform Year.
KK went to several schools some had uniforms others didn’t. On the first day of prep she chose to wear the shorts (as they were easier to climb in than the dress) and the school tshirt. It wasn’t until she tried to use the girls’ bathroom that she was made aware that having short curly hair and wearing the shorts and a tshirt (boy’s uniform) made her a boy and therefore she had to leave the girl’s loo very quickly. This taught young KK that clothes are your identity to other people, and they will treat you accordingly.
Casual day was difficult because the pressure to look cool was high, but the clothes in KK’s wardrobe seemed to lack the sophistication needed on such occasions. It wasn’t until late highshool that she started to develop her own sense of dress. It was unusual. The more unusual the better the feedback, and the more costume-like the outfits became. So much so that in year 12 KK based a visual arts folio on documenting the many costumes she would wear to school (which had a ‘free dress’ policy).
This use of clothing continued into her undergraduate years at the VCA studying Sculpture and Spatial Practices. She experimented with different personas on the rush hour train into uni. Each day she would try on the guise of a different person she had noticed on the train: The androgynous slob art student, the office worker who wore runners and carried her heels to change into at the office, the hippy, and the 50s housewife (admittedly this was made up but interestingly the most respected). Each person was treated very differently, from being avoided, to ignored, to shoved, to having doors opened and seats offered. And for the first time she noticed how the clothing (and perhaps the reactions of other people) changed her behaviour, she behaved like the people she was dressed as.
Since then KK developed a chameleon approach to dressing in everyday life. Yet with this came the pressure of choosing the correct outfit to correspond with how she wanted to be treated. It became exhausting, requiring lots of: clothing, decisions, time, washing, money and energy. Yet it was a big part of her life and practice, until now largely undocumented.
After practicing and living in this way for a decade KK wanted to find a persona to commit to for a period of time. To create space and energy for new work that she could go deep into. Also to see what it was like to be one person to everyone all the time. These were the seeds that begun her thoughts of creating and wearing an artist uniform. The project developed with input from AK, some experimentation and more research, and two years after the initial idea the project was launched.
So how does it feel to wear the same outfit all the time?
KK- Wearing my uniform I feel like myself for the first time in a very long time. It’s not always comfortable, I feel very vulnerable, I’m publicly putting my ideas out into the world everyday and I can’t hide. I’m right there to see what people think of them. But I’m ok with that, mostly. Some days I want to hide but I felt that way before the uniform and I think that's part of being human. When I put it on in the morning I feel ready for the day. I can think about other things, what I’m doing, where I’m going, getting my head where it needs to be. I try not to wear it during private relaxing time at home so that when I have it on I’m working. And I am, now I’ve resigned to the fact that I’m an artist, I think about my work more, this and other projects. I also think more about the future as an artist, how to sustain my practice, where as before all I could do was think about the next project. It is partly a maturing in myself. In a way I guess I’ve invented my own artists-coming-of-age practice. Yeah, I’ve always been a late bloomer.
Photo Credit: Mum or Dad, 1992(?), Klara on the left, Alexander on the right, blissfully unaware of gendered clothing.