In collaboration with Markuciai day care centre for mentally challenged people, Lithuanian fashion designers have challenged the concept of fashion. Launched in 2015, a fashion art project Antiideal has transformed the lives of the participants and spectators alike. Antiideal (Antiidealas in Lithuanian) is an art project initiated and directed by the filmmaker and director Irma Bogdanoviciute whose mission was to introduce mentally challenged clients of Markuciai in a different light, as co-creators and models of the fashion project.
Fashion Bloc: How did you come up with an idea for Antiideal?
Irma Bogdanoviciute: I have been working with the Markuciai daycare centre clients as a theatre director – we staged plays together as one of the activities. Having spent some time with them, I realised that they have so much more potential and creativity that is not properly escalated. For example, they had their annual fashion show together with the guests from other care centres for mentally challenged people. In this annual Spring event, Markuciai clients would wear different self-made costumes and walk down the yard-catwalk. It occurred to me, that they lacked access to the professional art.
Another reason for doing this is our society. On the outings, I have noticed and felt the way people treat Markuciai clients – with pity, ignorance, distance or even derision. With an Antiideal documentary, I aim to change that.
FB: Tell us about your team and how you all got together?
IB: The idea was sponsored by the Lithuanian Council of Culture. I got in touch with the fashion designers I knew who recommended some other designers and they all eagerly agreed to be a part of it. Fashion designers involved are Ruta Lendraityte UTALLA, Vidmina Stasiulyte, Milita Balcaityte and Elze Sakalinskaite (INDIGO TEKSTILE studio), Modesta Kremeryte KREMER and Aleksandra Glusinaite. I was surprised no one refused as none of them had previous experience with working with the mentally challenged people. Our cameraman Zbigniev Bartosevic was also a friend of mine, as well as a videographer Aiste Zigulyte. All the people involved were very open-minded.
FB: Is Antiideal a one-of social project or a long-term initiative?
IB: When I introduce our project, I like to emphasize that Antiideal is primarily an art project with a social aspect. It is important to understand that a disabled person can be an equal co-creator of an art project. In our case, a good example is Marius Mikoliunas whose drawings became a printed fabric. Markuciai clients, who became models for the designers, were equal participants of the creative process by sharing their visions, genuine insights, always sincere observations and creative ideas. It has become a cooperation between the two. Art usually is used as a therapy for disabled or a pastime and is rarely about the quality or an actual art piece. I believe it could be changed. As for the continuity, we still travel around Lithuania presenting the project, we also hope to go and showcase abroad. There might be a new project but it is too early to disclose.
FB: Can you talk more about your mission?
IB: Producing this project I wanted to capture and portray good art and beautiful people. I also wanted to fight against the stereotypes that create fear, negation, pity, ignorance that mentally disabled people and their environment face every day. Most importantly, I wanted to show the positive side of their life, and in a way, the reality. Media often portrays mentally disabled people and their families as unfortunate, disadvantaged. Believe me, they don’t feel that way! We, who don’t have a so called disability, have plenty to learn from people who are mentally different: their high emotional intellect, self-confidence, inner peace.
Equally, I wanted the designers to talk about their experience and reveal their observations that were far from pity. I wanted our audience to see the reality.
FB: So what are the designers saying about this project?
IB: Designer Vidmina Stasiulyte, who worked with Markuciai centre clients, her co-creators and models Oksana Tulko and Indraja Kalnikaite, decribes her experience as a way of learning about the world and herself. Having met and befriended ‘models’ who are free, relaxed, playful, she also learned their stories, heard their life goals and found out about their role models. Currently, the designer works with an international project ‘Beyond Seeing’, involving creators seeing with eyes and creators seeing with hands. The designer thinks that art projects that involve people with disabilities, help fight stereotypes and see people in a different light – the disability is often just a difference, a unique feature. She hopes that a word ‘disability’ will lose its unnecessarily negative connotation.
Other designers said that their experiences were also enriching and rewarding.
FB: What were your concerns as a creator of the project?
IB: We didn’t know what to expect. As people with disabilities is still a sensitive topic, it might be disconcerting to get involved. If the project or a creation is bold, you can expect different reactions. However, the result has received mostly positive reactions, a lot of media attention and this proved the necessity of it.
FB: What about the models?
IB: Every single meeting with people, their new friends, is a celebration – they love interacting, telling stories about themselves, finding out about their guests. We go together on tour to showcase the project, they love the outings. Moreover, they like attention; feel confident on a catwalk or in front of the cameras. They are even more camera friendly than the designers.
My communication with the Markuciai centre clients started before the Antiideal. I have noticed positive changes within just 6 months of their new friendships with the designers, our cameraman. Some of them have become more provident; they have expanded their interests and conversational topics. In a way, a disability dissolves when they befriend new people, when people genuinely have interest in them, when they face challenges, accept failures and celebrate achievements – they become stronger by doing and learning as opposed to their usual ‘safe’ environment.
Our models’ family members and even their carers at the centre have also gained more confidence and pride. This is beautiful, I think.
All Photos ©RAIMONDA VYSNIA
Find out more about Antiideal on Fashion Bloc.