by Robin Lasser + Adrienne Pao

We are interested in the land and the body as sites of seduction. Dress Tents are a fusion of architecture, the body and the land played out through living sculpture, moving images and still photography. The wearable architecture is installed and worn in the landscape in order to be photographed. Humor is paramount in these photographs, which are meant to be alluring and whimsical. In other instances, the installations are performed and displayed in a gallery or museum as interactive living sculptures. These tent-like forms are worn at the opening reception and additional scheduled performance times. A dress form substitutes for the figure during the duration of the exhibition. On occasion the Dress Tents are commissioned as semi- permanent, interactive public art installations. The interior of the installations house video and sound pieces that refer to the original landscape. The Dress Tent project investigates desire from a female centered perspective and uses seduction as a vehicle to explore the relationship between the body and the land. The Dress Tents question what is up, under a women's skirt in the 21st century.


By referencing modes of female representation such as “bare foot and in the kitchen” in the Picnic Dress Tent, or “mother nature” in the Greenhouse Dress Tent, the dress tents simultaneously utilize and address a history of fantasy associated with women. Through pop-culture humor, the Picnic Dress Tent examines our recreational activities in the landscape though playfully familiar scenarios that leave us to question and reexamine our flow of routine and our relationship to the body as site of cultural desire. A play on green house gasses and what it takes to be "green" in contemporary culture, the Greenhouse Dress Tent becomes a commentary on the current fashion of being “green.”

Installed beneath the California/Mexico border fence, the monolithic Ms. Homeland Security, dressed in military fatigues while baring her skin, is both militant and quirky. The Illegal Entry Dress Tent is a “gatekeeper”, figuratively and literally. She mimics minutemen vigilantes and patrol guards. Gallery viewers are invited to step inside the dress tent, crossing the border between a public and private space.

The Ice Queen: Glacial Retreat Dress Tent, photographed at Mt. Shasta, California underneath one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, embodies the look of a sexy weather hazard/ emergency worker in her white winter garb.  The dress tent is a polar weather station and research lab, offering a space to ponder the earth, global warming, and glaciers. Underneath her skirt, a chorus of crickets varies their tune, in direct relationship to the climatic changes that have occurred across the globe, from the industrial revolution to the present and beyond. Overlaid upon the cricket chirping are weather reports from the locale in which the tent is stationed, as well as a weather reporter adding commentary on the ice queen's current temperature and state of mind.

Salty Water: South Bay Salt Ponds Dress Tent, celebrates a Bay Area environmental victory: the restoration of the artificially made salt ponds flanking the southern shores of the bay back to its original wetlands eco system. As far as changing the physical structure of southern San Francisco Bay, no industry, not even waste disposal, has had as great an impact as salt production.  More of the south bay has been diked and ponded for salt than not. Salty Water Dress Tent, as an intervention in this landscape, becomes a marker for this important transition of the land back to its original state. When installed in a museum, the dress tent becomes a working worn shower that utilizes recycled grey water stored in a “pond” at the base of the shower. In this format, visitors hear pre-recorded voices from the community, “singing in the shower,” original tunes that speak to contemporary water use issues broadcast from the shower interior, where a daring bather might be found singing in the shower herself.

Ms. Yekaterinburg: Camera Obscura Dress Tent is fashioned in ceremonial military attire. The tent itself is a nod to the Cold War and the secret work of closed cities while the shape of the dress tent replicates Russia's famous onion-domed churches. A camera obscura rests inside the underbelly of the dress tent and projects upside down, fleeting images of the exterior environment onto the interior of the dress tent. The inauguration of Ms. Yekaterinburg: Camera Obscura Dress Tent took place in Yekaterinburg, Russia in front of the Church-on-the-Blood where the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II and his family, were assassinated and later in history, sainted. Nina Savelyeva, winner of the Miss Yekaterinburg beauty contest, performed the dress tent in front of the church while the Ural Army Marching Band performed around her.

Edible Dress Tent explores the seductive allure of Montalvo's landscape as well as the appeal of the contemporary urban farmer. The striped awning of the dress alludes to a farmer's outdoor overalls; the colors of the dress attract local birds and butterflies. Edibles, pollens, scents and flowers surround and grow up the structure adding to the attraction. The structure of the Dress Tent also references Montalvo's architectural features, including the garden gazebo and the historic Villa's iconic archways.

Edible Dress Tent serves as an intimate retreat. The awning provides shelter from the hot sun. The interior swing provides visitors with a place to rest. Edible delicacies produced from plantings growing up the side of the dress are served to artists at the Lucas Artists Residency Program. The interior of the Dress Tent is also a sound installation. A sound track layering pick-up lines, mating calls and songs further highlights the interdependent nature of desire as experienced at Montalvo. The formal gardens and grounds are filled with the romance of visiting artists, newlyweds, nature lovers, and the birds and the bees.

Artists' Robin Lasser + Adrienne Pao began collaborating on the Dress Tent project in 2004.  It has appeared as an exhibition (photographs, installations and public art) in the U.S. and abroad in Argentina ('06), China ('07), Brazil ('09), Canada ('09) and Russia ('11) It has been featured in art, fashion, lifestyle, and pop culture magazines around the world including COLOR (International '11) Top (Brazil '09)  Dazed and Confused (London '08), Space (China ‘08), Vision (China '08), Amica (Bulgaria '07), Playboy (South America '06), TOP (Brazil '06), Flaunt (US '06), and many others.  The Dress Tents are featured in three books in 2012-2013: Viz Arts: Interventions, UCSC publishing, Not a Toy: Radical Figures in Architecture and Costume, Pictoplasma Publishing, Berlin,  Seven Days–Sister Cities–Artist Exchange, U.S. State Department Publishing, printed in China, DIY Fashion Shoots. Photogirls Publishing, London, and Creative Fashion, Olo Editions, France.

  Works in progress: 2009-2010