ONESIE WORLD at Vrystaat Arts Festival! / by Ainslie Macaulay

Image: Adele Varcoe and a Onesie recipient at Vrystaat Arts Festival (2017). Photograph courtesy of Vrystaat Arts Festival.

Image: Adele Varcoe and a Onesie recipient at Vrystaat Arts Festival (2017). Photograph courtesy of Vrystaat Arts Festival.

1. Adele, you are fresh off the bat from delivering your project Onesie World at the Vrystaat Arts Festival in South Africa. It was a huge success- congratulations! How was it from the driver's seat?

Thank you! It was a great experience. I collaborated with an amazing team of people from all parts of the city. There were plenty of surprises along the way and probably one of the biggest was when I realised that for the project to evolve I had to step out of the drivers seat and let people from Bloemfontein drive for a while. 

2. Onesie World was one of your concept proposals submitted at the end of the SITUATE Arts Lab in 2016. How much has the work evolved since it was just a few ideas on paper?

Working with the local community in Bloemfontein really pushed the project to the next level. Initially the festival was interested in the project as it aimed to bring people together. In a city that is burdened by Apartheid the project became a way to soften cultural boundaries and to work with people from all parts of the city. Collaborating with the community progressed the project and massaged it into something that was designed by the people of Bloemfontein for the people of Bloemfontein.

3. Your collaboration with local makers and performers was a huge component of this first iteration. The SITUATE Research and Development (R&D) phase conducted on site last year seemed to allow for crucial conversations and engagement with collaborators face to face. How important was the R&D prior to the festival in July and how did the work take shape while you were there?

The R&D phase was vital, particularly when working in a new city. During this phase I focused on setting up collaborations with different sewing groups, schools, university’s, musicians, fabric printers etc. It became about connecting with key people who were connected to large groups of people who might be interested in being involved in the project.

4. Was the level of audience engagement what you expected in Bloemfontein? Tell us about some of the ways locals responded to your work.

The level of audience engagement was next level! 650 onesies flew off the racks in less than an hour and there were still hundreds of people waiting for a onesie. It was challenging to negotiate what to do in this situation as it was hard to say no to so many people that had waited so long. Tension began to build and we had to act fast. Off cuts were quickly cut into bandannas and distributed to people in the queue. 

5. What's on for summer and 2018?

It's all systems go with Onesie World reaching new audiences and spaces!

Interview: Ainslie Macaulay.