How to wear a disguise


"How to wear a disguise is one component in a body of work for Gibbs’ PhD research project: The paradox of failure: sport, competition and contemporary art in which she set out to re-stage a 50-year-old swimming race from the 1968 Mexico Olympics: the final of the women’s 400 metres individual medley. The initial proposal was to re-stage the race with the original competitors – 50 years later and in the same Olympic swimming pool in Mexico City.

However, as the project progressed, it morphed into a manifestation of the artist’s own serial failings: increasingly inventive attempts at tracking down the ex-swimmers were unsuccessful. How to wear a disguise was made in response to her thwarted attempt to track down the two ex-East German swimmers who were in the final, along with the shadowy presence of a German private investigator (who Gibbs had hired online – but his office was mysteriously locked and empty when she turned up unannounced), plus a visit to the old Stasi HQ in Berlin with its curious displays of 60s and 70s spycraft memorabilia.

Viewed today, the Stasi surveillance techniques and disguises look quaint and almost comedic in their attempts to look ‘normal’; but there’s more than a whiff of the uncanny pervading those images on display. The cultivated veneer of everydayness mask the terror that underpinned the 40-year Stasi regime and its controlling ideologies that saw their young athletes unknowingly drugged with peformance enhancing drugs.

It’s no wonder that Gibbs was unsuccessful in locating the two ex-East German swimmers. No doubt still wary of any action that hinted at spying or surveillance, neither women agreed to meet with her. As a nod to her own failure as a sleuth in not being able to make contact with the two absent swimmers, How to wear a disguise maps her attempts to act out the spy disguise instructions in the Stasi training manuals." - SG


Director/Performer/Video Editor: Sandy Gibbs

Camera: Chris Williams
Costumes hired from Costume Cave, Wellington
Soundtrack: The Boss (1958) Henry Mancini