Sandy Gibbs

How to wear a disguise (2017)

2 min 52 secSingle channel / Digital Video / Colour / Sound

"How to wear a disguise is one component in a body of work for my project: The paradox of failure: sport, competition and contemporary art in which I set out to re-stage a fifty-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 my own serial failings: increasingly inventive attempts at tracking down the ex-swimmers were unsuccessful. 

How to wear a disguise was made in response to my thwarted attempt to track down the two former-East German swimmers who were in the final, along with the shadowy presence of a German private investigator (who I had hired online—but his office was mysteriously locked and empty when I turned up unannounced), plus a visit to the old Stasi HQ in Berlin with its curious displays of 60s and 70s spycraft memorabilia.

There, I was transfixed by an exhibition of Stasi agents being taught how to wear disguises, how to put on wigs and false moustaches, how to disguise themselves as Western tourists. A bit like kids playing at dress-up but, absurdly, these were grown-ups and what they were doing was very unfunny. It was all a bit sinister and creepy, this motley collection of very ordinary-looking people trained to spy on their own. A cultivated veneer of everydayness masks the terror that underpinned the 40-year Stasi regime and its controlling ideologies that saw their young athletes unknowingly drugged with peformance enhancing drugs."

—Artist's statement

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