Robe à l’anglaise (2021-) is an ongoing photographic series that negotiates my experience as a “mestizo” (i.e. a person of “mixed” Filipino descent). This is primarily managed by depictions of myself wearing a costume based on the 18th century dress known as a robe à l’anglaise (lit. “English dress”).
In the colonialist mindset, “mixed race” people disturb a status quo that relies on the separation of people according to conceptions of “race”. Accordingly, “mixed race” people have been subjected to assimilation practices to erase their perceived in-betweenness. As a “mestizo”, the wearing of the robe à l’anglaise – the aptly named dress once favoured by a colonialist elite – speaks to the legacy of such practices in contemporary cultures. For instance, the act of wearing such a dress is a metaphor for assimilation as much as it speaks to the incongruence of “mixed” people in hegemonic systems.
Conversely, the series manages an expanding collection of content and compositional techniques that speak to an increasing variety of experiences. For instance, the subject interacts with different objects, takes on different roles, and interacts with changing settings from frame to frame. As such, the series encourages a multifaceted reading of the subject’s identity to help us recognise its significance beyond the colonialist paradigm. This is an objective of my practice generally.
Overall, the project may pose a number of questions about identity in a postcolonial world. How much has colonialism affected our understanding of identity? Is “mixed race” a redundant notion or does it remain relevant in the modern period? Can we live without separatist notions of cultural identity or do we rely on them?