In the year 2000, I was invited, with my friend, the artist Ana Vidigal, to produce a work for the Baltazar Dias Theatre in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. The Bridal Veil (O Véu da Noiva) is the name of a cascade in Madeira. This was the title we chose for our collaborative piece. A satin wedding dress is suspended from the ceiling at one end of the hall, and a silky train, made from a huge white backdrop used in the theatre itself, attached to it in such a way as to fill the entire room. We wished to create not only a connection between the theatre and a specific geographic feature of the island, but also to evolve a project that, while clearly the outcome of working in tandem, had points of contact with our individual work.
With what does one fill a room when one fills it with a bridal train, a wedding dress? Bringing with it the memory of a body, the empty dress suggests both presence and absence, life and death. Immersing ourselves in the suggestive potential of the white fabric – train, veil, water, table-cloth, sheet, shroud – we wanted to evoke the ambiguity that renders rites of passage such powerful points of social connection.
In the evolution of these ideas, an ‘epistolary’ project evolved simultaneously, which we titled Sentimental Consulting Room. This began as a written exchange of thoughts, impressions and free association around a central nuptial theme, but rapidly the written exchange broadened to increase small objects that we fashioned and sent each other by post. There was a wonderful sense of excitement and anticipation around the dispatch and receipt of these gifts, an exchange of transient thoughts given body. Marriage and weddings, brides and dresses, hearts and veils, all had their place in the iconography of this exchange, but so did water, dislocation, travel, disillusionment, loss, frustration, anger, impossibility.