Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Completion date: 2018
Femmes de Feu
Labyrinth is a sculptural costume and series of performances on health and embodiment. The woven and wrapped chest plate is constructed as a literal labyrinth with one route leading to and through the naval of the piece. Labyrinths are universal signs of unity and healing. Signifying organs and viscera, it uses fashion to subvert expectations of what’s public and private, shared and un-shared about internal health issues, including but not limited to the subjects of motherhood, birth, digestion and integration. More than just a garment, the sculpture transforms into a jump rope, taking what is at first a grave or worrisome visual suggestion, and turning it into a subject of absurdity and play. The piece is meant to bridge the range of experiences that one has as not just a person, but a medical body, experiencing touches with mortality and isolation, as well as community, acceptance, and joy.
The piece was conceived of as an independent studio project by Muehlbauer, and quickly adopted into the experimental workshop performance "Circus Sessions" produced by Femmes de Feu (Canada), directed by Marie Andree-Robitaille (Sweden). It was first staged as an act with 14 professional circus artists, incorporating the Labyrinth costume into a jump-rope and aerial scene within a larger performance. Shortly following this presentation at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Toronto, ON), Muehlbauer entered an artist-in-residency at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, creating a solo act to accompany the scene. She performed this segment as part of their "Test Flight" series, incorporating audience volunteers into the jump rope scene. The music of the second iteration is by long-time collaborative partner and musician Dan Cole with his band Rexedog.