University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

Costuming the weightless body: Cloth, intangibility, and haptic visuality in space

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021
EventThe 9th British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Annual Conference 2021 - University of Southampton Centre for International Film Research (CIFR) , United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Apr 20219 Apr 2021


ConferenceThe 9th British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Annual Conference 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


In the new, commercial space age, space has become a potential site for film production. In October 2021, Doug Liman and Tom Cruise expect to begin filming on board the International Space Station. This collaboration with NASA and SpaceX, as well as the increasing popularity of reduced gravity flights such as those used for the filming of, most notably, Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995) demonstrate opportunities for authentic and creative depictions of the weightless environment.

To depict space travel, filmmakers must be aware of the phenomenology of weightlessness. Visible evidence of weightlessness comes in the form of defamiliarization of familiar experiences, and unexpected behaviours of familiar materials. Costume, which has long played an essential role in haptic visuality, has the potential to contribute significantly to depictions of weightlessness.

Suspended in a void, the weightless body experiences no sensation of its surroundings, no ground beneath its feet, and no cloth against its skin. Contemplating her own experiences of microgravity, Annick Bureaud (2006) describes losing ‘awareness of the external limits of our body’. While the body adopts a neutral posture and muscles reconfigure to distort the shape of the body, costume also behaves in unfamiliar ways. Clothes, no longer supported by the body, adopt forms that are independent of their wearer. When skin is separated from clothes, the body is shown to be deprived of contact with its surroundings, deprived of tactile experience, and in short, lost in space.

This presentation will argue that knowledge of the behaviours of clothing and the dressed body are essential for authentic depictions of weightlessness, and identify opportunities for creative engagement with weightlessness, focusing primarily on the potential for film to depict the sensations of weightlessness through interactions between body and costume.

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