The conception and crafting of garments is a distinct project within Rujuta Rao’s artistic practice. Rao’s garments are non-binary and universal, varying in their utility and engaging audiences to determine how to wear them. Like much of Rao’s work, the garments appear modular and abstract while being deeply concerned with human experience and expression. Building on the themes of fragmentation and reunification of the body across Rao’s practice, a common trope in this medium is harnessing or bondage. The artist further explores this thread through a fictional narrative she wrote in 2019 about a woman who becomes gradually disembodied as she is teleported around the world, her journey led by prophetic photographs signifying her future travels. Many of Rao’s recent garments are accompanied by 3-5 photographs for the wearer to change, connecting multiple temporalities of the woman’s experience to our present.
Rao first began working with garments in 2009 and returned to them in 2019, presenting series of works at Serendipity Arts Festival in 2019 and Goa Open Arts Festival in 2020. Subsequently, during her Civita Institute fellowship, Rao researched the history of linen in Central Italy in 2022. In 2023, with the CCA Islands Travel Scholarship, she studied mud-dyeing and paper garment making in Japan. As the garments continue to develop independently and within Rao’s extensive practice, they have grown into the company Ruga, enabling Rao to broaden public access to this medium through expanded production and the ability to offer a range of sizes.