Mārīte Mastiņa and Rolands Pēterkops, the minds behind fashion brand MAREUNROL’S pulled their strings for the installation TENANTS which just closed at the Villa Noailles in Hyères, France. The Latvian duo from Riga had already won the two biggest prizes at the Hyères fashion festival in 2009, made a stunning return fashion show in 2010, but his year’s exhibition proves not only their virtuosity in fabricating elegant and wearable pieces of clothing, but also their ability to create a much broader, often dark and poetic universe.
RENÉ HABERMACHER: what was the point of departure for this installation and the inspiration behind it?
ROLANDS PETERKOPS & MARITE MASTINA: When we start to work on a new collection, we always make the designs first to fit on miniature mannequins. And each time we both have discussed the idea of beautiful dolls as models so we could our ideas of garments to shoot as small style photos and to show them as the newest collection. That is why this idea came naturally.
The advantage of the small scale is that we have the freedom of implement anything, all our ideas without leaving out any of those costing an absolute fortune to make. Visual inspiration came in recent years moving from one apartment to another. That’s why our project is called TENANTS. As any of our works, this work also reflects our experience.
The inspiration for the installation came from artists’ constant moving from one apartment to another, from one neighbors to others, from one room to next and due to moving to new environment always makes you get used to new mystical noises, strange objects, loud or too quiet neighbors and other peculiarities connected with the apartment. But of course, with time you get used to all that. However, that all provoked thinking of how space influences those living in it and vice versa, and whether all these things in one way or another influence people and whether one imperceptibly starts to change, and whether this oddity is just in one’s mind, not reality. This is how emerged the idea for the installation with people/ tenants who dwell in their apartments and become as one with it. All their belongings are like a huge enormous shell/ attire which tell all their peculiarities, interests, specific hobbies and many other things.
These stories are made as small installations which show short sketches from character’s daily life. They communicate through costumes, scenography, sound and light. It is important that not only costumes and puppets are made for the installation, but also environment/ scenography, where they can express themselves and show the intended story, by forming a figurative composition which is combined with a surreal fantasy, mystique and a pinch of wit.
Mārīte Mastiņa and Rolands Pēterkops: Tableau from the exhibition TENANTS. The dolls character is inspired and modeled after Keith Richards.
Can you explain me the process of planning and making the installations?
First we had a few visions of the project, then we started working on sketches slowly crystallyzing the characters. At the same time we started looking for people who could make the puppets we had envisaged. It was really important for us to find a puppet master who could make the dolls with movable head and arms. It is really important for our Prague project.
I suppose we just got really excited about it. As we had decided to show our new collection in miniature, we wanted the puppets to have very realistic features (fashion model), with just a slight touch of surreality. The creation process was a collaboration with two puppet masters Kristians Aglonietis and Dita Benina.
At the same time we made all the outfits and made the interior of the boxes. We also invited lights and sound artists. Parallel on the basis of our sketches and instructions in e-mails there was the house construction in Villa Noailles garden. We really appreciate the work of Villa’s team which was excellent.
Can you estimate how long have you been working on it?
We’ve been working on this idea for more than a year, as we first proposed it to be shown at the Prague Quadrennial in June 2011. This project had taken our minds over to such an extent that we saw we had no other choice but to present something similar in a different way at the Hyères festival. We started working on the installation for Hyères in January 2011.
It’s evident that your approach is much broader than mere fashion: the film for your collection presented in Hyères, the birds details the following year, now this installation. how would you describe your universe and approach?
We engage in what we find inspiring, interesting and eye catching at a given moment. At the same time it is important to us to find a way how to tell the story so our created things have the basis and meaning.
What are your references and sources? there is something seemingly dark in your work, if you agree, what fascinates you about that?
I wouldn’t describe our works as dark. They are rather bright coming through the darkness. They are likely to reflect the environment from which we come.
You have made another installation last summer in Riga. Can you tell me more about this story and the idea behind it?
We created the installation EDEN parallel to our last year’s collection of birds EPISODE 1. The idea began with the fact that we liked one old house, the most appropriate word would be ‘the slum’, in which had grown trees and grass. Then there was the offer from the Latvian Contemporary Art Museum to create something especially for the Museum Night. After the project EDEN we had had many other projects, so we are emotionally away from it already.
The installation is about the road leading to the forest/garden of Eden. The object is located in the centre of Riga in old collapsed building block, which is going to be reconstructed in a couple of years for Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art. During many years inside these remains of the building have grown trees, which actually looks like a forest in the house.
So our idea was to build the object that imitates man’s way back to garden of Eden. The inspiration came from uncountable low-cost hotels of big cities, their features, uncomfortableness, tasteless or tasteful arrangement of rooms.
At the beginning a visitor gets the keys from the hotel owner and walks into the installation through five rooms, which are like small corridors. In perspective they are getting smaller. Each room has its own feature and there is a special light and sound installed in them, the noises, sounds and the voice of opera singer was specially recorded for this project.
While moving forward the rooms are getting smaller and smaller until there is the final room with a small door, which is locked with uncountable keys and it’s impossible to unlock it. Some people get confused when they can’t find their way out. All doors closed automatically and they can be opened only from the other side. The exit is hidden somewhere else – a small secret door in the wall. While looking for the exit a person notices a hole in the ceiling and when one sticks his head out of it, he can look into the forest of Eden, which is lighted up and fitted with the sound.
The object is built very carefully not to touch the nature and to protect visitors from the collapsing building, where the forest has grown and it gives people the opportunity to get into the middle of the forest by walking through small rooms of the hotel.
What means collaboration to you?
Collaborations is a new experience for us. There are two types of collaboration we usually have. One, where we invite people to help us to set up what we have conceived such as TENANTS or any other of our projects or collections. Then everything is created by our sketches, drawings and notes as it is important to us to have the work done professionally.
And then there is another form of collaboration where several people try to negotiate their opinions and visions to create a final result, such as project EDEN, opera or collaboration with the photographers for the pictures of our collections.
How was it to win in Hyères and to be back for this project?
That was fantastic, especially for us because we are form relatively remote corner of Europe, where you can’t feel the real taste of the fashion world.
Our victory was a huge honor to receive an assessment form the jury. And it is always fantastic to return to the Villa Noailles. We were really happy about the offer to make a special project for the festival. The Villa Noailles team and the festival will always be remembered by us with good emotions.
You came by car all the way from Riga — tell me more about this adventure.
Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France… going by car it is possible to see much more than flying by plane. We like driving cars, we can always speak out and ponder about many things. We left Latvia in our winter boots, coats and scarves, when the nature was still gray but at Hyères there were flowers in blossom. The same flowers blossom here in Latvia only in June.
What is up next?
We create the same story for Prague, about tenants. But this will include a performance with movements and certain plot/story with the beginning and the end.
Where can we buy your collection?
Currently it is possible only in Riga by ordering individually. Somehow so far we haven’t been sufficiently interested in business. But that does not mean we don’t want it. It is coming.