Marina Abramović is everywhere lately.
A marathon performance at MoMa, another retrospective in Moscow, on the cover of POP magazine, hosting a star studded event at Jeffrey Deitch’s MOCA in LA and an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery slated for 2012, the HBO documentary “The Artist is Present” just screened at Sundance. An ever growing list of projects that is taking her across continents…
Exclusive long form of interview first published in POP magazine FW2012
Marina Abramović is everywhere lately. She has emerged from what was considered an alternative section of contemporary art, Performance Art, to finally occupy an untouchable position in the Pantheon of Pop.
A marathon performance at the MoMa, another retrospective in Moscow scheduled, and an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery slated for 2012, day and night filming of an HBO documentary and an ever growing list of projects. Marina is known for her works in which she tests and pushes her emotional,mental and physical strength, but her schedule takes its toll: Marina is exhausted.
Broad recognition has come comparably late for Abramović, who was often categorized as some sort of Exotic Serbian Vixen. Nevertheless, she has shaped a significant slice of art history like no other.
Today, less considered for her public sexual identity, and more appreciated for her timelessness and her bravery, one could unarguably call Marina “the diva of contemporary art”, were she not so grounded.
Freja Beha Erichsen with her "Mini Me". A collaboration by Marina Abramović for POP magazine Photography by René Habermacher
Our conversation takes place just after Marina’s return to New York from Manchester, England where she spent six weeks collaborating with Robert Wilson on a new biography, “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović”. The play was staged with accompanied music written and conducted by Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) and narrated by a ferocious Willem Dafoe.
The audience witnessed him meticulously rummaging through the details of her life chronologically. Marina has been clear about her lack of appreciation for theatre as a concept and this play marks a sharp departure from her concept of herself as a performance artist.
She participates in what she used to essentially despise: “To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre. Theatre is fake: there is a black box, you pay for a ticket, and you sit in the dark and see somebody playing somebody else’s life. The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real. It’s a very different concept. It’s about true reality.”
René Habermacher: With this piece you staged something that you call artificial theatre. It lacks the realness that is central to your work. How was this experience for you?
Marina Abramović: I am his material. I completely gave all the control to Bob (Robert Wilson). That is the only way to really be material for someone else, which is very interesting, because its just absolutely the opposite of what I do. This is first time that i have this really radical approach with Bob – he absolutely refused anything to do with performance. This was an amazing experience for me and very difficult, because his approach to rehearsal is like mine to performance, – but yet it’s just rehearsal! Just be there for hours and hours in order for him to fix the light. I lose my reason, I need the public, I need another kind of dialogue. This was a huge discipline not to kill him!
RH: How did this project with Bob come together? (more…)
These days we hear mostly troubling news from a country to which its citizens proudly refer to as “the birthplace of democracy”: Greece. Another spiral of economic turmoil unfolding in slow motion casts a spell upon Europe. And yet accelerated by the recent events, a very different wave reaches us from this troubled country: “The weird wave of Greek Cinema” as The Guardian’s Steve Rose titles. The Stimuleye talks to WASTED YOUTHS director Argyris Papadimitropoulos.
It’s the late days of summer 2011. A handful of Athenians, foreigners and expats mingle on Antiparos, a small island in the wide open of the blue Aegean. Athens is far and its troublesome agenda on a halt.
As the night falls scenting the breeze with jasmine, the open air cinema Oliaros, a local institution, announces tonight’s screening with notices on poles and walls: WASTED YOUTH, the film that earlier this year had opened Rotterdams Film Festival. The film’s director, Argyris Papadimitropoulos, hands stickers to the arriving guests: WASTED, MALAKA (wanker), YOUTH, LOVE….
The film is set during a hot summer day in Athens. Much like the city itself, exhausted, confused, unable to make any progress, brimming with desperation and aggression, there is Vasilis, a middle-aged man struggling with the mounting stress to cater his family. On the other side Harry, a sixteen-year-old skater. He and his friends are amusing themselves and wasting time away. Their lives intersect in a contemporary portrait of the city of Athens and a society in crisis.
Left: director Argyris Papadimitropoulos at Antiparos and right: Poster of cinema Oliaros with MALAKA sticker
RENÉ HABERMACHER: How did that screening at the open air cinema come together?
ARGYRIS PAPADIMITROPOULOS: I am a regular there so I know the guys of Oliaros cinema since… forever. They asked me to do a screening and although I was not allowed to do so by my distributors – In Greece films are supposed to have two runs since we have this open air cinema tradition still alive and very popular – I couldn’t say no. I just love this tiny cinema, and the fact that it is free for everybody to watch the films. There are Greek islands much bigger in population who do not have a cinema and that’s sad.
There’s such a huge part of me and my adolescence in WASTED YOUTH that in every screening I still feel kind of weird… weird in a good way. Since I re-lived my teenage years by shooting this film I feel so exposed. It’s strange telling unknown people so many things about myself. But that’s the magic of it, isn’t it?
WASTED YOUTH had its world premiere in Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2011 and was also honoured to be the opening film. Since then it was screened in more than 30 festivals around the world. In some of the best actually. It was a great year, I spent much of it traveling and presenting the film.
We signed with Elephant Eye Films in New York to represent WASTED YOUTH for world sales. For such a tiny budget film I can loudly say: we did great.
Trailer of WASTED YOUTH
R: How was the film generally received by the international audience?
A: I’m more than happy with the comments audience and critics wrote about it.
Screen International described it as “lush, evocative and impressively shot” (laughs).
By its career you can tell that the film was received excellent. The audience loved it and the few that hated it, were the ones that gave me the chance to talk, start a discussion, which back in the beginning was the main intention for the film.
I was with my friend and co-author Jan Vogel and we were saying that we need to make a film about these crazy days we are going through and that we need to do it NOW. Some films are made with a sense of urgency. We actually didn’t spent any time writing scripts or searching for funding, but found our amateur teen guys and a couple of good actors and started improvising on a few pages, something like a synopsis. WASTED YOUTH was privately funded by friends and is what you would call 100% indie.
R: So it was pretty much a “hit and run”?
A: It was a hit and run urban guerilla thing but shot on film (!), not digital.
Over the edge: Still from the movie WASTED YOUTH: Harry (Harris Markou) skates in the empty pool of his parents friend.
R: I really liked the scene in the very beginning when the boy wakes up in the morning, somewhere in this modernist building…. that whole sequence to the skating in the empty pool felt really strong… like frozen time.
A: That was our intention. We wanted to go through all the different people, classes etc in the modern greek society.
So the kid wakes up in a house of a lady with what we call “old money” and starts his day under the surface of the earth.
We wanted to have our little symbolisms without making a mind-fuck film.
There a second levels, second readings etc but only for those who want to read them.
I hate the films that are so personal that you will not get them unless you are the person itself (laughs).
I love stories.
I hate smart ass films.
R: In my eyes your film looked very authentic- which is quite difficult to achieve.
A: Glad to hear! That was what we wanted to do: a spontaneous film!
R: In a way it also gives a beautiful portrait of the city. How do you like Athens?
A: I love Athens. It’s the place that i was born and I know it as the back of my hand. Athens is a character itself in the film. Its chaotic , crazy and sadly neglected.
It’s the old whore that people love to hate but they love paying a visit. Athens needs a bit of love from the people that fuck her everyday.
SPOILER ALERT(for the affectionate reader who has not seen the film yet, please skip this part)
R: I was quite surprised at the end when the final “shot” was triggered by the other police man
A: by that I wanted to say that anybody would have done it.
I wouldn’t like the audience to leave the screening and feel sorry about a killer,
since the cops carry guns one day they will trigger them.
R: Thats why you left him blank? as a character
A: True, if by blank you mean what I mean.
END SPOILER ALERT
R: The Guardian wrote an article on what they call the “weird wave of Greek cinema”…
A: the fact that the Guardian ran a huge piece on Greek films is already impressive.
A few years back they wouldn’t spend ink on this. That means that there’s something great being born here. I wouldn’t call it a wave and wouldn’t rush to give it names but you can smell something good is going on. There’s no surprise anymore when you see a Greek film in the list of a great festival.
Berlin, Rotterdam, Cannes, Locarno, Venice, Sundance, you name it.
Critisism is there and will always be, there are some people that are sceptical about whatever new is going on and others that want to kill it before it even gets born.
People are not ready for changes, you know.
It seems like when societies are on the edge, edgy things come out of their arts. Remember Argentina, Romania and so on.
What was happening in Greece the last 25 years, let’s say from the early 80’s till the olympics was a fake paradise:
a fake prosperity with fake money, fake happyness, fake tits, fake, fake, fake …
A fake new identity that never made it to the core of neither our souls nor our society – it collapsed in a few days.
One day they told people we are in crisis and people believed it the same day, so there were no solid foundations in this “new order” that was fakely established.
R: To come back to one of the most interesting things about the article of the Guardian, it were the comments by fellow Greeks being often malevolent, accusing the directors of plagiarism in the case of Dogtooth, or calling the films “a product of mental health problems”.
A: hahaha! that’s great fun.
People cannot accept themselves. When somebody puts a mirror in front of them they can’t cope.
A product of “mental health problems” is the society we use to live in, so are the films as they are suppose to reflect the society.
As for the plagiarism: I would just say that there were very few people saying so, but they created a huge buzz. These people are the ones that do not like the success of someone else because they are stuck in their thing.
The greatest festivals in the world are not stupid to have a work of plagiarism in their catalogue.
Also, plagiarism in art is a huge topic that it is almost impossible to discuss: almost every great artist was accused of that!
R: I thought this was a very typical reaction. In a recent article for Vanity Fair Michael Lewis puts it like that:
Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion.
A: I wouldn’t agree. If you look at the end credit of all this films that made it to the great festivals the last few years, you will realise that everybody helped on each others work. Greeks are easy target to be accused for almost anything since we have this fucked up temper. But on the other hand you can tell that there is still solidarity and support between most of my fellow greek film makers for example.
R: What are you working on next?
A: I write a couple of scripts with friends. Things are hard these days but we’ll keep trying.
I would like every film I make to be so much different from the other. I would also love to make a film abroad, although I love Athens.
Paris, London, Berlin, New York, Rio, Buenos Aires – there are stories everywhere that i would love to tell…
They’ve produced Shakira, Sha-Sthil’ed, released a secret Japanese album, toured Europe, and now they’re preparing their big Paris concert, before continuing more collaborations with WoodKid, Aikiu and Philippe Katerine. Ladies and Gentlemen, take your socks off for…The Shoes.
You guys DJ’ed at the Hyères Fashion Festival, then at Versailles for the end of Couture Week, are you infiltrating fashion ?
It was a fun DJ set, a bit camping/bar mitzvah, but well mixed.
We also played in Florence for Pitti, in a beautiful place.
Are you continuing to do production for other artists?
Benjamin: It’s a part of our identity we started and really want to develop, so we try to keep it going, in between festivals, concerts and other requests that come in. We’re working on the WoodKid (Yoann Lemoine) album, a track with Philippe Katerine, very different things as long as we like the artist.
Guillaume: With Yoann it’s a bit different, as he’s also a friend.
How long has your album been out – you seem to have a lot of different videos already ?
B: The album came out in March, I think like Mylene Farmer we’re going to make a DVD with all the videos… (laughs)
G: We’ve done 4 videos already, preparing Time To Dance for the fall. In the end half of the album is going to have videos.
The Shoes ft Esser, STAY THE SAME. Directed by Daniel Wolfe.
Is Cliché one of the tracks for which you’ll make a video ?
G: a lot of people have asked, it’s a track that chicks like a lot because it’s the only feminine voice on the record, but it’s not in the plans right now, we think Time To Dance will work.
B: We’ve seen people go crazy on that track even though it hasn’t been played much. It has an old-school, Underworld-style crescendo that lasts 2 minutes.
I’ve seen you at the Nouveau Casino the first time around…do you manage to get some of the singers from the tracks to come sing from time to time ?
G: that was really at the beginning! We have Ben Esser who comes quite often, Anita from Cocknbullkid came at Nouveau Casino. But of course the audience likes to put a face on the song.
It’s a bit unusual to have the lyrics pre-recorded with live instruments, usually it’s the other way around — live lyrics with instruments playback. Especially because you guys really are hardcore on the instruments, while the voice seems to come from nowhere…
B: that was the main criticism aimed at us at the beginning, and we hadn’t solved it when you saw us.
G: we were a bit shy, now we sing it ourself, it’s not perfect but it works more with energy instead. Now we’re starting to more or less control the singing.
The Shoes performing WASTIN' TIME with Esser at Hyères 2011, with Stage of the Art.
Do you sing it entirely live now or do you mix with the recorded lyrics by the singer ?
B: you’re getting into our trade secrets… we mix the voices actually.
G: we don’t try to hide it. it was a problem at first, but now we’ve worked it out – though of course when someone like Esser comes along it’s great, it gives it more of a band feeling and we can concentrate on instruments.
So how did you choose the singers and bands with which you collaborated ?
G: it happened by itself.
B: we were spending time in the UK, we met lots of people, making friends. It started with Primary One, we did the music for the track People Moving, he came to the studio in Rheims and we realized we could never have this kind of result with our own voices, so it became our first featuring. Then we contacted the people we had met with some demos, sometimes with lyrics sung in “yogurt”. No real name dropping.
G: none of the featurings are very famous people, it’s rather people who are at a similar stage of their career… since then we see a lot more Cocknbullkid and Esser.
Singing in French, is that something you’d consider ? I imagine the collaboration with Katerine is in French ?
B: for The Shoes, no, but for other artists we do it.
G: Benjamin does it more than me, but it’s not something for The Shoes yet.
The Shoes performing STAY THE SAME with Esser at Hyères 2011, with Stage of the Art.
What’s the current program, festivals ?
G: [this summer it was] festivals, the WoodKid album.
I’ve also produced the album of this artist called The Aikiu, which is a complete transfiguration of the initial project.
Is that the first real album by The Aikiu ? It seems it’s a project that has been on the verge of happening for a long time, I remember hearing a single at least 5 or 6 years ago…
G: They’ve had EP’s only so far, they asked us to come work on the album, we arrived and blew the whole thing upside down. We broke everything and started from scratch. I think Alex has a great voice, and that there’s great things to do with his voice — but that’s complete now and we’re working on WoodKid.
And working on WoodKid’s album brings some extraordinary conditions, we get to use unusual instruments. Yoann also puts a lot of constraints on us too, he knows what he doesn’t want, which pushes us to do things in different ways.
I was also very happy to discover that you (Guillaume) were behind Gucci Vump and the track SHA SHTIL which was THE track of the summer last year… Is that something you’ll continue or are you focussing exclusively on The Shoes ?
G: I’m focussing more on The Shoes, but Gucci Vump is a funny project, a bit shapeless, Louis (Brodinski) and I run into each other from time to time, we get commissions for remixes from time to time — like WoodKid’s Iron. It’s a dilettante project.
So after the festivals you guys are focussing on your own tour ?
G: Yes we have over 30 dates in the fall, the climax will be November 9th at La Cigale in Paris. We also hope to return to Japan.
You’ve already played in Japan ?
G: The album did really well over there, Japan’s the first country to sign us besides GUM, and they didn’t want to wait so long for the album, so we released an album just for Japan, with B-sides. People try to get their hands on that album, which is a bit of a collectors’ item, with demos and beta versions of tracks which later appear on CRACK MY BONES.
But we’re very focussed on our La Cigale date – with almost all the guests from the album, extra band members…
We usually have 2 percussionists, but we’ll probably go back to 4 – visually it’s beautiful and in terms of sound it doesn’t hurt. When you have 4 guys doing a sort of choreography, it gives something unusual.
The Shoes, photo by René Habermacher.
The last thing which stimulated you…
G: a DJ from a rap group called 1995, a French group, which made an amazing mixtape for the summer.
B: for me, it was the Solidays concert of Ebony Bones – I usually don’t listen to her music, but in concert it was impressive. It’s really made for a festival.
G: from time to time, you get groups that you don’t necessarily like that make a strong impression on you live, they transfigure their music. But you also get the opposite…
I had that with Gonzales. 10 years ago I liked his stuff, I went to see him live, and I hated it so much, I couldn’t listen to the music again for several years. And still now I like the music but I can’t stand his videos or his imagery in general.
G: it was really important for us to delegate the image to Pierre (LeNy), even if we have our ideas regarding what we like visually.
So far you haven’t appeared in any of your videos….but you’re not hiding either ?
G: You often see beautiful videos that fail as soon as the singer appears, the acting required from the singer brings the whole thing down. We want our films to be little bits of cinema – we’re not going to add anything to that feeling.
Special concert at LA CIGALE
November 9th 2011
Opening act: ESSER
STYLING: Michael Philouze
GROOMING: Tanya K @ B-AGENCY
PHOTO ASSISTANT: Fabien Campoverde
with special thanks to Pierre Le Ny & G.U.M.
-It has been one year now since I moved to Ottawa, Canada. During the past year I’ve come across a few people who are always trying to make the city exciting. Guy Bérubé, a good friend now, is one of them. He owns a gallery – La Petite Mort, a place where taxidermy meets with iconic furniture pieces and fundraising art sales for several charities (including Guy’s own).
Lizard photo: Whitney Lewis-Smith.Far from presenting “Hockey art” or Canadian landscapes, in Guy’s gallery you will find work ranging from portraits of the city’s crack addicts by photographer Tony Fouhse, to poems on pieces of cardboard by Crazzy Dave of the Ottawa homeless community.With the look and fame of a bad boy, I can only say that Guy is doing a great job for the art community in Canada: making art available and affordable to whoever is interested.
Legs with severed head (Guy's head, btw) Peter Shmelzer.What was the last thing that stimulated you?It happened here in Ottawa, it happened to be a lesbian wedding performance by former American prostitute and porn star turned performance artist, Annie Sprinkle, and her partner, hosted by SAWGallery. It was very interesting for me to see. They are already married, but they do an annual wedding with a theme, and this time here in Ottawa it was marriage to nature, and marrying snow. They are eco-sexual; they have sexual feelings about nature (laughs). I hadn’t seen Annie Sprinkle in over 25 years, and I had met her before at a performance in NY where she had a live orgasm on stage.So, it happened next door to my gallery at St. Brigid’s (a deconsecrated Church), and a lot of people came, and they saw the look and the aesthetics of a wedding. Everybody wearing white, everything was beautifully decorated, the light was coming through the stained glass… but then the performance started. They rode a pile of snow, exposing themselves by lifting their wedding dresses, and then inserted icicles up their vaginas, as they recited their wedding vows.That seems a bit unusual for the city…I’m seeing change, slowly but surely, over the 10 years that I have been here. I know that I’ve had some credit for some of the change. I’m seeing a difference in the art that is featured in galleries, even the Municipal galleries are showing things from my artists. It is something positive; Ottawa is a city where there is a possibility of starting from scratch, even though you’ve seen it in other places. Ottawa is a funny little town, very voyeuristic; it’s like the dude at the orgy who complains about the bad drapes and doesn’t jump into the fun.What would be a good example of this change coming from your gallery and artists?
The USER series by Tony Fouhse is a perfect example of what my gallery does, something of which I’m very proud. It was featured in New York Times, Japan Newsweek… people got it, but it was very difficult at the beginning; lots of people in the neighbourhood, politicians, people were very against the work.What’s the deal with the stuffed animals?Before I had the gallery I had the fake tortoiseshell lamp, which I bought in Paris, and then I bought, not knowing why, the baboon. I think I felt sorry for him, it was on the floor of a junk store and people were grossed out by it, so I paid $20. And so, when I got the gallery, a friend of mine asked me if I was going to bring the “creepy animals”. Then people just started bringing their stuffed animals to me, and it became a depository, kind of like an orphanage. You can bring your stuffed animal, but it needs to have a good valid story, like all the other animals there. I’m not online desperately looking for an owl! I don’t buy them.You must have some good stories…A woman once told me she wanted to give me a bison’s head, and I have always loved the look of them.So, we had a long conversation, and in the end she told me, “well, it hasn’t been taxidermied yet, it’s just the severed head” (laughs…) it was frozen!!!Make sure to check out La Petite MortSLAVA MOGUTIN & BRIAN KENNY
September 2 – October 2, 2011
Photographs & Drawings www.lapetitemortgallery.com
‘Build With Erosion’, doesn’t pertain to any set form or principle. It’s a challenge: a deeply experimental and infectious third album from The Berg Sans Nipple, combining devastating melodies and a mind bending rhythm section informed by disciplines as diverse as gamelan, dancehall and DC Hardcore. THE BERG SANS NIPPLE is Lori Sean Berg and Shane Aspegren.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
S: That’s a hard one to answer. As time goes on, it’s a lot harder to be really be blown away by things. We just did the project with Le Musee Du Quai Branly in Paris and had the chance to dig through their audio archive. This was really refreshing to work on to discover new sounds from around the world. Also, Lori and I saw the Anish Kapoor installation at Le Grand Palais together and that was really amazing. It was something that you needed to spend some time inside to appreciate the full effect. I suppose we like things without immediate gratification.
Can you remember a particular inspiration for your latest album BUILD WITH EROSION?
S: The record was created over such a long period of time that there were so many things that were poured into it. In the end, the theme of erosion was really important.
L: We use a lot of eroded musical equipment. I’m not sure how to say it? We love dust!
S: In a way it’s always been a theme of the band… using instruments that are on their way out, or loving the sounds that came from pedals with dying batteries…
Is the concept of “erosion of instruments” something that interests you conceptually or is it the frailty of sounds created?
S: I guess it’s both of those things. There’s always been a balance of harshness and beautiful sounds in there. Also, lyrically, it all ties in together, but that’s all there for people to digest as they’d like.
L: I love instruments on their last legs. I want to give them a second life
Tell us a little more about why you work with concepts. In advance of the album release, you set up a site for BUILD WITH EROSION incorporating the surrealist concept of the exquisite corpse. You used this concept again for the promotional video for Change the Shape. Why?
S: A band that I was part of back in the late 90’s used to make exquisite corpses in the van on tour and, at that time, I was really into the Surrealists. I’ve always wanted to do a project like that and it worked really well with the “Change the Shape” theme. It also gives a different energy to a project when you can get a bunch of other artists involved.
L: Although “Build with erosion” is not a “conceptual” album…
S: Maybe not conceptual in the sense of advance planning but, in the end, it developed into a unified concept. Things become what they are and it all makes sense together.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is DEAD DINOSAURS RULE THE EARTH. How did that track develop?
L: From Zari!
S: Of course, the title came from my daughter and I jotted it down in a notebook. We had a bass line and drumbeat in a tape full of improvs that we had done together and I thought that the title was perfect for the bass line. As always, it went through a lot of transformation to get to the end of that track, but it all stemmed from a child’s mouth and an improv.
L: An old old idea. Probably recorded from my minidisc.
S: Yep, that wasn’t one that we created from opposite sides of the world. Apart from the lyrics, it was worked on in an old fashion style, when we were together. I think even all of the kalimba lines were from that minidisc!
Lori, you live in France and Shane, you live in Nebraska. Do you work together while living apart by exchanging ideas or do you tend to do most of the work in the concentrated periods when you are actually together?
L: We really need to be together for “the moment “. But maybe we could do a conceptual album through skype next time?
S: It’s really combination of the two. The best stuff comes out in the concentrated periods of being together though. The brooding and frustration comes at the other points, but then gets weeded out when we meet up again.
L: That sounds agonizing. But when were together we have a lot of fun, we play pinball and drink wine and champagne.
S: visit caves…
L: and meet cavemen…
S: Cro-mags from the perigord noir!
The Berg Sans Nipple is known for its amazing live shows. How do the two of you go out there and recreate the complexities of your sound?
S: We started as a live band. In fact the first few shows we did, we never repeated any of the music that we made, but were really just writing a set of music to perform live. Now thing are a lot more complicated in that we’re writing in the studio and then trying to figure out how to transform that into a two person live setting. I love both sides, but it’s become more challenging as things have evolved.
L: It’s always a “casse-tête chinois” when we play shows! I think it would be much easier for us to simply work in the studio. But it’s important for us to play live music… to be connected with people.
S: We’ve always tried to make a connection between each other, even through sampling each other live and setting up face-to-face. I think that was our first goal in playing with each other. So the idea was the inception of the band. And hopefully that’s how we connect with our crowd.
You both work outside the band, including work in film and photography. Do you have any favourite photographers or visual artists?
S: I have a hard time pinpointing favourites of anything. I was really into Robert Frank and Duane Michaels and photographers like that when I first started taking photos, but there’s a lot to love about so many things. I like colour a lot more now. But speaking of visual artists, we’re really lucky to have been working with Cody Hudson and Stephen Eichhorn (who were responsible for the artwork for “Build with Erosion”).
If THE BERG SANS NIPPLE could work with anyone who would it be?
L: Johnny Cash.
S: That’s interesting. I feel like it’s always the thing that’s the most exotic that interests both of us, which is maybe why the trans-atlantic game works for us. I’d probably say that scoring something with Ennio Morricone or maybe even moreso, Bernard Herrmann. It wouldn’t necessarily be a film though… maybe something in a public setting. Or we could score Johnny Cash’s life.
In what direction do you see THE BERG SANS NIPPLE developing into in the future?
L: Pinball sound design. That is the future for me!
S: If Lori is going to go off on his own to get lost in pinball world, then I guess that it’s, the end! We’re trying not to focus too much on the future but to work on the present as much as possible. We’re starting to do a lot more film work together and that’s what we’re really interested in. I don’t see us ever stopping making music together, but we’re also ready for another step into other things. We’ve got another project in the works as well… a new record with a different concept that won’t necessarily be the BSN, but will still be in the same spirit.
Masanobu Sugatsuke is one of the most influential editors, publisher of magazines such as COMPOSITE, INVITATION or METRO MIN in his native Japan, and of books with Mark Borthwick, Elizabeth Peyton or Jeff Burton. Masa considers himself not exactly a trendy person, yet is always on a forward trail, much ahead of his time.
THE STIMULEYE talked with Masa on the outlook of publishing and the editors future role, but also his recent book EDITORIAL PARADISE in which he is looking on his past editorial work. A reflection in a radical manner, rarely dared by others of his guild.
An edit of an edit, a compilation of compilations?
He’d been advised by a fellow columnist that “When an editor enters the spotlight, he automatically announces that it is time for him to go” he was told, as well as “an expression reaches a deadlock the moment it becomes self-referential”.
“But wait a minute,” he writes in his foreword, “Godard and Truffaut initiated the Nouvelle Vague with their filmic reflections on film; contemporary art has developed as a form of “Art reviewing art”, and Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela keep proposing dresses that inspire the wearers to think about dressing. Could it be that there exists a whole different level that self-expression can only reach after going through the painful stage of self-reference?”
When i visited you at you last time in Tokyo at your office – we had not seen each other for quite a long time.
Meanwhile you had halted “Composite” , and published your book “Editorial Paradise” revisiting your inventive editorial work of the last 25 years. Interestingly, this reflection coincided with a turning point, a time where the role of the editor is challenged through mechanics introduced by new media. To me it almost felt like a “katharsis” (精製) – in this context. Not only a personal one…
Talking about my book “Editorial Paradise”, I think that a retrospective book of a living editor sounds strange for everybody, even for me!
But to edit and launch it, it made me consider a lot about the role of editors and definition of editing nowadays.
I believe the role and definition of editors and editing has been drastically changing these days, because of the growing role of new media. But a few editors have been trying to define their new roles and public meaning.
“katharsis” you mentioned is quite a suitable word to describe my time editing this title. Editing this retrospective is like confession for me. But confessing what?
I can tell you about it clearly now, I didn’t know the meaning of editing until that time.
For this book you told me you’ve decided to include everything from the volumes that you’ve done, which is somehow “anti-editing” – was that part of making you realise the meaning of editing? What is your conclusion?
I’ve always aimed to expand the definition of editing. Through the editing process of this editorial retrospective, I recognized that the changing state of editing my thinking simple-minded.
So, what I came across through this process, – it was fun but hard for me to think deeply about editing all the time all day long and I felt like being ouroboros – is that editing is not about media.
I think editing is a way of thinking. It’s not like making film, designing a website. It’s a purely abstract idea to make something concrete.
My definition of editing is quite simple.
1: Drawing up a project,
2: Recruiting a team of collaborators,
3: Creating something,
They are the three basic conditions of editing, I think. If someone does something with these three conditions, whatever it is, I’d like to say “that’s editing”.
Sleeve of EDITORIAL PARADISE with an illustration of Masanobu Sugatsuke by Florence Deygas and a recent LIBERTINES cover
It’s something rare in this profession to put a focus on the act of editing itself, especially one’s own and in such a radical way as with your latest book.
As you can see, editors have been defined as interpreting someone to someone else, or something to something else. That means “Don’t express your own voice through your works. You are an in-between guy!”.
That’s 50% right. But there are so many high-profile advertising creative people all over the world. They are not behind the media at all nowadays.
I believe editors are mainly present in-between and behind media, but sometimes they are beyond media, i.e, Anna Wintour, who is Cabinet Minister of the Ministry of Cool, Terry Jones, Everlasting Evangelist of Street Style and Olivier Zahm, the second Gainsbourg.
I believe we, creative people, have to label ourselves. In other words, we have to “transform life into creation”.
Because, in this 21st Century, our creative lives are almost viewed and leaked by web and twitter.
It’s been getting hard for creative people to avoid being watched or criticized by ordinary people now.
Iconic editors from the past seem in this context like vanguards of another time to come:
Diane Vreeland (American Vogue) or, on another side of the spectrum, Hugh Heffner (Playboy), both transcended their editorial vision with their personal lives.
Today’s ever more fragmented stream of information requests perhaps a stronger necessity of structure through the personal standpoint…
How do you think the element of today’s over-exposure is influencing the role of the editor?
Over-exposure is big phenomena in our world, not just for editors. Modern people are fame-addicted.
On the other hand, we can show our way of living as an art piece. Lady Gaga’s case is the most excessive one, and Haruki Murakami’s case is the most stoic.
But both are most successful presentations of life as art piece today.
As I said, our creative lives are mostly viewed, watched by the media and each action are “timeline”d.
So if you can’t avoid it, you have to be determined to show your life as whole art piece, as if Andy Warhol presented us.
So, Warhol said “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” in the 60’s.
But now everybody became Andy Warhol, just like taking photo everyday, quoting somebody’s ideas and images and commenting as one phrase philosopher on twitter or blogs.
Our creative works are slices of our creative lives. People nowadays have a tendency to prefer the real lives of creative people to their work.
In these times, the stream of facebook statuses, tweets and re-tweets, tumblr and so on form a new way of consuming information.
You recently mentioned Paper.li to me – which seems like an attempt to “master” this stream almost a form of an “automatic generating editor”….
Yes, “Paper.li” is a kind of semi-auto-updated personal web magazine. On the web, if you curate something, you can be an cool editor. Therefore “first hand” is getting more important for media and creative people. Audiences can’t get interviews of celebrities and take their photo first hand.
So, “first hand” sources and high profile people are the last sanctuary of professional media and creative people.
But if they are lazy to maintain “first hand” capability, audiences will rob it.
The internet is certainly a big accelerator of this “theft”!
What we’re missing out besides “first hand” is the synthesis of information and its digestive analysis.
I am wondering how do you expect the print media to react to this and how you see its perspectives in the long run, in balance with the digital publishing?
I expect that print media will live with digital media in symbiosis. I believe print media will survive, as opera and theatre play do.
But not mainstream in the media.
There are two kind of information, flow and stock.
Internet is a best media of flow information. Print media is a best of stock information.
For creative people, beautiful books must be great tangible assets.
In this 21st Century, tangibility and physical experience can be more important because internet cannot provide them.
You have recently halted publishing your most recent print magazine “libertines”-
what was your experience with this? Were the reasons related to the shift in publishing that we’re talking about?
Talking about the end of “Libertines” magazine, I think I was a little bit too optimistic about the advertising climate and today’s readers. It was my fault.
Advertising for magazine has been drastically decreasing. I knew it. But I had estimated that I could have get a certain amount of it when I started “Libertines”.
But I couldn’t. It was worst time to start a new magazine in Tokyo with a professional level of budget.
Plus, I thought we could get a number of readers similar to what we had before. So, for the first issue of “Libertines”, we had a special feature about twitter culture.
We had exclusive report about twitter headquarters in San Francisco in it.
As you can imagine, we got big buzz on twitter and web when it came out.
BUT this buzz were not enough to sell magazine.
It is a similar situation for musicians and the web. If some musicians get big buzz on twitter and facebook, but their record sales are not related with buzz unfortunately these days.
It happens in magazine world.
I think “buying magazines” has become an old habit, or habit for people over 30’s.
If you aim to produce youth culture-medias and package contents, there are few actual youth consumers who buy them naturally.
On the other hand, I’ve been directing another magazine “Metro Min.” for two years as creative director, it is quite successful because it’s a monthly free lifestyle magazine which is published by a major publisher.
So, it is hard to sell magazine to the FREE generation. I’ve been struggling with this issue.
I don’t have a clear solution for it. But I’m not pessimistic about the future of magazines. I think publishers and editors have to organize a new kind of structure to make profit not only to produce print medias.
I believe there are great examples in the movie industry. The movie industry is not just about movie theatre nowadays as you know. It is an environment with movies.
I think that’s the hint for editors.
Where do you see the future?
I’ve been thinking about the fate of both print media and new media all the time as I mentioned in our previous conversations.
And as you see, nobody knows. But there is one certain thing that I can say, that is if you love something, you’d like to own and touch it.
Same as your lover. That’s the human nature which will not change forever.
People nowadays talk mainly figures and speed of modern media. But media are not only produced by them. Of course, these specs are important.
But images, sympathies, affections and favoritism are very important elements of media.
If these elements are all included in one media, then it will be a loved media no matter if it’s in the form of digital or print.
I believe that creative people have to concentrate on how to produce a loved media to audiences. I think that’s the priority.
The last thing stimulated that stimulated you?
So many things and it is hard to answer to choose one particular thing.
Here is the list what I was stimulated after 3.11, the Great Earthquake in Japan.
# Cindy Lauper concert in Tokyo on March 17th, just 6 days after Earthquake.
Cindy is a quite brave artist who did Japan tour in such a catastrophic situation and she commented during each break between songs to encourage audience in Japan.
She sang her masterpiece “True Colors” in encore with mix of John Lennon’s “Power to the people” and almost the whole audience, including me, wept.
# Takashi Homma photo exhibition at Tokyo Opera City Gallery in April
Homma’s biggest exhibition in Tokyo which shows his conceptual landscape in Japan and Los Angels which was collaborated with Mike Mills.
# Jane Birkin Charity live at Shibuya Club Quattro, April 6th
Jane Birkin is not just an actress or singer. She is a role model of modern women.
# Anti-Nuclear Demonstration in Koenji, Tokyo, April 10th
Most biggest and joyful anti-nuke action in Japanese history. So many musicians joined it and I participated in it. People have the power!
# Saburo Teshigawara dance performance at Kawasaki City art center, May 6th
It is a final answer to the question “How can movement of human body be radical and beautiful”. Teshigawara does European Tour this Autumn. Must-See!
# Henry Darger exhibition at Laforet Museum Harajuku, Tokyo, May
Legendary outsider artist’s big retrospective. So innocent and scary.
# Yohji Yamamoto’s 30th anniversary party of his brand at Y.Y boutique in Tokyo, June 1st
Yamamoto is a last samurai of cutting edgy couturier. Congratulation!
Marios Schwab is known for his unique interpretations of natural forms and his ability to dress the female body in a way that he only knows.
While the world of fashion turns its attention to ephemeral trends, we decide to interview Marios and hear him analyze the Schwab philosophy, his position at Halston and the analysis of his very first Resort Collection, one day before its revealed to the public and press.
His collections are based around reflecting the inner structure of a garment on the outside, a theory that helped to define him as one of London’s most exciting designers – a position he continues to hold.
A distinction and Best Student Award graduate of Esmod, Marios moved to London in 2003, where he completed an MA in Womenswear Fashion at Central Saint Martins, studying under the guidance of the formidable Louise Wilson.
Two years later 2005 saw him launch his own label, showing for two seasons with Fashion East before making his on schedule debut at London Fashion Week for SS 2007
Since the Spring of 2009, he was appointed as the creative director of HALSTON in New York.
Schwab’s designs are sold all over the world, in shops ranging from Dover Street Market, Harvey Nichols and Browns in London, to Maria Luisa in Paris and Barneys in New York.
Photographer Rene Habermacher met with him in London for the creation of the pre-collection’s look book
How are you today Marios, what have you been up-to since this morning?
Pretty much like I came from Paris and immediately started working on the main line…It’s a non-stop situation right now because I just did my first resort collection which was in a way an experiment in terms of getting in right with timings and deadlines, a completely new experience for me. Also we are producing this collection elsewhere outside the UK.
You just photographed your first pre-colection for Summer 2012 yesterday with Rene Habermacher?
We started shooting on Friday; he came over to London and shot the collection in my Studio.
What is your pre-collection about?
I went to Vienna for a weekend where I visited Kunsthalle and saw these amazing series of Vanitas paintings from Dutch painters. For me they always have this feeling of seduction and mysticism that I really like and the hide-reveal again which I am so obsessed about. I wanted to create a print that kind of works color but still within a black background…
It all started with creating the print with artist Tom Galland, who is a friend living near by and with whom we work on numerous collections together. The outlines pretty much echo shapes that have a classic sort of detailing from Maris Schwab, torn down so it becomes easy to wear and accessible for the younger girl that wants to buy, but not necessarily can afford. It’s about clothes for someone who doesn’t want to wear something that is too tailored.
How did you decide to add a pre-collection in your work? Was it after popular demand? What it the aim of a pre-collection anyway?
Yes first comes the “demand” as you said because the main line concentrates on tailored pieces, cocktail pieces mainly, and has the element of fabrics that are more sculpted. There was an easy-wear-feeling missing. You know, easy things that make more sense in a resort collection rather in a mainline. Fabrics like jersey, which is great to wear, in a good quality and good price. Its something that was requested from the top floor but also the feeling of having to return back to something that is a little bit younger was very very important to me.
How is this collection pricewise?
Well it starts from 200 GBP and reaches s 750 GBP. That was the main point, to put very interesting detailing from the DNA of Marios Schwab-keeping the outline and fit on a friendly price. It is quite an interesting thing to do I guess because when you start a collection with this thought pros-mind-set becomes automatically an interesting project. I was concentrating on dresses that you can put on daytime and also in a club or to go travelling with and I think this is something I would like to concentrate on at this point and turn it as the signature of the resort
Marios, it often seems that you manifest an idea way ahead of its time, even two seasons before others pick your ideas later. How do you work, develop these ideas and where you withdraw your inspirations?
Well it’s a lengthen process because I always like to bring in the surroundings of my own life, or what I hear in any sense politics, stories, everyday life, as its an emotional story developed into garments. I don’t know how to explain it really. It usually starts with materials and then it develops into proportion and sectioning of the body in a certain way.
Last season how it started for example, was after a documentary I watched about ancient Greece and the oracle temples. There was this amazing building- I don’t remember where it is now-but it was saying that “nothing in excess.” And it kinda gave me the idea that basically its very much about what we are right now: overloaded with information but also we want so much out of everyday life, some can afford it, some cannot. For me, the process of it was to take this theme and create something that is beautiful with craftsmanship.
So I started reading essays about craftsmanship, then I came across the work of Adolf Loos, an architect from Austria who worked on finding the meaning of decoration and its meaning in society.
To cut the story short the collection was based on minimized craftsmanship and how it becomes an over precious part of each garment. So really framing the details on specific parts of the body that becomes precious at the same time.
I like to place things where they don’t belong from time to time. Broking was one element but also the status of symbols like a pearl necklace and how it can be re-translated in a modern way. Within this season, the Vanitas paintings for me meant life, beauty but at the same time possessions and darkness. It’s so beautiful and it reminded me of Victorian wallpapers, bursts of flowers with a dark background. All these harmless detailing in the collection like elastics that wrap around the body and create the draping reminded me of my earlier works since Spring Summer is very much about the inside outside, how you can retranslate draping without looking like a retro reference, you add a utilitarian element to it but then it’s a little bit more modern.
Vintage print of Marios portrait by Paolo Roversi, and Patterns at the studio. Photography by René Habermacher
In the last five minutes you used the word “craftsmanship” for more than five times. How important is craftsmanship in your work?
It’s the most important thing for me. The way I learned the trade was going to Austria at the age of 15, surrounded by manic women, teachers that knew everything about traditional techniques, probably not very used these days unless of course you work for a couture house. It became my obsession and also something I am very much fond of. I like the humbleness of a craftsman and the sound of craft. I feel so comfortable sitting next to a person that is s specialized and so focused into his work. There is certain romanticism in it that I always go back to. I like sitting in a studio surrounded by the fabrics I just got from the manufacturer and then turn them upside down doing things I didn’t even suspect. I get a kick out of it, not to buy something that is finished but apply something to it.
I guess that can be said about women or the girls that inspire me. It’s a woman with personality- I don’t like women with no character. I don’t see a woman only as a body to dress. I see her as a strong persona that has a little bit more that just attitude. For me, women should be running the world at this point.
I like women who are intellectuals and private at the same time …I make a subtle story each time for them that does not overload their personality, enhances their personality.
While having a closer look at your past collections, I noticed that you continue to focus on the women’s body structure, emphasising on the waist and shoulders. Though now, your work has become more confident and much more strict than before…Do you agree, how do you see your work through the years?
Basically the starting point of a collection is always a naked body –in that I draw around the bodylines that are very much continued over the years I have been working. Whenever I dress a body I like to reveal what I also hide under a garment. From an architectural and proportional point of view it’s the most interesting part for me. What you cover you can reveal in a very sophisticated way on the surface of the fabric but also the cut.
There was certain toughness in your winter 2011-2012 collection with the use of leather and all…
The winter collection indeed had a feeling of toughness and that’s a classic element I guess in Marios Schwab that contains this femininity within something that is the good girl and the bad girl together. There is the prettiness and a sexual element within something that is sometimes quite strong and tuff. And I like to mix leather in a sense that you take the lady completely away from clothes. I don’t like ladies. I like to have a non-pretentious woman and I think that when you look closely to the garments you can see that they are not pretentious and that’s very much about the aspect of Schwab. My dresses need to be appreciated close by and I like that they don’t scream aloud but at the same time with a closer look you learn to appreciate them, their line and the detailing.
Taking elements that are very lady like and gentlemanly, for instance the broking and the pro necklaces kind of annoy me when I see them on women cause they are just too preppy.
I use them in a way that they become almost irrelevant of their status, hidden behind seams or they grow out of a seam either the are attached in a different way and become a utility, not just decoration. This is something I like doing also, using decoration at the same time in a functional way.
Remember the metal piece from an earlier collection of mine? The point wasn’t to create something shiny with a reflection in order to simply impress the guests of the show.
I thought of it as a garment that gives you this extra support when you dress up and feel you are wearing “something”. Psychologically, in some dresses this is missing, also in fashion these days. People used to take time to prepare themselves, so I tried to modernize this vintage routine within this shiny dress.
How has your involvement with Halston help your own brand you think?
I think it is such an interesting thing to work for another brand, with another team, travelling in a different country to produce a collection, which proved to be such a precious part of my Halston commitment. Basically you have a team that works abroad, that you are not very close to most of the time, you have different deadlines than your own. All these made me feel much more strong. You know also since I am the only designer there, I don’t have a team that designs alongside me which is exactly the opposite from what happens at Marios Schwab. It surprised me quite a lot. I always thought that it was going to be hardcore, working for two brands at the same time. It is hard but not as difficult I had in mind it would be.
Crazy in what sense?
Meaning the sense of “switching off”. I was surprised on how I could switch off from my collection, going to Halston do something else and then back again and back again… I felt a little bit scared before taking the job. It’s indeed a huge responsibility but you learn to do it, that’s it. Its pretty much like “you have to get on with it”!
What made Halston such a rarity as a House?
Halston as you know was concentrating on enduring fashion and I’d love to see Marios Schwab doing that,..
Halston encloses a story behind it that you can always see something else if you try looking closer. At his time Halston was creating, he offered something that was a very subtle, a minimal way of looking glamorous by wearing something simple and yet looking beautiful and seductive and expensive and clean. He had a very modern way of making clothes. The principle probably is the attractive one, what it was all about. But it was also attached to Studio 54, a very special place of that era and it was in everyone’s expectations. People just love it and for them Halston is attached to Studio 54.
Do you think your customers understand you better than your critics? Also how do you respond to bad criticism?
I don’t read reviews anymore because it just confuses me. After a show you are very tired and very emotional and personally the last thing I want to do is read criticism, good or bad. One critic can lift you up or drag you down which sometimes its not very relevant to a person that works in a very personal way and in private. I go meet people, the consumer, and the woman who wear what I create. You want to hear both at the same time, it normal but when you are still conquered by the after show adrenaline, you can’t just bother with that.
You belong in the Kane, Katrantzou, Pugh and Pilotto generation. It’s somehow like the “Antwerp’s Six” story. What in your opinion, all of you offered in fashion that was missing at the point you appeared?
I think quality, good fit within something that is very special and still acceptable and wearable. London at the time was about things that were more phantasmagorical..
So you are saying that you guys made the difference?
I’m not speaking about the rest, but yes I think that was what was missing at the time without pointing out someone specific.
Let me do that (laughs) all you have to do is agree or disagree (laughs). You all came at a point where as you said everything was very phantasmagoria and finally we had some wearable clothes coming from London, which was not the case before.
Yes, London started having a good balance. More than anything, the overall look was a little bit overwhelming. But I have to say that London is very special on that and supports all kinds of new developments, new ideas in fashion. It has to be said; you can’t really find that anywhere else’s in the world. Many people wonder, “What’s this thing about London, anyway?” But its true, London within this experimental nonsense or sometimes good sense it creates certain movements and in a way creates the platform for all of us to stand onto tomorrow..
What would be a designer’s weakness you think? What’s your weakness in that case?
Deadlines (laughs), free time. I can never organize myself to have a life. In this business you become very critical about what you do. It’s the mentality of living in your own bubble, creating for somebody else can be quite intimidating at some times, for others as well..
How difficult is for a designer to cross lots of different ages in one collection?
It’s a matter of confidence of the client. If you see a curvaceous person that wears a skin-tight garment, regardless of her age, whether she is a young girl or a woman and she has the confidence and attitude that matches the whole personality and appeal its instantly a success. This equals that the designer must have done something right.
Would you tell a client if she doesn’t look good in your dress?
Yes if she would ask me I would definitely tell her my opinion. If she didn’t, then why I would I tell her if she is happy with it? It’s her choice and one needs to respect that.
How do you see the present of Fashion?
Shall we move to the next question? (Laughs). It’s interesting because it’s changing and its not changing at all. I think what changed is the way we get informed, how we advertise, and talk about things, how we buy things.
Everybody has a question mark about what they are doing these days…
The non-interesting part of this global change is throughout this financial downhill, the how quickly we gain information around us can make things very boring and very …
Things are supposed to be fast in fashion and although it seems that way, there is no new development in music and so many other creative sectors; and that is a shame because people stopped thinking unnaturally and they want to get into so many different characters since there are surrounded by so much information and don’t know how to handle it. They don’t have the time to study the new, see it from a distance, observe it, analyse it. It’s not a concrete period, there’s no certain opinion about things. You want to dive into so many different things because you have no other option.
It takes one bad collection to take a designer out of the spotlight you think?
I don’t know how it is but I wouldn’t see it that way I don’t know. You can have a bad collection because you decided to go on extended holydays and have a bit of a life.
Its interesting to mention that fashion can be such a fluff in the air. People think Balenciaga is amazing and next season they think Givenchy is the most interesting thing…sometimes it can become a little…I don’t know how to explain.. Do people have an opinion at the end? In previous decades or centuries this wasn’t much the case. Things were very specific. I’m talking about how people dressed, the way people reacted on fashion, art, their opinion…It was about dressing up your own way, to look pretty your own way and the way they looked upon things. Its not about buying the total look its about buying items from a collection in order to combine them with what you already have and make your look your own.
Marios at his favorite afternoon stroll and part of his butterfly collection. Photography by René Habermacher
You own your own company—nobody owns you. How’s that for a responsibility considering the reality of the fashion houses today?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, no. The point is that our times as it is, its quite difficult to increase your team members, the structure, to tap into things you always dreamed of, like the way you want your company to spread out…
It’s not easy to do it by yourself without investment, or being helped by another source. It would be a shame to only be able to create clothes and not a whole product, that doesn’t only concentrate on fashion, not being able to communicate it right. Sometimes you don’t have the time or the money or both. But help must be welcomed.
I am curious to know, how many people work for you?
Hold on I need to count…Five full timers, mainly administrative and office work. I have one assistant that concentrates on fabrics and the boards.
Do you give chances to interns?
YES!! Yes!! Interns are so important, I like teamwork and when I refer to the team as always say “we”. It’s confusing for people. Who’s “we”?
I see myself as a craftsman, as I said before, I like to work within like a team that creates something that needs to be educated to us , to find our how its done and how its made and it takes a team of people that are special and committed to do that .
You can drive people crazy when you just give directions and not get involved in the making with them. For us especially, as we make all the samples in-house and it can get a little crazy. Students and the team that is here for years working with me seems like a family, we get emotional and fun and relaxed at the same time.
What I want from a student is to learn something special while running around in all the sections of the company, doing things, the boring jobs even,.. They need to have a complete idea on what it takes to be a designer because their time will come to open their own business.
Fashion is not a fantasy nor a party…
Do you ever let yourself go? Is there anything in your personality that you really have to keep a tight grip on?
The most important thing for me is family. They are part of what I do. My dad and mother enabled me to leave home at 15 to do what I wanted to do, feel free. They are critical about my work, which is very very important for me. Sometimes my mom doesn’t like certain things as she is a woman with style and she was the first who gave me the inside of quality and aesthetics.
In my private life I collect images I find beautiful. I like a variety of things, I love the impactful emotion when I sit on a beach somewhere in Greece, or sitting with old women on an island’s quiet little street, hearing them talk …Easy things and simple like that…
I like creating through emotion and experiences, history, the women I met n my life, their attitude, character. It can be very cinematographic. I build up a whole fictional character, created from my acquaintances with different women throughout my life.
What was the last thing that Stimulated you?
They’re not even close to turning 30.
And yet they are releasing their third fashion film superproduction, IS THIS REAL LIFE for designers Mastori and Motwary, on Vogue Italia; and doing the cover story for UNDER THE INFLUENCE, out on Friday.
They are… Suzie Q and Leo Siboni.
Antoine Asseraf: how did the two of you meet ?
Suzie Q & Leo Siboni: We met while studying at Ecole des Gobelins, Paris, in 2005. At first we helped each other out for our personal projects, and then in 2007 we started working together.
And what was your first project as a duo ?
It was a photo series for the fashion magazine DOUBLE, named SCREENPLAY. We used different films by John Ford, projected as a background.
The idea was to establish a relationship between John Wayne and the model.
At Gobelins, did you both study photography ? And why did you start with fashion photography ?
Yes, we both studied photography. For us fashion is a way to experiment, fashion imagery is about mise-en-scène, putting the clothes forward.
Paradoxically, what we like the most are the constraints.
It helps you create, pressures you to act quickly. It’s rather intense.
Funny that your photo series should be about cinema…
Cinema inspires us a lot. We work more and more with the idea of an image within the image, of a certain depth, a frame within the frame. In the end I think we’re attached to the idea of the screen.
At last, at last. After an epic ping pong interview months in the making, here it is. Painter – turned video artist turned – precocious fashion film director Justin Anderson.
He has a bum fetish, just like everyone else.
BIKE by Justin Anderson, for Armani Jeans. Still by René Habermacher.
Antoine Asseraf: What is the last thing that stimulated you ?
Justin Anderson: On Friday night – I watched a film by Jean Pierre Melville – ARMY OF SHADOWS.
It had a big effect on me. It is brutal but very paired down without any melodrama. None of the actors either particularly young or good looking, the direction is tight and the subject really tough. It is about the French resistance to German occupation – it is about death, betrayal and torture.
The film was gripping was absolutely masterful. What I love is that I discovered this film because I loved the way Alain Delon looked in LE FLIC in his raincoat – which then led me to such a film. I feel very lucky to live in a time in which it is so easy to discover these kinds of gems and I love the fluid way you can to move from one to the other.
So, which would you say are you main influences in film-making – classic films such as the ones you just mentioned, or more experimental fare ?
All kinds of image making influence me particularly fine art – which is how I trained. I would say the paintings of Fontana, Morandi, Barnett Newman, Stella, Ryman, the sculptures of Brancusi, Donald Judd artist like Walter de Maria. Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman were particular influence to me. These have all impacted on my filmmaking as much or more so than other film makers because that is what I studied for years. I suppose my taste currently in film making are as you say classics. I was hugely influenced by Buñuel when I was introduced to it as a 14 year old boy by a very good art teacher at school – he knew exactly how to stimulate a 14 year old boy.
Currently I working my way through the classic European film makers of the last century, Bergman, Antonioni, Chabrol, Renoir and recently Melville. Having not studied film I feel like I have a lot to catch up on.
UNTITLED VIDEO STILL by Justin Anderson. Courtesy of Gerwerbe Karl Marx Gallery, Berlin.
So how did you transition from fine art – painting if I’m correct – to video ?
I started working in video quite along time ago whilst still studying at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. The work was structuralist and minimal – I chewed gum live on television for 5 minutes, made a video in NYC where I drew the lines of a huge tennis court across midtown Manhattan and the dove them with a camera attached to the roof of a car. The video camera was moved through space like making a drawing – instead of leaving a marking on the space you were recording what is there.
I made a video of a guy dressed in protective sports gear standing against a wall and shouting “Just do it” in German whilst I served tennis balls at him as hard as I could. It was quite violent (our friendship ended soon after!).
At the time I was making very large paintings of the lines on parts of sports courts- it all seemed to flow from one to another- the video camera was just another from of mark making. The videos had virtually no editing and certainly no close ups or variants in the shots.
Suzanne von Aichinger is a modern archetype of the Parisian muse, in spite of the fact that she was born in Germany, and grew up in Canada.
She was discovered by the legendary illustrator Antonio Lopez, whom she considers to be one of the great influences in her life, as well as a very close friend. She inspired and collaborated closely in the design studios, with Christian Lacroix, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. Suzanne von Aichinger posed for iconic photographers Serge Lutens, Paolo Roversi, Mario Testino, Jean Loup Sieff, Ali Madhavi, David Seidner, and strutted down the catwalks of Yves St Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Gianni Versace, Christian Dior (Galliano) , Hermes, Martin Margiela, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier.
In Greek mythology, the Sirens with the irresistible charm of their song, lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island..
SUZANNE VON AICHINGER feature, is a collaboration between Un nouVeau iDEAL and THE STIMULEYE Fashion Editor : Ines Fendri ⎜ Make Up : Akiko Sakamoto ⎜ Hair : Karin Bigler Production : Lynsey Peisinger for THE STIMULEYE Special Thanks to Mr Rick Owens and Anne van den Bosche @ Rick Owens Press Office
KALI, Suzanne von Aichinger wears a Rick Owens cape and gloves, all FW2011. Photography by René Habermacher
I always liked her and when we finally became friends, I liked her even more. In the following conversation Suzanne shares her thoughts on fashion, music, talent, the water, mythology and other obscurities. You are about to discover the muse, the model, the artist, the stylist..
I caught her leg on her daybreak between styling for a Vogue photo shoot and organizing a major project.
FILEP MOTWARY: Hi beautiful? So it was very difficult to catch you in the past two months. What have you been up to?
SUZANNE von AICHINGER: I know Filep. I’ve been a little like Houdini…escaping. But for a good reason. I had plenty of work and styling projects
Tell me more about it please. It seems you work non-stop.
It’s been good for me lately. I’ve been styling some perfume campaigns, editorials for Russian Vogue, Italian Vanity Fair, doing photos with Dita, and now I’m preparing another perfume campaign, and a major photo shoot with one of the MOST gorgeous women on the planet.
Oh Gosh, indeed its a lot. You mean the actress, Elisa Sednaoui? Ali posted a shot of her on twitter…
Oh what a beauty Elisa is!!! But, I’m referring to another lady…very iconic. I don’t know if I should say who it is. I don’t like to talk about things before they come out…
I understand. How easy it is for you to collaborate with people. What a concept needs to have in order to get you involved in it?
Collaborating with people is my ultimate way of creating. I find the dynamic of working with another or others, stimulating, and proven a successful way of expression for me.
How do you make your choices? Is money an important motive or not always?
There has to be an element that compels me, something that excites my imagination. I also have to feel that I have something relevant to bring to the story. Money is very often not a motive. But, sometimes it is an essential part of creation. We must also live, make a living, etc. You have to know when to give and when to sell!! There is no shame in being paid for a job well done. Andy Warhol considered making money the highest art form. I’m not sure that I adhere to this philosophy, but I don’t love being broke either. I like the freedom that having some cash on hand can procure you.
On the other hand there might be talented people, who would love your contribution but, lets say, cannot afford you. How would you react in such conditions?
I usually say YES to a project, which stimulates me. It’s not about the $$$. It’s about the action. I believe in working with people that I consider talented or kindred spirits. As people of great talent have wanted to work with me, when I had no money to pay them. Just for the sheer joy of seeing an idea become a reality.
I wanted to ask you about the photo shoot you just did with René Habermacher. It’s so iconic, yet in a very special way. How was working with René?
I loved it. We had a beautiful day together, with a great creative team. We wanted to express in this series, something that is based more on personality, than fashion. I feel that there are many stories to be told in my future with René. There is a quality in his vision that is very strong and appealing.
CASSANDRA, Suzanne von Aichinger wears a Rick Owens dress, boots and gloves, all FW2011. Photography by René Habermacher
Exactly my point. The photographs serve our conversation so right! I’m very happy that Rick Owens was so positive when I contacted him for the garments. He is always so nice to me. Also for the fact that we shot his winter collection which is by far my favorite!
So am I! I LOVE Rick! He is one of my favorites. And, his fashion is timeless. I know that this can sound cliché, but if you have some pieces by Rick from 12 years ago, they are as relevant as pieces that he has made 2 days ago. They don’t go in and out of fashion. They have their own essence and place.
Having in mind that Rick’s clothes are so special, yet the 2000’s are the epitome of diversity. Each designer points out a different outline every season, there is so much choice. How do you see fashion now yourself, as a stylist?
It’s hard for me to answer this. I see many great things happening, no doubt. But, I see a lot of nonsense going on as well. There is not enough power any more in the hands of the creators. Now, big design houses change designers like they change their underwear. Just ridiculous. There is no time for the designer in place to create a brand identity, that he is fired. And very often, they find out that they’ve been fired, by reading about it in the papers.
It’s as if the financial/commercial people at the heads of some houses, envied the position of creator, and wished to usurp it. They believe that they are capable of being the creator. WRONG!!!!
In Greek mythology, the Sirens with the irresistible charm of their song, lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island..
Siren Suzanne von Aichinger wears Rick Owens FW2011. Photography by René Habermacher. Fashion Editor : Ines Fendri ⎜ Make Up : Akiko Sakamoto ⎜ Hair : Karin Bigler ⎜ Production : Lynsey Peisinger
What was the last thing that stimulated you?
Suzanne von Aichinger:
“Shooting Haider Ackermann’s portrait for Vogue.”
With Lale Müldür in Istanbul
Allow us to introduce the sensational Lale Müldür, who is seated on her couch in the Istanbul neighborhood of Cihangir smoking one of her beloved Marlboro menthols. The walls of the apartment are covered in paintings and photographs, except a bare spot of white directly facing her. There are many portraits of Lale, who is one of the greatest living Turkish poets, by artist friends of hers. Her shelves are stacked with works by Borges, Mallarmé and Catullus, books on religion, philosophy and the French theorists, titles like The Occult Philosophy of the Elizabethan Age and Le soleil d’Allah sur l’occident. There are several photographs of Nico below the bookshelf, and two Albrecht Dürer prints hanging above her head. In the corner of the room there is a small writing desk at the window overlooking the sparkling, streaming waters of the Bosporus, with the minarets of the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque across the Golden Horn. Today the view is somewhat interrupted by an enormous cruiseship that is parked in the port below. As she talks—her sentences constantly interrupted by gusts of laughter—seagulls come to land on her windowsill and peer into the room. Lale picks up a volume of her poetry called Water Music, and begins to read the first poem, “Barocco,” slowly but naturally in her warm, striated voice:
“She finally undresses for the species of ferocious seabirds. She drops her wedding ring into the water. — This is me, just before my divorce. — She leaves the singular pearl of winter in some other house… / Bending / refracted in the water / she sinks to the bottom. / Turning her seaweed eyes, she looks to Uranus.”
It’s about freeing herself, she says, opening herself to new, strange experiences. Uranus represents the unknown, unexpected, and “extraterrestrial.”
Richard Gray is a Taurean – but don’t hold that against him. He studied modern languages at University but hasn’t spoken a word of it since. He loves fashion and carbs and not necessarily in that order.
He was recently followed into the men’s room at Claridges by Morrissey but nothing came of it. Richard owns his own teeth. He is not a virgin. He is however verging on the ridiculous. He writes lots of stuff on fashion for Sunday Times Style, 10 and 10 Men. He’s open to bribery.
Richard desperately tries to hide a hang over behind his shades in Barcelona at the opening of the W hotel. Photograph by Alastair Jamieson
RICHARD GRAY: Here I am
FILEP MOTWARY: Oh hi there, how are you Richard?
I’m great thank you. And you? This damn London drizzle is doing nothing for my hair however. It looks like a damn (Prada) mohair jumper…
Hahah, I saw your video review on Prada’s summer 2011 collection a few minutes ago. I was impressed how you pointed out its references. Really it reminded you of menswear?
And there it is: look at my forehead – it’s fuking scrotal! Anyway, yes, Mrs Prada says she gets dressed from the ground up – so shoes first – it’s a starting point for her. The shoes, the multi-layered ‘platforms’ took their cue from menswear, no doubt about that. The clothes, of course, came from elsewhere. BUT this perverted conceit, that cotton is a luxury fabric, is odd (in a good way). It’s political. She’s political. The price of cotton is through the roof! Rice, oil, rubber: the world’s commodity prices are skewed. This was perhaps on Mrs Prada’s mind at the time. She has a lot on her mind.
It seems that you are quite fond of Prada, why?
I think she only finds peace in original thought. There aren’t many fashion designers who share the same mind-space: Rei, Junya, Marc, Raf – we all know who they are. I also think there is something ultimately divisive about a house that caters to the bourgeois – a collective marked by conformity – yet bastardises old ideas/ideals. This is sinister. *Shiver goes down author’s spine*
I completely agree with you! On the other hand, I wish to ask you about the new and upcoming designers-if there are any since everything is fading away so rapidly. How difficult is for someone new to become an establishment these days?
Interestingly my assistant Lizzie(Hi Lizzie) went to the St Martins BA fashion design show last week. She said you could feel a move away from classics of the past two seasons and far more adventurous designs one the catwalk now. Good. I suspect however, that young design graduates have more of an eye for business than those of, say, five years ago. They recognize there’s validity in getting your clothes produced and people wearing them. And, more importantly, St Martins and London College of Fashion, the Royal College of Art etc. are now focusing more on the business of fashion. It’s still not easy for a graduate, but they are more business minded on graduation than ever before. Galliano (Yikes! I said his name) argues that talent will always be recognized, despite the difficulties?
You mean sooner or later? But, should a young creator first get a job in a big house (as a major designer once told me) or it would be better to try the solo route for starters?
Yes. He uses himself as the ultimate argument that you can fail and fail again. And finally, finally, if you keep trying, incredible talent will be recognized. Not sure how this theory goes down with those who have ended up bankrupt and broken by fashion… The route to success depends on the opportunities that come the young designer’s way. You take somebody like Christopher Kane who did things the textbook way – managed cleverly by his sister Tammy. He’s proved you can do it. He’s a great message for London fashion. Then there’s somebody like Peter Copping, who, I think is on the brink of the global recognition he deserves. He served at Louis Vuitton with Marc but kept under the radar, yet produced some wonderful designs. Now he’s doing wonderful things at Nina Ricci. Both routes can work. Both routes have their own advantages and disadvantages. One thing: being a success in the fashion design world is damn hard. “You pay in sweat!” (See start of ’80s TV horror, Fame for more inspirational advice)
I wanted to ask you, if I may, about your opinion on John Galliano, since his name came up…?
The man is clearly not well. He needs, and I hope he’s getting, help. His comments were HORRIFIC and INEXCUSABLE.
The exhibition “From Konrad A. to Jackie O.” at the Willy-Brandt Haus in Berlin will show for the first time a cross section of the work of Magnum photographer Max Scheler. On display throughout June and July are 140 images that document the distinct view of this artist who preferred to stay in the background. From this intimate eye-level position, he witnessed his time and documented its events with impeccable framing and allure.
USA, 1963, Washington, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy receive the Moroccan king Hassan II © Max Scheler Estate, Hamburg Germany
I remember Max Scheler with one of his beloved Davidoff cigarillos smoldering away nearby. He was an impressive character, with an elegant dryness that one would be tempted to account being Hamburgian, yet he was born a boy from Cologne. In his later years Max had dedicated his time entirely to taking care of the Herbert List estate – the iconic work of the photographer who shaped and mentored him. On one of my visits to the archives we went through folders and boxes of photographs and came so across prints of Max’ work for the first time, almost by accident. I had not been aware of his photography then, though i knew he had worked at Merian and founded the magazine GEO at Gruner & Jahr, introducing colour reportage to the wider audience.
I’ve talked with co-curator Olaf Richter, head of the estates of both Herbert List and Max Scheler about Max, his background and the relationship to Herbert List and the current exhibition
RENÉ HABERMACHER: How did this exhibition come together- and why right now?
PEER-OLAF RICHTER: The idea of this show was born in February 2003 – the month Max Scheler died. It took us about 6 years to finish this project. Why did it take so long? Max Scheler was humble if not neglecting his own work. He stopped working as a photographer in 1975 and since then had turned the tables. He rather worked to publish other photographers work, than his own.
I took quite a bit of effort to rediscover what was going on in his life as a photographer. The negatives from the late 50s until the mid 70s were in a rough chronological order, but before that, the first 8 years, were all over the place. For us the first period was especially interesting, because it told us something of where he was coming from. He learnt photography from another photographer: Herbert List.
Herbert List printed the images that he considered important. The Estate had a rich base of vintage prints that covered all the projects he worked on in his life time. These prints were frequently titled on the back. The main books on List that had been on the market had all been made with these prints as a basis.
For Max Scheler things are very different. There is not that much vintage material, and it is hard to say if these old images reflect his personal choice or some editors preference. So we went back to the negative and contacts and researched there. Unfortunately the negative have only a rough labelling, and therefore it took a lot longer to make a selection, research locations and titles.
Max would always put Herbert’s work ahead of his own – which was something that I never understood. Why this hesitation?
I guess he felt that his work of that period, was the work of a pupil, while the work of his teacher, was really what was worth remembering. It is interesting how close the two worked together. After an initial year or two as an assistant on the road and in the darkroom, Scheler started getting his own assignments, gained some respect, moved from Munich to Paris, met Robert Capa and even became a junior member of Magnum.
How did the relationship of the two evolve after the first meeting during war in Munich: personally and professionally? I am also asking that as I have a special interest in the idea of the “stimulating” mentor.
I guess stimulation needs at least to prerequisites. At first the receiver of the stimulus needs to be in a situation of wanting to open up, receive a certain change in her/his perception and possibly even her/his life. And the stimulus must also be desireable and fit the pattern of interest of the receiver. If the stimulus is too foreign or threatening it might be rejected. I think these things fell in place when Max Scheler met Herbert List.
He was very young then- it must have been the shaping experience…
Max and his mother left Cologne in 1941, when Max was 13 or 14 years of age. Around the same time List left Athens, because Germany invaded Greece. He had tried to immigrate to the USA but failed and had to return to Germany. Max was raised without a father, since he died the year Max was born. The sudden presence of a male person of authority in the life of Max and his mother was quite welcome. Not to be misunderstood all three of them were very liberal, unconventional and forward thinking persons. None of them wanted to construct a classical family. It was more the realisation of his mother that this very sophisticated photographer in his forties did spark some certain interest and outlook in the young max’ life, that she possibly could not, because the was too close. She of course realized that he was gay and therefore no husband material. But she might have also understood that the conventional reaction of a mother to not allow her son to have contact to a 25 years-older gay man, would have been rather short-sighted.
So through the turmoil of the war they kept close contact.
The stimulation we talked about earlier, that caused Max Scheler to learn a craft, languages and a certain ‘savoir vivre’ from Herbert List, developed through that time.
And I think that it was manyfold. I am not sure if photography was really the most potent influence here. And I am not sure what was going on between the two of them emotionally. Did they fall in love? That is speculation, but I guess it safe to say that a certain amount of love and trust is necessary to allow oneself to be stimulated.
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.
On the second day of the fashion and photography festival in Hyeres, I watched Henry Blumenfeld, elementary particle physicist and son of Erwin Blumenfeld, inconspicuously walking through the exhibit of his father’s work at the Villa Noailles. He was wearing a tan suit, sneakers and a baseball cap that was slightly crooked on his head. Before long, the spacious, bright room where the artist’s photographs and videos were being exhibited became empty and quiet. Only the slight hum of voices around the villa could be heard through the walls. Here, surrounded by a collection of stunning and rare examples of his father’s work — large-scale, restored prints — Henry sat down with us for an intimate conversation: Erwin Blumenfeld the artist, the father, the mentor and the man of perseverance.
by Lynsey Peisinger, Photography René Habermacher
Son Henry Blumenfeld in front of his fathers DOE EYE with Jean Patchett for Vogue US 1950
LYNSEY PEISINGER: Where were you born?
HENRY BLUMENFELD: I was born in 1925 in Zandfoort near Amsterdam. My father had been an ambulance driver during the first World War. During the war, he had met my mother who was Dutch, Lena Citroen, who was a cousin of Pal Citroen, a German/Dutch artist. He grew up in Berlin with my father and they went to school together and they were very close friends. Through Pal, he met my mother and they corresponded during the war. My mother came to visit him in Germany when he was a soldier there. He tried to leave Germany, but he couldn’t. So, just after the war he came to Holland and then, a little bit later, married my mother in the early 20s. I guess, 1921. And because he was German and she was Dutch, she became German — that was the Dutch law at the time. I was born in Holland, but because I had a German father, I also became German.
LP: What was your father doing at that time?
HB: He was surviving. Leaving Germany at the end of the war, he tried to survive with the help of my mother and set up some kind of art dealing business with a friend, but that didn’t work very well. He was doing a lot of collage and kept in touch with other German Dadaists. After two years, he started to work as a clerk in a department store. Later, around the time I was born, he opened his own shop called the Fox Leather Company, selling ladies handbags and suitcases on the Kalvestraat. That went fairly well, but soon Hitler came to power and the business went badly and eventually bankrupt. That’s when he decided to become a photographer in 1934.
ERWIN BLUMENFELD Exhibition at the villa Noailles Squash Court. Right: Erwin Blumenfeld OPHELIA 1947
RENE HABERMACHER: So your father’s first art oriented interest was collage and he was in the Dadaist movement?
HB: He was already interested in photography. He got his first camera when he was about 6 or 7. But his main interest was perhaps the theatre. That was something he was strongly attached to: the German language. His Dutch always remained a little bit feeble to say the least. He worked quite a lot, but with theatre in German language, he couldn’t make much of a living… With his collages he couldn’t make a living with that either but always kept in touch with the Germans — Grosz and Richard Huelsenbeck and other people of the Dadaist movement. Recently there was an exhibition in Berlin on this periods work of my father and a book has been published.
LP: Did he continue to do collage later on when he started doing photography?
HB: No. When he was doing collage, he was also painting — he was a Sunday painter: He did quite a bit of painting on Saturdays and Sundays. But he dropped doing his collage and the painting and started doing photography in Amsterdam. The business went rather poorly, he had health problems and more or less escaped to Paris around the 1st of January 1936. The first year it was very difficult for him to make a living. He got support from the family of his wife, of my mother. On his side he didn’t have much family left. His father had died before the first world war and his mother deceased shortly afterwards. He lost his brother in the war as a soldier in the German army and his sister died of Tuberculosis shortly after.
My father was friends with Walter Feilchenfeldt’s wife Marianne. He was a quite well known art dealer in Zurich. Mariane Feilchenfeldt helped him to rent his studio in Paris at 9 rue Delambre.
RH: So in Paris he got introduced to photography on a professional level?
HB: Already in Holland he was doing it on a professional level. He took many portraits and pictures there, but they didn’t sell much. He got in touch with some French people who came to Holland and they eventually supported him when he went to Paris — like Andre Girard the painter. Then, after about a year later, he started to sell photos to small photo magazines in the US and England, such as Lilliput. In 1937, he met british photographer Cecil Beaton who introduced him to Vogue. My father started to work for Paris Vogue in 1938.
When he was in Paris, he worked only in black and white. Color was not yet really developed for photography. It was very difficult for individuals to use color in their own studios, so he only did black and white while he was in Paris. I should mention that for his Paris period, his publications in Verve were very important. He had some of his striking black and white photos published in the first issues of that magazine. In the dark room, he experimented a lot, but only in black and white.
Then came the war and during the war, we were foreigners in france — we were not really refugees, but were without status, so it was quite difficult. In the beginning of the war, we were more or less exiled, we lived in a hotel in Vessely nine months, a sort of medieval town in Burgundy, France with a really nice cathedral. Then the Germans came and my father and sister were put in a camp. My mother and my brother and I, with the help of some Citroen cousins, managed to escape to the south of France. Our father was then in a rather horrible camp in France. We stayed in the Country until 1941, trying to get out. Then we managed to get a visa for the US — my father had been to the US already, in June of 1939. That was were, I think he took his first color photographs. He came back to France in July 1939 and he was stuck in France for two years. Then when we got to go to the US, he started working first with Harper’s Bazaar for two or three years, switched to Vogue and started doing color photography. At the time, he took his color pictures in the studio, using different color lights and so on — he was very experimental. But for the development and the printing, it was completely out of his hands. It was always done by Kodak. At the time, he couldn’t do anything in color on his own in the laboratory.
Most of these photos here were printed by Kodak. When I say printed, they weren’t really printed, they were large color transparencies. Like big negatives — 12 by 15 inches. I think that all of these photos here were taken in this large format and they were transparencies. The pictures were only printed for Vogue — working from the transparencies. Sometimes my father would give some direction on how they should be printed, but he was not generally involved in the printing itself. Only later, around 1956, they started to develop a new process called C-Prints. He bought the C-Print machine and he could start doing his own color. But C-Prints were very unstable as far as the color went — if they were exposed to light, in a few days they would essentially vanish. So all of his work in C-Print is essentially gone. Even the color transparencies that we have of his work have either faded or changed color a lot. Especially the reds, had faded. So, our doughtier Nadia has worked a lot with Olivier Berg at a laboratory in Lozère to try to restore the original colors. She is using the original publications because those prints have kept their color much better than the transparencies. So what you see in this exhibit is the result of the work that Olivier Berg and Nadia have done.
RH: Would you say that your father was somebody who was very progressive and pushing for new things in general?
HB: I don’t know about new things…. He was for the experimental, which is a little bit different. I don’t know if he was really striving for new things, but he tried to do do things differently and experimented. He was very much inspired by especially old painters like Goya and Renoir and much impressed by Picasso. I don’t know if he ever got to meet Picasso in Paris at the time. But he met quite a few artists as Dali and others.
Erwin Blumenfeld advertising for PALL MALL circa 1957.
RH: But he liked the experimental, so maybe that was something that remained with him from the Dadaist movement?
HB: Yes, that was important to him.
LP: I heard Michel Mallard talking earlier about how remarkable it is that there was no photoshop or digital editing at that time… this image, this one with the lips and the eye, DOE EYE, where the nose is missing and there is color separation, was this done in the retouching process?
HB: This was done in the process of retouching. It was an original black and white picture. It was colored afterwards by my father and by Vogue. They worked on it together. That was a special case because the others that you see were done in color and then reworked. This one did not originally have these colors.
RH: When your father was working, did you often witness his process and how he worked in his studio?
HB: No. When he was in Paris, working in black and white, I was somewhat present. But afterwards, in the States, I was not really present anymore. So I didn’t really witness him working in color.
RH: Was his approach as a photographer more controlled or more spontaneous?
HB: I think both. He was quite controlled — all of these pictures here were taken in a studio. But he also traveled quite a bit in America and in Europe and he took many 35 millimeter color slides. Incidentally, the color of those slides kept much better than the color on the transparencies. But, in the studio, he was very controlled and would take many pictures to get something specific in a sitting.
LP: In Paris, were you present when he would shoot people in the studio?
HB: Sometimes, but not very often. I was more present when he was working in the dark room.
RH: I recently saw notes from Richard Avedon where he had a black and white print and he marked on it all of the places where he wanted the development to be darker or lighter using manipulation techniques in the dark room. Was your father working with these techniques too?
HB: Yes in the dark room, for black and white, he manipulated a lot. It would have been interesting to see what he would have done with color photography if he had been born fifty years later. At the time, the technology wasn’t there for him to do anything after a picture was taken in color.
RH: Where would your father have his intellectual and creative relationships — in other photography or painting etc?
HB: I would think painting. Very much painting, classical painting. Many of his photos were inspired by different painters. He was also inspired by modern life and by life in NY at the time, in the 40s and 50s. He liked jazz music very much, in the New Orleans style.
And he was quite interested in looking at television when it first came out. We got our first television set around 1950 or so. It was black and white at the time. I don’t think he ever saw color television. Maybe he saw it, but he never had one. He liked movies — but more for the content than for the photography. He liked Nanook of the North, about a Danish explorer. He was interested in movies — liked Erich Von Stroheim and he liked Sunset Boulevard and Billy WIlder.
RH: Was that love for cinema also what led to him making films?
HB: The filming was more in line with advertising. I think he was trying to see if he could use the filming for advertising, rather than to tell a story like in movies. Now you see everything mixed, advertising and movies. But at the time, it was an experiment.
RH: Do you think that your father really divided the things that he did for himself and the things that he was commissioned to do? The time after the war was quite commercial driven in America — was it easy for him to also do what he wanted to do?
HB: For one thing, the black and white and the color were two different things. In black and white, he could do what he wanted. In color, probably none of them were published in the exact way that they had been taken. They were made and developed specifically for Vogue. He did appreciate the possibility to work in color, but the whole fashion business and the way it worked was not very attractive for him. But still, when he had started out in Germany, he had started out working for a textile company and so, even then, he was interested in materials and fashion. Still, he didn’t really appreciate the fashion magazine business, but he knew that he could make his living there. So there were two sides to it for him — on one side, it was a place for him to make a living, on the other side, it gave him the opportunity to work in color, which he might not have had otherwise. He did have certain resentments, which is true for everyone in any job.
RH: There are artists who suffer between the economical need to do something commercial and the desire to make the work that they are passionate about. They can feel torn…
HB: I don’t think that was his case. First of all, he did well financially in the 40s and 50s and he appreciated that. And then, because of that he was able to continue his work in black and white. You might have seen his book “My One Hundred Best Photos”. We have people comment on the fact that there is almost no fashion in that book–he did a little fashion photography in black and white for Vogue before the war, but later he didn’t do any fashion work in black and white. But, it gave him a lot of satisfaction to be able to do that book of his black and white work.
Still…he wasn’t always satisfied with everything. Becoming old for him was very difficult. It made him suffer a lot…some people accept it, but he accepted it quite badly.
LP: You said that he was experimental as a photographer. As a person and as a father, did he also have that type of attitude? And did he transmit that type of approach to his children?
HB: Well….I think he had his ups and downs. He was a very active father in many ways. He was involved with his children and either pleased or displeased with what they were doing. I don’t know….the children turned out very differently. I became an elementary particle physicist. My brother became a writer. He is not exactly politically minded… he is interested in art, sociology in many ways and in the way people behave. He was very rich in ideas my father, perhaps more so than his children.
LP: Did any of his children take an interest in photography?
HB: Interest yes, but not active in photography. Though, my wife became a photographer. She was born in Paris to an Algerian/Russian father and a British aristocratic mother. She survived the war in France — her father was Jewish, her mother was British, but anyway they would have liked to capture her. After the war she came to New York and worked for one year for the New York Times, one of the first women to work in a non-secretary position at the New York Times. Then she went back to France and when she came back to the States, the New York Times fired her because her vacation to France was more vacation than they were willing to give. Then she met the wife of Alex Liberman, the editor of Vogue, and became model editor at Vogue. Her job was to provide models for the photographers. Then she met my father and after a fews years, she started working for him. She started representing him. She never got any lessons from him in photography but she worked with him as an assistant– sending his photographs to different commercial companies. Then after we got married, she became a photographer herself and worked quite actively as a photographer. First a bit in Princeton where we lived. Then in Geneva for a few years. Then we came to Paris and she started working for Vogue and other magazines. She did mostly portraits of personalities and important political people and scientists etc. And other side projects, like children photography too. To a large extent inspired by my father. Of course, after we got married and had children, my father got another assistant, Marina Schinz. She became a photographer too — mostly garden photography and published a book on that.
LP: It is interesting that she worked with your father, who was doing a lot of fashion photography and then she became a garden photographer…
HB: She admired his work very much and when he died, she bought his studio on Central Park South. And she didn’t have a single photograph of his on the wall.
Both she and Kathleen, my wife, probably wouldn’t have become photographers without him. They were inspired by him, but they probably felt that they couldn’t really rival him, so they chose different styles.
LP: Do you think that he was a good teacher?
HB: He wasn’t really a teacher. But he was a big influence. My wife saw how he worked, but he never tried to give her lessons. Same with Marina Schinz.
When my father died, he let Marina handle his photographic inheritance. From the point of view of his will, it was never very clear…He left the photos with her and she tried to handle it the best possible way. So she divided all of the black and white photographs into four lots–one for each of his children and one for herself. Then she gave essentially all of the color transparencies to Nadia. Now Nadia has been quite active in promoting her grandfather’s work. She is now working on an exhibit for next year in Chalands sur Seine. There is a photography museum there and next year they will do an exhibit of my father’s work.
Left: Erwin Blumenfeld BLUE with model Leslie Redgate 1952. Right: Erwin Blumenfeld VARIATIONS, unpublished 1947
LP: What is the last thing that stimulated you?
HB: What do you mean by stimulated? Something that affected me? Well, the thing that affected me is that my wife, Kathleen, died three months ago. Clearly that affected me. She had been sick, her brain didn’t work anymore. She was going downhill for ten years and in the last two years, she didn’t talk anymore. I don’t know what went on in her head. And three months ago, on the 9th of February, she died next to me…That is the thing that affected me. Also, what affected me was, she died very peacefully next to me. I didn’t realize that she was dead until I felt her and she was still warm and the kin came and said “votre femme est morte”. The morning afterwards, I got the announcement that a second great grandchild had been born. That also affected me. The day afterwards was the funeral and that was quite a moving event–we had five of the grandchildren and they made speeches and my children made speeches and I made a speech. One of the granddaughters filmed it and I now have it on dvd. So, that too affected me. I could tell you more, but maybe that’s enough for the moment.
Kathleen had been very close to my father and she admired him very much. Over the last ten years, she slowly went out of this world.
Thanks to our daughter Nadia, Kathleen had two double page spreads in Match in the last year. Nadia had given the pictures of Kathleen to Roger Viollet and he organized the spread.
RH: What is your work?
HB: I am an elementary particle physicist, experimental! Which is quite different. But I worked first with Cloud Chambers and then with Bubble Chambers and so I surely took more pictures than my father did. Of particles. Millions of pictures.
This week, under the helm of curator Takafumi Kawasaki, 18 hot Japanese fashion brands and 10 photographers team up in Tokyo for SAVE TOKYO CREATION. As the official Tokyo fashion week was cancelled due to the recent events, stylist Takafumi Kawasaki initiated this show to give young designers an opportunity showing their collections from May 27th to 29th at EYE OF GYRE, Omotesando, Tokyo. Accompanying the show, artworks by Tokyo Posse ENLIGHTMENT will be on display, and a fanzine produced.
The 18 designers produced special pieces for the project to be auctioned for donation. Among the designers showing, is much beloved Jun Takahashi for UNDERCOVER, YOSHIKO CREATION, famous for her unique pieces to Lady Gaga, TOGA, N.HOOLYWOOD and emerging designer JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN, among others as ANREALAGE, G.V.G.V., KEITA MARUYAMA TOKYO PARIS, MAME, MINTDESIGNS, SACAI, SOMARTA, KOLOR, PHENOMENON, TAKAHIROMIYASHITATHESOLOIST, ISVIM, WHITE MOUNTAINEERING and YOSHIO KUBO.
The designers AW 2010 designs were picked up by Photographers and lensed especially for that show: Akira Kitajima, Chikashi Kasai, Tajima Kazunali, Keiichi Nitta, Leslie Kee & Ryan Chan, Masahiro Shoda, By P.M. Ken, Yasumasa Yonehara and Yasuyuki Takaki.
The Stimuleye spoke with Takafumi Kawasaki
RENÉ HABERMACHER: What was your intention with this exhibit?
TAKAFUMI KAWASAKI: SAVE TOKYO CREATION supported by NARS is a big feature of Japanese fashion designers, most of whom lost a chance to exhibit their 2011AW collection because of the earthquake impact.
It’s a charity but not a money-donated oriented.
I wanted to provide Japanese fashion designers a chance to show their 2011AW collection that could not be shown on catwalk because of the earthquake.
As a fashion director & stylist, I believe it is a form of charity that only I can produce to provide those designers with the opportunity to present their creation in public.
How did the earthquake and its aftermath affect you personally?
The earthquake made me find the huge scepticism about Japanese government and the power of citizens. I would say I feel my approach to fashion and my styling works became more clearer and straight forward.
It may sound a little funny but I became more optimistic about the life. What already happened, happened, even if it’s a massive tragedy, there is no way to change or dismiss it. I feel there is no point to keep crying over that. But what we should do now, is to step forward.
Do you feel there is a different mood now among japanese society? I am asking as Japanese people expressing in the past to feeling alienated to their fellow countrymen…
Yes, “alienation” is a serious issue after the quake. Japanese people appear to be longing for the tightly-bound feeling.
Not only real communication and society, but also they are keen to make bonds with others in virtual community, such as Facebook, Twitter and other numerous social media networks. Some people are obsessed about that too much.
Generally speaking, however, I think the Japanese people have found what is important and what is less in life. I believe this is a great chance to reform the typical Japanese convenience-oriented life.They appear to have started making their lives a little slower and calmer, too.
It’s really a big shift of the country.
What is the last thing that stimulated you?
I would say THE EARTHQUAKE in Japan.
The exhibition is held from May 27th to 29th at EYE OF GYRE, Omotesando, Tokyo.
Wherever Sandra Backlund picks her thread it will lead to an incomparable result. That earned her the jury prize in Hyères 2008 and with it international recognition, on which Louis Vuitton had bought in shortly after. The dark Swede impresses with knit works that go far beyond the discipline of fashion and render the use of traditional artisan technique to visionary, body oriented sculptures. Looking at her latest installation CUPRUM 2010, it comes not as a surprise she had studied art history.
The Piece made entirely of finest copper yarn, was commissioned by the Villa Noailles for this years exhibition.
The Stimuleye talked with Sandra about here recent work. The conversation was shortly interrupted by yet another request from the international glitteratti circuit: Sandra is truly knitting to the top!
Sandra Backlund's installation CUPRUM 2010 at the Villa Noailles' pigeonnier. Photography by René Habermacher
RENÉ HABERMACHER: What was the point of departure for this installation and the inspiration behind it?
SANDRA BACKLUND: Everything took off from the position they gave me for my exhibition, the Pigeon House in the north garden of Villa Noailles. I think it’s a very beautiful space, so I wanted to use it as a frame, rather then just a location. Because the house is partly open and the exhibition would run for one month outside, I had to carefully consider what material to work with. Already for my current S/S 2011 collection I had been working with a metal yarn made from 100% copper, so in a way it came natural to me to continue exploring that material. With a history of use that is at least 10 000 years old, copper is an important part of both our history and the future. It’s one of the world’s most useful natural resources, 100% recyclable without any loss of quality and it’s estimated that 80% of the copper ever mined, is still in use today. In a way I feel like the story of copper as a material and the way I try to approach fashion go very well together.
Can you explain me the process of planning, and the making of the dress?
As always, the handicraft techniques and the human body is the main starting point for me. I never sketch, instead I work with a three dimensional collage method where I develop some basic bricks that I multiply and attach to each other in different ways to discover the silhouette. The only thing I decided already from the beginning was that I wanted some kind of link between the signature piece (the paper origami top) of my winning collection from the 22nd edition of the festival in 2007. Because of the different techniques, materials and colours and because of the process, I guess in the end the link is not so obvious, but there is a few things that is still noticeable, like the silhouette and the size gradings for example.
I’ve witnessed you working day and night on this piece – do you have a clue how many hours went into the making?
To be honest, I think that this is the longest piece I have ever worked on. First of all, crochet is always extremely time consuming, especially when it’s layered like this. The copper tape is also very fragile and ones it’s used it, it’s impossible to change, so I had let go of the control and in a way let faith guide me to the end result. If we are talking hours, my estimation is around 500-600 hours.
Pieces of copper yarn in the the making, and Sandra at the exhibition space. Photography by René Habermacher
Your pieces are often very sculptural, with the artisan work involved, i wonder wether you consider to put your work in a different context than fashion?
Of course I have consider this and many times questioned if fashion is really the right context for my work. As you said, my clothes are always quite sculptural and I also use methods when working that is more close to a sculptor’s, then a tailor’s. But somehow I always come back to the human body. I like to consciously dress and undress different parts of the body and I am very fascinated by all the ways highlight, distort and transform the natural silhouette with clothes and accessories. For me fashion is also one of the most democratic art forms, something that we are all related to. You don’t have to be a designer or a stylist to use clothes as a creative statement, but people in general could of course be more self-governed when t comes to fashion.
To me it seems difficult to render your unique approach into industrial production. How are your experiences with that?
About two years ago I was introduced to the long tradition of Italian top knitwear and apparel production. The challenge was to add to my collections something inspired by my hand made pieces that could require only a limited amount of manual work. It was of course a big step for me to go from working alone in my studio, inventing pieces while doing them myself by hand, to suddenly be working in a team of experts within a field of fashion that I never before have had the chance to get to know. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities I saw and even though I will never give up doing my hand knitted signature pieces, these production tests really made me understand that there is ways to develop my collections that I never thought was possible.
What is this festival of Hyères to you? How was it to win – and to be back for this project?
The whole event is really an experience for life when you’re a young designer, all the people you meet and the rush from showing your work in a context like that. I didn’t know about the festival before I met Diane Pernet and she suggested that I should apply. I was crazy happy already when I was selected for the finale and then the wind up… It’s really an important moment in my career so far and to be back again this year and meet everyone was kind of a flash back. When I think about it, I’m still a bit shocked that I was the winner.
What’s up next?
F/W 2011-2012 production, S/S 2012 collection and some up coming exhibitions.
Further information on Sandra Backlund: sandrabacklund.com
The Exhibition at the Villa Noailles in Hyeres runs throughout May until the 29th
The ascension of young South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga came fast under radar of International attention.
His work, that is often characterized by a dislocated humor, is transcending the divides between fashion, performance and photography and interrogates the body in relation to society, ideology and politics, subverting the western ‘art library’ as he calls it.
The Stimuleye talks to charming Athi-Patra, who was recently featured in the Phaidon book ‘Younger Than Jesus’, a directory of the world’s best artists under the age of 33, about his work and influences.
Athi Patra Ruga’s intervention for the X-Homes Hillbrow project with the character of ILUWANE. Photography by Nadine Hutton
RENÉ HABERMACHER: Where are you right now?
ATHI-PATRA RUGA: I’m in my Cape Town studio editing my latest tapestry series and fighting my cats… simultaneously. [laughs] I’m big on cat competitions… my two Russian blues Azange and Shadofax will be taking part so we have been grooming them like crazy… with a few scratches to prove it… hehe.
You’ve just came back from a break – have you got an idea already on what to work on?
At the moment I will be spending the next year creating quietly an extensive body of work revolving around a series of portraits that I will be rendering in tapestry. I have been doing a lot of sittings with various people and doing preliminary sketches. I am editing those now to get started in the next month. I was thinking of titles to name this body or the final exhibition etc: What do you think of :…the do’s and dont’s of bodyworship [laughs]
I am very interested in the power-relations involved in portraiture… especially in response to the ethnographic history involved. I am always concerned with who or what element in the image takes more precedents/importance… the technique or the seater or the artists ego. That argument in my head leads to some lovely renderings.
Your work is known to straddle the divides between fashion, performance and many more disciplines. What is your ultimate goal?
Transcending all boundaries that have been put on who and what one should create.
The monogram you use ‘AP’, seems to be derived from Albrecht Dürer?
Nice spotting, yes Dürer is the reference. A big part of the work is appropriation and ultimately subverting the “western art library”. In this case I am always interested in this “I am the one and only”, self-centric way of creating or rather I am totally disturbed by it. The logo is for Athi-Patra Ruga and studios cc. The name of my company and studio. The “and studio” part alludes to the idea that collaboration forms a big part of my practice. I would like to continue with this point.
Does Athi-Patra mean anything specific?
No, it’s a brand like others. And a brand is the highest promise of good quality and superior concept.
It’s two nicknames of my birth name. I’ve been called those names all my life really. It’s as old as I can remember.
So where does the “evil little boy”, as you called yourself come from?
Well I don’t know… I embrace my evils and vices I suppose. As to where it comes from, let’s just say there are a lot of boys and girls think so… at some points I tend to believe it. [laughs]
I was born in a Bantustan, which is a puppet state created by the apartheid government, a dictatorship. In March 1984, on my 13th birthday, Biggie Smalls died. My mom was a midwife, my dad a sports journalist. My parents were gone for long stretches of time and I had to defend myself. It seemed natural, it was one big ball of trauma. I grew up in the townships and during the strikes and boycotts. Many kids [or rather young adults] used to brutalise us for going to suburban/private schools. I spent most of my time indoors as many kids could not cope with me: I was violent in a violent time. Both at home and outside, the country was going through a revolution.
Athi-Patra Ruga: "Idol Death Mask Series" 2009, Modeled Paper, Approx. 27cm x 23cm each Image courtesy of the artist and whatiftheworld gallery