We asked Serbian artist Bogomir Doringer a few questions on fashion, art, and well-dressed Vienna. Doringer is currently Artist-in-Residence at quartier21/MQ and is a contributor to the exhibition "TECHNOSENSUAL: where fashion meets technology" at freiraum quartier21 INTERNATIONAL.
Looking at your profile description on this blog, it quickly becomes clear that you're not really fashion designer. And yet, fashion is an important topic for you, constantly recurring in your work.
Bogomir Doringer: It was never my intention to become a fashion designer. I "illegally" adopted the role to be able to more effectively criticize the postwar society I was living in in Serbia. It was also a way to use my time creatively instead of wallowing in self-destruction - the only other option for young people back then. Luckily, I was good at making fashion. But it would not have been possible to work exclusively in that field, so I focused increasingly on what I always wanted: art. Fashion is less and less interesting for me. It doesn't take on special meaning for me until I introduce my own personal views and ideas. One thing I learned from the process of making fashion is that the structures surrounding it, like branding, still apply in my work. Fashion is about dressing up as something that you want to be or that people should think you are. It's a mask, a costume. Since I work with serious subjects, camouflage is handy from time to time.
You're taking part in the exhibition "TECHNOSENSUAL: where fashion meets technology" at freiraum quartier21 INTERNATIONAL. Can you reveal a bit about what you will show there?
It's related to "Hospitality," a project I've been working for the last four years in the course of getting my masters in film Amsterdam and with BKVB funding. I wanted to create an object that transforms itself in front of the eyes of audience as a memorial to people who work for the military and are transformed physically and psychologically due to weapons used in wars. The object was meant to be self-creating and self-destructive. Definitely seductive, and possibly holy, it was meant to question the perception of the audience about what is real and what is not. Ferrofluid is the perfect medium for this work. Working with this material required extensive experimentation and collaboration with technical experts like Thomas Sandri and institutions like the Technical University in Vienna. I thought it would be interesting to collaborate with another artist, so I invited Rein Vollenga to join me in Vienna for one month. His forms and techniques are a perfect fit for my research with ferrofluid, and I saw the connection. The results of this brief period as Artist-in-Residence is what we are presenting in the exhibition.
What's a ferrofluid?
Ferrofluid is an oily liquid containing ferromagnetic nanoparticles. When you place this kind of liquid in a magnetic field it changes its form. So this black oil turns into a crystal-like form. It is black, glossy, and tempting. Some people find it scary.
It's not your first time in Vienna. Is this an important place for you?
Vienna is a very inspiring place for me, and close to my heart. Working in Vienna feels good and rewarding. While I was still living in Belgrade I wanted to avoid Vienna and had some kind of prejudice, partly because of what happened to my Austrian great grandfather, who was killed by Austrians and Serbs, but also because of the amount of ex-Yugoslavians who immigrate to Vienna. Maybe I was trying to forget my family's history. When I was leaving my home country I wanted to be far away from my language and culture, to be lost in translation for a while. To study! After my studies in Amsterdam, on the invitation of Brigitte Felderer and Eva Bilminger, I developed a project called "Fashion and Despair" based on an image of Natascha Kampusch. Earlier, Brigitte Felderer had come across a portfolio of mine containing mainly fashion-related works. She found it in a drawer at Unit-F, the initiative that had nominated me for the grant just few months before.
During those months in Vienna, I fell in love with the city. It felt like home. After the hard, stressful period of studying in Amsterdam, it was healing. That's how I fell in love with it. It's old-fashioned city, but in a good, nostalgic way. It reminds me of Belgrade in the good old days somehow. Not rushed like many other cities at the moment, or not yet. Vienna somehow appreciates Eastern European culture, and this is a big plus from my point of view. In the Netherlands, Eastern Europeans are seen as lower level people whose sociopolitical system failed. Today, since the political change in the Netherlands, it has become so extreme that they created a phone number you can call to complain if an East European person takes your job - even if it's a job that most of the Dutch would never do.
I love the culture of Vienna, the food, the little shops, and little moments you experience daily as you move through the city. The MuseumsQuartier is totally amazing. I do not know any other city in Europe where young people think it's cool to hang out all day and night in the area of museums, or where culture is shared and taken in as much as it is in Vienna. If you would describe Vienna as a person at a party, you could say Vienna is the type of person who doesn't make photos of themselves and post them on Facebook. There is no self-promoting commercial ego behind it. Vienna is a darker, nostalgic type; well dressed, but mysterious, like the kind of people who always stand in corners at a club and shake their heads quite slowly. Definitely a good dancer! I would say a Libra type. You need to come closer to it and if you are compatible it will open up to you.
Does the fashion and/or art of the future have to be smart or even smarter than we are?
To be honest I think we are not getting smarter at all. The sociopolitical conditions we are living in are robbing our life experience and freedom, distracting us with consumption, offering modified/reduced education that functions as shopping somehow, bad TV programs that celebrate "white trash" values, and so on. Financial pressure is so intense that hardly anybody dares to take time to create and rethink something anymore. The art scene tends to imitate structures of the fashion scene, or certain companies; it has taken on the superficial, rude attitude of both fashion and business. Still, art has always been smarter than fashion because its purpose is different, not to mention its context. There were periods in history when nothing important or big was made for centuries, but then after a while surprises appear. I believe in those sparks. Somewhere out there! Interdisciplinary work is what I find interesting at the moment and the only way to learn.