10 Questions with Henrik Vibskov
The Danish Designer Lands in Chicago with his First U.S. Residency
Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov is something of an artistic chameleon. Fashion designer. Musician. Interior designer. Filmmaker. Vibskov transcends any fixed definition of what it means to be an artist in the 21st century, uncommitted to any specific medium, transformative in his execution.
Now, the Copenhagen-based designer has landed in the U.S. for his first-ever American artist residency at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with Henrik Vibskov : 0000 : State on State — an exciting multimedia blend of film, fashion and sculpture.
A collection of four voluminous and sculptural costumes made out of printed-paper textile that were created for a video-performance he shot in his studio for the exhibition, Vibskov will also construct a massive paper installation over three days on site with SAIC students.
“As one of today’s most dynamic artists, Henrik Vibskov seamlessly breaks down the boundaries between artistic disciplines to create work that blurs fantasy and reality and transforms runways and stages in addition to creating larger-than-life sculptures and producing genre-bending music and videos,” Trevor Martin, SAIC’s executive director of exhibitions recently commented.
On the margins of New York Fashion Week, #DenmarkInNY sat down with Vibskov at his NYC store to talk about his work and inspirations and what brought him all the way to Chicago.
Denmark In New York: If you would have to describe your exhibition in three words. What words would you use and why?
Henrik Vibskov: Students, workshop and paper. These are the three words I would use to describe my latest exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
HV: A big part of the exhibition was created in a workshop process. I made some of the art pieces beforehand but most of it was made at the residency in Chicago where I was so fortunate to work with 300 students from The School of Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC). A big part of the exhibition was made from paper so the students helped me fold a lot of paper in 3D forms and shapes.
DKNY: What is the idea behind your exhibition Henrik Vibskov : 0000 : State on State?
HV: The idea behind the exhibition was to create something by using a specific type of material. We ended up using paper since it is in fact a cheap material that I believe has much more to offer than you would usually think. At first, paper is different from other materials such as textiles. You can cut it raw, while you usually would have to rip textiles.
In that way you can say that the idea behind the exhibition is to create art in an experimental state of mind. At the very beginning, we didn’t know how this would end up and that made the process and the final output even more interesting.
When I decided to make paper the primary material, I started out with a creative thinking process so that I could find out how to make use of it in the most interesting way. When I had the material figured out, I started creating 3D forms and shapes out of paper with the students. Then, I decided to put graphics on top of the paper materials so it could reflect three costumes which were set to be in the exhibition as well. The costumes were placed in a central position at the end of a tunnel in the exhibition room — by doing that the exhibition became an experiment with both paper, light and shadows.
When the installation was done, we decided to create some short films that both showcased the installation and became a part of the experience itself. Besides that, the group of students and I teamed up with some performing artists which delivered even more movement to the installation.
All in all, we made an exhibition consisting of short films, a paper-installation and performing artists in costumes — all the elements came alive as a united art installation. Besides the actual exhibition, I also made a public talk and a lecture.
DKNY: What feelings or reactions do you hope the exhibition will generate?
HV: I truly hope that people will understand the choice of material and realize that something simple as paper can be used to create an eye-catching and surreal universe. At least that is what I believe we did.
Since there were so many people — especially students — involved in this project, I also hope that the process of creating something together as a unit will shine through in the exhibition itself and give the students some experience in creating site-specific art.
DKNY: Trevor Martin, SAIC’s executive director of exhibitions describes how you ‘seamlessly break down the boundaries between artistic disciplines to create work that blurs fantasy and reality and transforms runways and stages in addition to creating larger-than-life sculptures and producing genre-bending music and videos’. What or who inspires you?
HV: It’s many different things. Creativity is not something you can turn on and off as you like. Sometimes it happens when you’re doing a monologue. Other times it happens when you’re in a dialogue with other people. My creativity pops up mostly when I am alone, but it is not that often that I actually am alone. I got some of my greatest ideas during night. I have tried to wake up very early in the morning at four and five o’clock when it is still dark outside to experience this “golden hour of ideas” as I like to call it. Sometimes I even get inspired by other projects from the past.
DKNY: What is Henrik Vibskov’s universe like when it comes to fashion and art?
HV: I have four pillars that describes my world and work. First of all, I like it when it’s technically complicated to create. I love colours. I like classic craftsmanship and then I’m very much inspired by the avant-garde era. That makes four pillars, but sometimes I decide to pick one and then just focus on creating something out of one of them.
I would describe my creative universes as quirky, strange and surreal without them becoming too futuristic. These kinds of worlds are not something I aim to create, but you can definitely see a pattern throughout my work.
DKNY: What do you think the Danish fashion industry brings to the table — in America?
HV: I think that Danish fashion is very well-made. I would also say that it generally has a logistic point of view. Some might say that my pieces doesn’t fit into the classic Danish fashion category since my clothes are very colourful compared to the minimalistic Nordic trend.
DKNY: And how are your designs welcomed here in the U.S.?
HV: My shop in New York has been here for eight years now and the U.S. is one of our biggest markets so the colourfulness works out here somehow and I’m very proud of that. Right now we’re working on making a new line that reflects the importance of sustainability. Our goal is to create fashion pieces that are nearly 100 % sustainable in one or two years. I think we’re doing pretty good already, but it’s a long process.
DKNY: Why is sustainability important to you?
HV: It’s a personal thing for sure. I believe that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to the health of our planet. I believe I have to take responsibility — both as a citizen and as a fashion designer. I also believe that the fashion industry has made it a lot easier to go sustainable. Three or four years ago you could maybe get a little unbleached cotton. Nowadays there are different techniques on the machines and recycled fabrics on the market so we, as fashion designers, have more options and that makes it easier to create something both beautiful and sustainable.
DKNY: What is your next big project?
HV: I’m working on three different ballets. I’m heading to some costume fittings for that. One is at the Swedish Opera House, one at the Helsinki Opera House and the last one is in Basel, Switzerland. Besides that, I’m working on an exhibition that came out of the Vienna exhibition I did last year. This one will be in England at a museum but I also look forward to make exhibitions in Belgium and France. Recently, I was asked to do a poster for the Korean Jazz Festival which I’m also working on right now. As you can hear, I have quite a few things on my plate and that excites me.
Ema Seferovic is the Press and Communications Intern at DenmarkInNY.