We continue our documentary series Blitzkickers Undisclosed with Isabell Schulz, a multidisciplinary artist from Rotterdam. Observe how underground, experimental and improvised fashion and performance coalesces into one interstellar vision.
Isabell: Eventually everything can be connected, just as layers in Photoshop can be merged. All the layers are separate, but do form a whole. I see myself, but also people, objects and ideas the same way. I am not only a designer, but also a painter; I can involve dancers, DJs — everything and everybody can come together.
Manal: Nicely said about the layers of Photoshop...
Isabell: Yes, my graduation project was a book called "Merge". In one of the chapters you can see my art installation with a narrative that reminds us that everything starts blank and through connections it finds colours. When we are at a new place, when we meet a new person — it is like we are back to a blank canvas.
So I found a tiled room in a basement of a squatted building — the walls, the floor, everything was white. We put there 2 bathtubs filled with paint; one was blue and another was red. I invited dancers from Codarts (School of Performing Arts, Rotterdam) and asked them to dive into the bathtubs and then dance (read: communicate) with each other and the environment, leaving colourful marks all over the place, and each other.
I made the costumes out of ropes to accentuate the movement — they could extend and mark the room and dancers in splashes of colour, until everything was covered in paint.
The same happens in life. As we get to know each other, we start to influence each other, leaving our marks in what we say and what we do. Let's take the Internet or Facebook as an example; we all check each other out, we know a lot about each other. But we don't know each other at all.
Besides the fact that everything is connected and influenced by perception, your art installation also reminds us how illusive our perception can be.
Yes, it is something that concerns me a lot. Let's say you have a new romantic date and you go on Facebook to check his or her posts and pictures — it is like espionage, and it can make you fall in love with an illusion. On one hand I hate myself for doing the same, but on another it is what it is.
For me being an artist means being able to capture the here and now moment. The future is easy to portray. The past as well. But to put into words or any art form where we are at this moment is difficult… If I would ask you how you feel right now, you'd probably say you feel good, but tomorrow you'll have a much better idea of how you felt yesterday. And so in my work I try to capture thoughts and feelings I have right now about the Internet or other issues or conflicts.
I see a lot of your clothing pieces are made with unconventional materials.
Here is the collection I made last year and it just came back from a show in Mexico — it's made of bicycle tires, the inner tubes. I think I went by every bike repair shop in Rotterdam and surrounding area. [laughs] Sure some pieces are not that wearable — you may need lots of baby powder to get into these rubber pants. [laughs] But a simple skirt could be easily worn (almost) casually. You can really do lots of things with this bike rubber; rings, bracelets and necklaces — the possibilities are endless as you can see.
Sometimes I find materials on the street; like a piece of carpet or a grass mat. I enjoy that the most – working with materials that are not so obvious, but have great potential.
What I would like to happen eventually is that artists will start commission or rent my work for photo and video shoots and performances.
Your studio is in a basement and it truly feels underground here…
It's too bad that there are no windows, especially in the summer time. I can arrive at the studio and suddenly it is eight hours later without noticing. Here I am completely in my own world; without light or storm, rain or hail, whatever there is to see. So yes, the time passes very quickly and sometimes it is a good thing, and sometimes it is not.
If you had to pinpoint the difference between fashion and art…?
For me art has to evoke a feeling. If I can bring something out in people — disgust or sadness, it doesn't even matter what — but if it moves you, to me it is already art.
That's the power to influence people. Do you let yourself be influenced by people's opinion?
Yes and no. If someone says: "Oh I really like this", then I think "Maybe I should make more of it." It does hurt me when someone says: "Nah, I don't like this." But I am not going to change it. I just can't. I do things my own way and I've always been a bit extreme. If people ask me for something, they know what to expect.
I see myself as an experiment. And everything I make is part of that experiment. I believe I can make something out of anything. I never start at the end — what it has to become. For me art is a process, you need to let it happen.
Some say that art is never finished.
I do finish things. Though there are always some imperfections. I say to myself this or that could have been better, but then well, I'll just make the next one better. And if that doesn't work, I'll make another one and another one. I'll keep creating until it's actually becomes something.
There was a period I thought that Isabell doesn't have her own style, but everything I make belongs together. When you do what you want yourself, then those entire different styles make it all to one style. Subconsciously, you always make your own signature in something.