“I don’t want to be pretentious. I’m just presenting everything within my very real limitations.” There’s an unbridled sincerity that comes across in Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen’s manner as we perch conversing shoulder to shoulder on the low brick wall separating her house — the exhibition’s venue — from the pavement. You’d be forgiven for walking straight past it, though with friends and attendees whirling in and then out it’s hard to miss. Ascending the stairs, you’re met with reconstituted pinstripe football jerseys hung with noticeable deliberation to the left, which continues to the right on to the landing and through to a completely unfurnished room, with look book photos in another. A video on a macbook plays in the corner showing various shirts, taped to a wall, slowly falling to the ground. And another. And another. Anne talks of her creative process and invites us to the idea of “the fold” and the power of drapery.
Louis Gabriel: Into The Fold is “A study of the aesthetic connotations of drapery through recontextualising football shirts and the suit.” What does that mean to you?
Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen: Drapery is what I’m always working with. I’m slightly obsessed with it, the fold and its mass. It started when studying my Masters at Central Saint Martins, and since graduating I’ve been trying to understand why I’m so drawn to it… I think that very often, drapery, especially when related to fashion and clothes, always has this tacky beauty kind of feel to it and it’s all about the body and accentuating it or making it voluptuous or sensual. It’s a misconception of femininity for me, I think we have evolved beyond that a bit — beyond the harsh lines that divide what’s masculine and what’s feminine… So that’s what I’ve tried to just play with and research. I know it already exists through the likes of Rei Kawakubo and how she works with folds, and she drapes in a very raw way which challenges this sort of mainstream and commercial aspect of drapery, the “pretty-pretty”. That’s not interesting to me… I don’t think it resonates with the contemporary reality of being a woman.
Something I picked up on was the idea of uniform through football jerseys and tailored shirts; a sense of masculinity that is offset by the introduction of the separate art of drapery, which has its links to femininity… There’s a contradiction.
The suit has strong connotations and an even stronger heritage within itself. I’m also slightly obsessed with the pinstripe because of its uniformity and I uncovered a relation between that and the football shirt. I like the football shirts because they have this very strong sense of tradition as well as an atmospheric idea of belongingness, but they also harbour what we’ve come to know as these really “street”, class-led characteristics that opposes the suit. I liked working with that extreme, and coupling it with drapery that is so heavily “Grecian goddess”, which I kind of wanted to go away from.
You’ve decided to make the exhibition venue your home. How did that come about?
It’s part of a wider context also — of me trying to work out where to place myself. I don’t really want to fit in to the system, because this means you have all these rules and ways of doing things that make you stuck, in the end. I did another exhibition a year ago here. It also has its financial benefits, you know? Like, why not just do it at home? Strip everything down so you create the feeling of the gallery but you still have the very strong essence of someone’s living space. I’m also very interested in that relationship between the work and audience. Catwalk? Yes, that’s one thing. But, that has this very very big gap between the actual work and the people, so I’d like to just bring it in and mix it up a bit and… I don’t want to be pretentious. I’m just presenting everything within my very real limitations.
You graduated from the MA Womenswear at Central Saint Martins in 2012. Would you consider this a continuation of your work at CSM?
Yes, it started there. I’d never been aware that I had worked with drapery before; my BA collection was very Russian Constructivism, quite sharp and clean but it still had that 2D/3D play with flats and volume. Then on the MA it just evolved and I realised “drapery is really interesting”, but drapery in another context from what I had always thought of it, because I used just stuff from street, rubbish, and the things around me.
The fold is everywhere. Reading more about it — like Gilles Deleuze and his philosophy on ‘the fold’ — you just realise that it is everywhere and you can really relate it to political and philosophical issues of our time.
Most designers exhibit their work on a catwalk and in static presentations with models giving the audience a point of reference to relate to… You’re not doing that. Do you worry that ambiguates what you’re making; do you think you’re blurring the line between art and fashion in a way?
That’s something I’ve always kind of struggled with myself. It’s not that I’m thinking of myself as an artist, but I’m also not thinking of myself as a fashion designer either. Sales are not very interesting for me, I don’t necessarily want to create for a market. If you’re a fashion designer today, you need to make what sells to be able to survive and I don’t want to just make things that sell, rather than make things that change people or make people look at things differently. I think it’s important. In the exhibition there is, of course, the photography of Timo Wirsching, so I’m definitely not excluding showing the clothes on people… Though this body of work is about taking clothes and looking at them in a more sculptural way. They become shapes and not necessarily garments… I would never do a catwalk show myself, I have done it before because it’s been part of earlier processes, like the BA and MA but I think it’s much more intriguing to not present things that are so in-your-face or so easy. Maybe you need to question it. Maybe you don’t like it. That’s good.
You have a video playing in the corner of one of the rooms, what is it?
The video is a documentation of the process. In my creative process, I work with chance a lot and in the video all of the drapes basically happened by dropping. Deconstructing the football shirts, dropping them, and where they fell they were taped together. I put them up on the wall and then let gravity take control. Through filming it all I realised it almost becomes something else. It has this infinite possibility, when you zoom in on it, it becomes a landscape for example… That idea triggers something in me. Through its hanging and falling it kind of lives by itself for a few moments.
Words by Louis Gabriel
Work-in-progress photography courtesy of Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen
Photography ↓↓↓ by Timo Wirsching