By researching how to construct and deconstruct identity — predominantly looking at the themes of ‘hiding’ and ‘revealing’ — Fine Art student Dennis Vanderbroeck explores the concepts of how to perform life and how to mythologize yourself. By doing so, he mixes art with fashion, merchandise and social media culture. “With blurring the labels between my personal and artistic identity, I create hyper aesthetic images. With using wit and humour, I create playful procedures. Using the perception of the viewer as my starting point, I tend to believe that my work only exists when being watched,” he says, quite philosophically. Now, Dennis is collaborating with designers like Peter Jensen, Bas Kosters and Charles Jeffrey to deconstruct jumpers and artfully create a new statement in the fashion arena.
“The title ‘The Dconstructions collaborations’ includes a paradox of deconstructing something together. Perhaps questioning the difference between fashion and art. Questioning if it still there, and if so: if that is still relevant.”
When did the project of your ‘selfie’ jumpers start?
Last summer during a residency in Italy, I came up with the idea for the perforative piece entitled: “This selfie should justify my existence.” It’s a performance where three men constructed a gigantic flag out of blue jumpers with the letters of my name printed on them. This was my first attempt to justify my right to exist both as an individual and as an artist. As a way of flirting with the idea of merchandise — a way of selling performance art and gesturing an element of fashion — I took 30 D-jumpers with me, intending to sell them after the performance. The idea of selling them, after Italy, became a body of work itself. More importantly, the jumper became a way of establishing myself and my practice as a brand. With purchasing a jumper, I ask a selfie with the jumper in return from the customer. On the project website, hundreds of selfies from all over the world are being collected.
What was the next step, after the performance in Italy?
I continued with the idea of branding my practice with a self-constructed second identity. This self-constructed second selfie, Dennis, slowly became the core concern of my artistic practice. The blue square with the big white D functioned, and still functions, as the house logo. It is about how I, Dennis Vanderbroeck, the artist, try to become Studio Dennis Vanderbroeck, the brand. Besides referring to a physical space, the word “Studio” also suggests something bigger than the artist as an individual. Look at how Marina Abramovic founded her Marina Abramovic Institute and Andy Warhol his Factory: it’s an external universe that can be separated from the individual. However, the artist can be used, and function as the face.
“With me being the face of my own brand and presenting the jumper like an exclusive high end garment, I tried to use the visual language known from fashion and attempted to place it within the context of art.”
Then you turned the selfie project into a collaboration…
I always have been extremely fascinated by fashion. It’s perhaps my most important source of inspiration, although I never had the ambition to create garments myself or to work in the industry as a designer. After doing an internship at the wonderful company of Danish designer Henrik Vibskov, where I had the opportunity to create one of his catwalk installations, I knew that I needed to integrate and use these elements of fashion within my own practice. Apart from the selfie project, my work is always evolving around the complexity of (constructed) identity — a concept that, in my opinion, is extremely related to fashion. Therefore not using it would be ignorant, especially when live performance is my main media area.
With having this almost obsessive fascination for fashion — the selfie project, the concept of the D-jumper and the ongoing research on the self-constructed identity, the next step seemed to be collaborating. Usually when labels, houses, and designers collaborate with each other, there seems to be an equality between the two parties involved. With me being a complete nobody within the fashion world, I was wondering if established fashion designers would be interested in collaborating with this tall, unknown, Dutch, Central Saint Martins student artist. I asked Sofie Middernacht and Maarten Alexander, incredible photographers, to collaborate with me to create a proper advertisement. With me being the face of my own brand and presenting the jumper like an exclusive high end garment, I tried to use the visual language known from fashion and attempted to place it within the context of art. The title ‘The Dconstructions collaborations’ includes a paradox of deconstructing something together. Perhaps questioning the difference between fashion and art. Questioning if it still there, and if so: if that is still relevant. Or perhaps just a humble attempt to fade those defined labels.
What are your plans for the future?
Photography by Sofie Middernacht and Maarten Alexander