Exploring the Internet with Dominik Pollin
For Dominik Pollin, fashion is about images. Images in the sense that to him, fashion is consumed visually, and thus immaterially, rather than through physical products or commodities. As a native of the Internet, ‘fashion’ is to Dominik interlinked with a whole universe of digitally-mediated visual phenomena, seen through streams, scrolls and clicks through different screens. As such, his practice can perhaps best be described as examining the infinite amount of forms that constitute ’visual culture.’
Originally from Germany, Dominik had his first artistic training in Paris, where he did a foundation course in Fine Art. As a testament to his cross-disciplinarity, his art foundation subsequently led him to Antwerp in Belgium, where he began studying fashion design at the prestigious Royal Academy of the Arts. However, it was there that he was finally confronted with the extent (or lack) of his interest in the actual design-process: “I realized quickly during my time there that making clothes wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he tells me. “I came to London to do something visual again.” Still with fashion on his mind, he joined the idiosyncratic Fashion Communication and Promotion BA at Central Saint Martins. What does he understand by such an ambiguous discipline, I ask him? “I was never really into the ‘promotion’ bit,” he answers, as he explains his practice. “Which is maybe why I ended up with something immaterial.”
“I WANT TO LIVE LIFE, BUT THEN ALSO REFLECT ON IT THROUGH MY WORK, OR WHATEVER I DO AND PUT OUT THERE.”
Dominik’s work is difficult to pin-point in terms of medium, discipline or format, but considering it through ‘communication’ certainly enables a reading of his multifaceted research-based projects. Using the vastness of the Internet as his source material as well as work space and exhibition-space, he manoeuvres and collides the many mediums that exist within the Web: YouTube-videos, GIF-loops, screenshots, audio files, just to name a few. He describes it as “an online sketchbook with moving and still images,” and emphasise the appropriating/re-blogging nature of his work: “some images are mine, some are from others. They all exist as data in fibre-optic cables, and then sit together on your screen and tell a little story.” His truly web-based, multimedia practice allows for a conceptual and narrative-rooted investigation into quite complex or vague phenomena that are difficult to otherwise put into words or exemplify in an art piece or fashion garment.
His graduate ‘piece(s)’, exhibited and viewed online, is an investigation into several vaguely connected concepts and themes. From old cinema snippets to Google Image searches and personal Instagram pics, Dominik, in his sub-piece Seth, unravels the homoerotic film Death in Venice 1971 by Visconti, a re-telling of Thomas Mann’s classic novella from 1912. It tells the story of a vacating pensioner who, threatened by the Plague, falls madly in love with a young boy from a distance. “Death in Venice doesn’t have a classic narrative itself,” Dominik argues – “it was more of a way for Mann and Visconti, who were both homosexuals, to explore subjects of ‘young male beauty’”. Rather than narratives, Dominik looked at themes from the movie to rework, like homoerotic objectification and the blurring of fiction, reality and history. “I identify with Tadzio, the young pretty sheltered boy on a middle class vacation who is being objectified by this old man—or does he objectify himself?” he asks. “It’s personal because there’s nothing else I’m really interested in. I want to live life, but then also reflect on it through my work, or whatever I do and put out there.”
During his research, Death in Venice transformed into Death in Venice Beach, leading him to Los Angeles and hence, a whole new range of visual tropes, aesthetics and symbols, sourced from anywhere from American reality television to online gay porn. As such, his work isare not presented as individual pieces, but rather like a stream-of-consciousness/process – one visual discovery leading him to another, loosely divided by categories on his website.
“SOMETIMES IT FEELS LIKE I’M JUST PUSHING AROUND PIXELS. I GUESS YOU CAN’T REALLY TOUCH A VIDEO, SO THIS IS AS CLOSE AS YOU GET.”
He began creating ‘digital environments’ at one point in the second year of his degree, doing HTML coding from scratch. “It wasn’t very ‘fashion’, and a bit confusing for everyone,” he recalls; “including myself at first. But the more I worked in this way, the more confident I got. I really enjoy having my own outlet.” Although his practice doesn’t immediately appear as ‘fashion-y,’ Dominik still enjoys working within that field. “Fashion always has to do with people, which is good. Also, the element of publishing is interesting to me, especially in regards to digital; artists today publishes things instantly to their own little online audience all the time.”
As time passed, he became more and more committed to this way of investigating fashion, art and cinema-related themes, although at times, “of course it gets exhausting.” “With HTML all you do is write code and then after you publish it you see what it looks like. Sometimes it feels like I’m just pushing around pixels. I guess you can’t really touch a video, so this is as close as you get.”
It seems more than fitting that Dominik’s graduate project eventually led him to Venice, Italy, but his research never meant to end as such. “I see myself going more into film and video – maybe assist someone, or work in a gallery.” It’s not difficult to imagine the many uses for his unique methodology in digital fashion and culture mediation.