Ayzit, you are working together with artists, what is your interest in collaborating?
AB: I enjoy collaborating if I like the person and their work. It’s not that I search for it but it just happens. Sometimes I have known them before for a long time and like their work. Or I just met them like Flaka Haliti. It was really nice to meet a new person whose work I like a lot. Because the older I get the less I’m impressed by art.
Sylvie, you also did collaborations, also in terms of group shows?
SF: I do all kinds of collaborations. If I work only by myself I get bored. I like the outside input. But only to a certain extent, then there is a point when I need to do things on my own. But in general, I like when people come and say. “Oh, I had an idea of a certain something!” Something that was triggered because they’ve seen something in my work. Something that I didn’t see because I don’t have their background, ideas, mindset or personality. I think this is the way art functions. We propose things and sometimes it triggers something in the person who is looking at it. And sometimes it is interesting to materialize what it triggers. I am very open to this external influences, sometimes too much and then I get lost…
What about your collaborations in the fashion context?
SF: It’s a tricky one. I can talk about this for hours, so you should stop me if I extend myself too much. I like the way Ayzit said she collaborates. In a way it‘s two people getting together and playing with ideas. I am less interested in very commercial things in fashion even though there are exceptions. For instance, Hugo Boss. Through them, I could access the Formula 1 world. For them it was easy to come-up with this dress that we made, a replica of Mika Häkkinen who was the world champion at that time. I made a kind of feminist clin d’oeuil, typically a woman’s outfit. A funny comment in the Formula 1 world which is being so closed to females. In other cases, a big fashion company asks you to collaborate and then it is just a question of using their structure. It is not a proper collaboration in that sense. But it can be interesting or not so interesting. It depends on what they really expect and what comes out of it. I think the result is important (laughs). Sometimes I have been asked, and I said no because I couldn’t get any good ideas. And sometimes I was asked by people who were probably the most interesting to collaborate with but I managed to screw up. I have collaborated with Dom-Perignon and made this glasses that have a lipstick mark on it. I didn’t think it was a major work but on the other hand, it’s commerce, it’s business, they want me to do help selling their champagne.
AB: As long as it is a beautiful product it’s nice as well!
Sylvie, you are really well-known for customizing things. I just came across a quote of yours which says “If you wrap, you unwrap”.
SF: For years “The Shopping Bags” were pieces that people only saw in magazines but never in real. Everybody thought they were empty. But actually, I went shopping and put things inside. I think this is where this quote came from. I am as much concerned about what’s inside as about what’s outside.
What was inside?
Oh, my memory is too bad to remember. At the time, I didn’t think that they would become anything. So I didn’t write down what was in theses pieces. And now I have no idea! But you know, it’s not a secret… on the other hand you cannot touch it because it’s an artwork.
Ayzit, in your designs there’s always one thing missing. That’s like keeping secrets, not exposing the whole body and playing with this kind of wrapping/unwrapping bodies. What do you think about that if you are doing your designs?
AB: I don’t know if I think so much when I am designing. I only do one clothing collection a year because I don’t have so many good ideas (laughs). Sometimes it is taking away something, distilling, boiling it down. It’s also always under development. For instance, I made buttons. When I did this T-Shirt design, it derived from the size of the buttons. Then the idea emerged to cut it out. For the bag collection, which is a collaboration with a brand, I am working more classic. It’s two collections a year. And because I am not a “bagaholic”, it seems really easy for me to design bags. Every now and then I am really impressed by me, doing so many bags. I don’t consider it working. It is boring to say but I really don’t see my work as working. I feel guilty in a way, because I usually say that I am really concentrated when I work, but deep down I am quite chaotic.
Both of you are really into details and the aesthetics of material. Ayzit, your button is made of velvet. And Sylvie’s “Cuddly Paintings” are really important in terms of structure. Sylvie is also doing a button which says: “You don’t need balls to play” for the football European competition this year. What’s the meaning of an accessory?
AB: Buttons are really nice because it is such a small canvas for making a statement.
A punk thing?
AB: It is a punk thing. It is an art piece as well. Or an art statement or personal statement. It’s always a conversation piece. That’s really beautiful. I like it when small things are touching.
SF: I was thinking about the dichotomy of making things while there are already so many things being done. Too much staff everywhere. And then there’s the notion of sharing. I guess that was present in my first piece, the Shopping bags.
There is the whole conversation of consumerism. A vast topic that we should probably avoid, but however: we all know that we are somehow trapped in a society that manages to come up with new technologies, new designs and new things that aren’t really necessary.
Ayzit, I like the term “conversation piece. Sylvie, is it your strength, too, to create things that allow to communicate about topics?
SF: For the slogan piece, I never invented anything. I always took things that already existed. Just like the button I am producing right now that says “We don’t need balls to play”. It’s a statement from the feminists in the 70s. I just thought it is funny to re-introduce it for the Eurocup today. “Be amazing” or “Yes to all” are also just reintroductions.
AB: I wanted to ask you about that!
SF: It came from looking at a PC that I didn’t know how to operate. Whenever I touched something this weird window popped up and asked me “Yes to All” or “OK” or “Cancel.” Everytime I had to decide. Is it okay or will I destroy something in the computer? The feeling of the domino effect. What happens when you say yes? I almost had vertigo. “Yes to All”, “Ok”, “Cancel”. So I used it and I made a big neon sign that is placed on the top of a building in Geneva. In Geneva, there are usually watches, banks, insurance companies, chocolate brands or whatever on top of the buildings.
AB: It’s definitely a good place!
SF: “Yes to All” in became many things: it could be as much a question mark about consumption as about a more philosophical or spiritual behaviour. When I see that once something is taken out of its concept and is opening different doors, I know that I want to pursue this idea.
And starting a dialogue. There’s a “Yes to All” on the Villa Stuck façade for your exhibition…you offer so many levels of reading your work.
SF: In a way, I think of it because you had a show that was called and I like when things ricochet. Letting the energy somehow flow out of something. And for that you cannot rely on the aesthetics only. You have to think of the inside and the outside. And that is part of my practice.
Ayzit, is that also part of your practice?
AB: It seems very related to me. Because I always watch and listen and sometimes, when things stay longer with me, I know I have to do something.
AB: ...either with it or finding a form to present it again in a new context. This morning I told a friend that I like your work because you have an intelligent sense of humor as well. There are so many artists who are only serious. That’s a little bit boring.
SF: I don’t know if it is intelligent but for me it is a necessity to surround myself with humorous thoughts because otherwise I would get very depressed.
AB: Yeah, yeah!
Do you balance between humor and seriousness? Or the masculine artworks like a Donald Judd piece and something real feminist?
SF: I am always scared of the word feminist. Of course, it’s present in my work But I hope to think that my work is the work of an artist - not of a female artist. I think it’s not right to make this differentiation. It’s creating a kind of cleavage that shouldn’t be there.
AB: Yes! And you don’t have to be aggressive if you are a feminist. And sometimes the context or the tonation of this word is so wrong. There are really modern ways of being a feminist. Yet, the word is really difficult for me as well. Because it feels so hardcore. And then many men are feminists, too.
SF: Yeah, that’s it! I think men are as well and that’s why I think we shouldn’t talk about this too much because we are getting there anyhow.
Let’s return to the sense of humor. Your works transport music in them?
SF: A lot of my paintings are titled after songs.
“Ricochet” is also a track from Faith No More.. Sometimes I think a song can put the emotion…
SF: I was always jealous about musicians because with a song…
AB: Me too!
SF: ...you can really touch the people in a different way and it goes deeper. It goes more under the skin. But I guess, it’s not necessary to be jealous of that.
AB: I was jealous when I was young. I wanted to become a musician. Their art touches directly, the interaction with the audience…
You are both using slogans in your works. Ayzit, you have used the “Imagine Peace” slogan.
AB: Yes, I also did “I love”, which is “I love New York” but without “New York”. And for a group exhibition some years ago, it was about “suffragettes”, I put “Sufragette City” lyrics by David Bowie on a poster. And for a different group exhibition at Kunstverein Munich, I did the Turkish flag print.
I think of your “Imagine Peace” work again, is it a political statement?
AB: “Imagine Peace” is originally by Yoko Ono. I did my version during an excursion with my students in Marrakesh. Everyone had to design something in this week, and I came up with the idea to do this slogan in Arabic. Just because we were in Morocco. And then it got so big because of the political situation. It was by accident.
You also did the installation in the arcades of Hofgarten using fabric. Both of you have a feeling for spaces and the combination with fabrics and structures.
AB: I put curtains in the arcades of Hofgarten. Like the Piazza San Marco in Venice. When I was in Venice, I had the vision to bring these curtains to Munich. Then there was this international architecture competition about design and public space. My collaborator and I won the competition and then realized it for three months. It was about the feeling, the relation about the space and the atmosphere, and the bringing the poetic thing about Venice to Munich. It was a very simple idea, and I still cannot believe that they have accepted this.
I think it was so strong. The architecture was more visible, and on the same time it was very poetic. Sylvie, Villa Stuck and Village Voice are planning to produce a beach towel for your show...
SF: It's great. I am going on holidays in July. I can advertise for Villa Stuck on the beach. I think this is better than Instagram!
So, do you think it is more like an art object or an everyday object?
SF: Each persons decides. A long time ago, I had this idea that a lot of things that I was looking at were art that many people didn't see that way. So, yes, of course, it will be an art object.
Ayzit, you agree on this?
VH: Your scarf with the slogan “Imagine” - I think it is also an art piece?
AB: Yes, but it is also a scarf.
SF: It's also a kind of a decision of playing or not playing. High level playing but not taking things too seriously. It‘s not that I think of myself so highly that everything I touch becomes art.
That means you are also playing with the visitor?
SF: If they want to play with me. You know, everyone is free to live their life and do what they like.
AB: To live their life and the exhibition.