Photos: Georgiadou Christina.
Text: Soul Magazine
One of the most provocative figures of contemporary art has visited Greece for the exhibition’s ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion opening at the Benaki Museum. In the streets of Athens, Pandemonia has created a project especially for SOUL.
Pandemonia: a tall, plastic, ironic incarnation of contemporary pop culture. Covered from head to toe in latex, she is provoking since some time ago the established art scene by wearing self-invented costumes, presenting herself in high interest exhibitions and achieving features in internationally renowned magazines.
It’s about a living pop phenomenon that has visited our country in May 14th in order to attend the exhibition’s ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion opening and to take part in Atopic Bodies [FIVE]: The Monsters’ Ball, a fashion performance specially conceived by the ATOPOS CVC team for that night.
We followed her minute by minute.
Soul: What was your relation to art, before adopting the identity of Pandemonia? When did that happen, and how did you decide upon it?
Pandemonia:I used to exhibit in traditional gallery spaces but they always seemed so old fashioned. Our 24-hour media world is a more exciting and modern place to be in. When you watch TV you can't help but notice that people are only actually interested in other people, preferably celebrities.
I now chose the celebrity arena as a platform to exhibit my work. I am inside the idea and have become the medium. Celebrity is the face of the media. As a pseudo-celebrity I am a construction of media aspirations and dreams - A copy in the world of illusion.
Soul: Your earliest appearances must have been quite a shock to spectators. What were their initial reactions?
Pandemonia: I did turn a few heads. Just like now, they still love to photograph me. I met all sorts of people. It was fun meeting Boy George.
Soul: How difficult a procedure has it been, establishing yourself within the art world?
Pandemonia: I just didn't bother with the art world. Have you heard that phrase “cut out the middle man?” well; I showed my work directly to the public and got press. To me it’s more relevant to be in the glossy magazines where a larger audience can see my work and ideas. That’s the right kind of audience. Anyway, I copied my ideas straight out of the magazines so it’s fitting to put them back in. It’s all give and take. That's how creativity works.
Recently, I was approached by the Aubin Gallery in London to do a show which we are currently working on. It is going to be a sculpture show; Fine Art collides with Fashion - Post Pop parody. Its only now, that I have some press that it makes sense to do a show in an Art gallery again. I will invite the press and all the celebrities I have met, to the opening. The show will be a PR event in itself. It will look good in the magazines!
Soul: Is Pandemonia a way of saying that modern culture is all surface and no substance?
Pandemonia: Of course I am all surface and no substance, I'm inflatable! Sure, modern culture has substance; it’s a manifestation of the market interests. I'm discovering all these products for desires I never knew I had. You can now find something new about yourself just form going to the supermarket. Is that what they call “shelf realization”?
Soul: How close do you feel with Andy Warhol’s philosophy about life and art?
Pandemonia: Warhol would probably describe his philosophy as about nothing! Although Warhol’s work was 40 years ago its still relevant today. He opened up a new door for many artists - Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Ashley Bikerton, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami etc just to name a few that were influenced by him. He took Art back down from its pedestal and made work about the world around us.
Warhol is inspirational, and prophetic of what was to come. The world has changed since his time.
The Internet, media and economics are impacting on our continuously changing world. I am interested in the philosophy of
Judith Butler and Jean Baudrillard - the age old questions of who we are, our relationship to ourselves and our environment.
Soul: You have said that,“products are the new superstars”. Would you care to expand on that matter?
Pandemonia: Products underpin everything at the moment; they are now the movers and shakers. It’s no longer what’s No1 in the charts or who's your favorite film star. Now it’s iPhone verses Blackberry. Ducati vs. BMW. When I saw the film Tron Legacy the only legacy I remembered was Daft Punk and Ducati. “Tron, the story of a Ducati rider listening to Daft Punks latest album”. Its not what you’re into, it’s what you got. Its not often you can take you favorite film star home with you, but you can drive home on your new Ducati, snuggle up to you new ipad and listen to Daft Punk. Now we are defined by what we buy.
Soul: Do you believe that we the people have a say on fashion or culture anymore? Or is it dictated to us by the media and advertizing corporations?
Pandemonia: We are all under the illusion of the American Dream – “we make the choices and define our lives.”
When I go shopping I cant help thinking, all the “choices” have already been decided years ago. That's why everything looks the same.
I guess someone should know what he or she is doing. Imagine a world where everyone followed my fashion tips. There would be a lot more big wigs about, and that never helps decision-making and mass production. They would have to start making all the doors wider and the taxis bigger. Every one would look nice and glossy like they stepped out from a magazine.
Industry is so big now and its elements so fragmented, around the world all the decisions have to be made in advance. Culture is new a way of selling more. It’s the way they produce things nowadays.
I do my hair down stairs and make my legs up stairs and my dresses in another room. Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing; it’s a topsy-turvy world. It’s amazing anything gets done.
Soul: Getting into the technicalities of being Pandemonia, how much preparation does tailoring, wearing and eventually becoming an outfit requires?
Pandemonia:It takes an age to make anything. The simpler it looks the harder it is. I do a lot of drawing. Everything is planed out to the minute detail. That's the way industry does it.
Soul: Why do you mostly use vinyl, latex and elastic fabric for your outfits? Do you find that those materials are associated with fetishism and thus have a more striking appeal?
Pandemonia: The collective subconscious is something I’m interested in. Fetishism is linked with sexuality. Latex has a direct link to the subconscious. Look how emotive it is. It is amorphous it can stretch and change shape.
We all fetishize over commodities. Have you ever noticed when you buy something new how exciting it is until you take it home and unwrap it. It’s not the thing itself; it’s the idea it represents. I'm what you call all inside out. I wear the inside on the outside. Everything is clearly displayed on the outside.
Soul: Has your real identity been a subject of controversy among fans and journalists? Do people try to find out who you are?
Pandemonia:Identity is something you wear, or at least something I wear. I am an idea. What is on the reverse of the canvas is irrelevant.
The media loves stories, this mystery got legs!
There was some speculation in the press that I must be someone famous who didn't want to be recognized, possibly a supermodel or maybe a top fashion designer.
Soul: Is Pandemonia a 24-hour occupation? How’s your life outside your artistic persona? Do you have a job, for instance?
Pandemonia: Keeping up my appearance is a 24-hour occupation. They say its the first impression is the one that counts. To live the idolized life is a great responsibility.
Being me is a job itself. It’s a full time production.
Soul: Which artists and fashion designers do you admire?
Pandemonia: I admire ancient Greek Art. Greece is the birthplace of Western culture and philosophy. It’s incredible that after two and a half thousand years we are still doing the same things and concerned with the same ideas.
We are driven to improve on reality. The West has always been interested going beyond reality. The ancients were doing it then and we are still doing it now. In sculpture, Polycleitus was exaggerating the body to make it more beautiful, even removing some bones. We just do the same now though surgery and digital imaging. Look at any fashion magazine or advert.
Phidias was using the golden section to create pure forms; today with computers we have continued these ideas with Mandelbrot's fractals and parametric design. I wonder what Phidias would of though to Zahra Hadid.
Our culture and aesthetics may be different now, but we still have the same motivations. The cult of the “body beautiful” is stronger than ever now. Its no wonder the Olympics came from Greece.
The cave wall may have changed but the shadows remain the same.
Soul: Do you see yourself as a mirror of the 21st century? If so, what does that mirror reflect?
Pandemonia: The Internet puts everything in flux. All the boundaries are eroding. The difference between high and low culture is disappearing, it’s all commodity now.
I am made from the environment around me. When I look in the mirror I am always reminded of the things I ought to be, it’s like seeing yourself on film. I simply go for the Max Factor. Cosmetic conceptualism.
The exhibition ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion is held at the Benaki Museum (Peiraios str. building), and is participating in the Athens Festival 2011. The exhibition presents works by:
Walter Van Beirendonck, Hideki Seo, Alexis Themistocleous, Dr NOKI’s NHS, Issey Miyake, Cassette Playa and Gary Card, Marcus Tomlinson, Bronwen Marshall, Charlie Le Mindu, Jean-Charles De Castelbajac, Bas Kosters, Maison Martin Margiela, Andrea Ayala Closa, Bernhard Willhelm, Mareunrol’s and Pyuupiru amongst others.
During the exhibition ATOPOS CVC will present the fully illustrated publication NOT A TOY. Fashioning Radical Chatacters, about the growing influence of Character design in fashion and art, edited by Vassilis Zidianakis, ATOPOS CVC, published by Pictoplasma Publishing, Berlin, 2011. While specially for the exhibition at the Benaki Museum, ATOPOS CVC has prepared, in Greek and in English, the publication ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion.