Interview: Monika Zabel | ITSLIQUID

Interview: Monika Zabel

Interviews | September 12, 2018 |

interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)

Interview: Monika Zabel

Luca Curci talks with Monika Zabel during PLACES the second appointment of SURFACES FESTIVAL 2018 in Venice.

Monika Zabel born in Hamburg, she has  lived and worked in urban metropolis like New YorkSao PauloMoscow and  London. She is currently based in and between New York and Hamburg. She is a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) specialised in sustainable design. She also holds a PhD in Economics of TU Berlin. She has presented her design work at art exhibitions and fashion shows and has shared her advanced positions in fashion design in Europe and the US. She curated and contributed to the international exhibition “Art of Fashion” featuring international designers at Poolhaus-Blankenese art space in Hamburg 2016, was 2017 and 2018 key note speaker at Global Sustainable Fashion Week in Budapest. Monika was Artist in Residence 2017 of RUCKA Art Foundation in Cesis (Wenden), Latvia, the first designer who was awarded with this international recognition. The residency included an exhibition that was concluded by a fashion show at the Cesis Art Hall. Currently she is showing her work at Surfaces, a sales exhibition along the Architecture Biennal in Venice, Italy. She is invited fashion designer at the Fashion Art Bienal in Seoul, South Korea , in October 2018.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


Luca Curci – What is art for you?

Monika Zabel – Art is a form of expression, a statement towards life. My statement is exuberant joy and beauty. Being an artist is also a profession.


L.C. – Which is the role the artist plays in the society? And in contemporary art?

M.Z. – By definition contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists live and work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. In my view an artist in our times has to communicate a narrative that goes beyond storytelling. Artists and their works play a crucial role in triggering the thinking process for others, often in regard to social and political issues.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – How would you describe your work? As art or as fashion?

M.Z. – Each of my textile compositions is a suggestion. My work is fluid and can exist in different spheres. It has been displayed in galleries, private homes, in the windows of a swimming pool house turned an art space, in museums. Another mode of display is the human body. What is currently shown in Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi are textile sculptures on metal torsi hung from the ceiling – ART. It may and can be worn and then transit from fine art to fine fashion, it is fashion art. The wearer, however, has to WANT to wear it, proudly, being aware of standing out in a noble attire that is truly unique. “It certainly has weight and presence, and gives its wearer the same”, as a visitor of the exhibition, briefly wearing one of the attires, put it.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – What is your creative process like, what is special about your way of designing?

M.Z. – I am a fashion designer trained at FIT New York. We were among the first graduates who specialized in Sustainable Design. This continues to guide my creative process. The “DNA” of my creations is particular and distinct from what is known and typically applied in fashion design.
First, the sourcing of the materials. For the two textile installations exhibited at Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi I have worked with sample pieces of fabrics, gifted and thrifted materials and end of roll fabric, also labelled as overproduction or pre- and post-consumer “waste”, along with some found objects. All materials are of finest qualities, pure silk, cotton, linen and combinations of these, and used not only for the upper, but also for the lining of the work. No chemical fibers are processed at all.
Second, the design techniques I apply, such as de- and reconstruction, zero waste, repurposing and redesigning. I effectively minimize the utilization of scarce resources. Design follows in this case (available) fabrics – the size of a particular fabric as well as its quality define what can be created with it. My creations are assembled in small couture ateliers near to the places I live and work, involving master tailors’ work, partly by hand. All Urban Pilgrim creations exist only once – there is no possibility to meeting another person wearing the same clothes.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – Which art themes do you pursue in your work?

M.Z. – Currently, it is the theme of transition and travelling through different places and spaces. Combining the old and the new. Making time related and cultural references, like the cape, the pilgrim stick, the heavenly head. And, as a cross cutting theme, creating something cherished and precious in times where clothing has become a(nother) quickly produced and disposed fast moving consumer good, and where the fast turnover of contemporary clothing is creating significant environmental and human damage.

L.C. – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?

M.Z. – My inspiration is twofold. First, it’s the place. The venue of a Venetian Palace was immediately appealing to me and adequate to exhibit URBAN PILGRIMS. Second, the surfaces festival brings together different art forms under the thematic umbrella of Places. Contemporary Art is more and more result of collaboration between artists of same or different disciplines as well as of cooperation between different design forms (like interior and fashion design, dance, photography, drawing and architecture).


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – In which way the fashion artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?

M.Z. – Surfaces and places directly relate to the modes of display. My works are strongly connected to places where I found the materials used for the work currently exhibited at PLACES. They originate from all over the world – Paris, New York, Hamburg, Baku, Cesis, London, Brussels. These places reflect my own pilgrimage through time. Visiting and living in different cities and being exposed to different cultural identities that became over time part of my own personality.


L.C. – And what is next for you?

M.Z. – Just after the vernissage in Venice I had to travel back to Hamburg for a photo shooting of the next capsule collection on live models. The set was a magic urban park setting around a Japanese Tea House. And for the end of the exhibition on 13 September I will come back to Venice to bring the Urban Pilgrims back to the next exhibition venue. Next place to exhibit my work will be the International Fashion Art Biennale in Seoul in October, as one of the invited international artists. This recognition is a big honor and an exciting opportunity. For this occasion I am creating a special work, of course a “one of”.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?

M.Z. – Absolutely yes. It takes a bit of research about the venues and the artists that have exhibited in the past. For me the venue Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi appeared to be ideal for my work presented as textile sculptures hanging from the ceiling on metal torsi It is in the spirit of La Biennale, opening the Palaces with a long tradition telling stories from the past and to populate them with contemporary art, to contrast and to combine the ancient with the current.  It also depends on the artist what you make out of this opportunity. I have taken the opportunity of the full moon night in July, a day after our vernissage, to unhook the two installations over the night and let them walk to the St Markus Square. Blue Sculpture walking under Red Moon.


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)


L.C. – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?

M.Z. – Yes, absolutely, and I still do! It’s not even half time of the ongoing exhibition PLACES. I will be coming back to Venice to de-install my work and before that welcoming fellow Italian designers and friends for a guided tour through my work. I can also imagine to come back another time with other works.

Photography: Birgit Karsten (Studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)

 more. Monika Zabel


interview: monika zabel Image courtesy of Monika Zabel | Photography courtesy of Birgit Karsten (studio) and Frederika Adam (Venice)

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