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Features / Here 2016

How I Got Here: Yolanda Domínguez, visual artist

Illustration:

Michael Driver

In the run up to It’s Nice That’s annual symposium, Here 2016, we’ll be introducing each speaker who will appear at the event. We have asked each of them to share an early piece of work and a recent project, to reflect on how they’ve progressed between the two.

Artist Yolanda Domínguez continually creates work that passes comment on society often highlighting issues surrounding gender and consumption. Through a mix of photography and film, Yolanda aims to create experiences for her audience that make them think.

In previous projects Yolanda has questioned our invasion of online privacy in the digital age (Gallery, 2014) and responded to the 2013 Bangladesh factory disaster where over 1,000 textile workers were killed (Fashion Victims, 2013). In her most recent project, Niños Vs Moda (Kids Vs Fashion), Yolanda asked a group of eight-year-old children to describe what they saw when shown certain fashion campaigns. The kids subconsciously picked up on the glaring differences between the portrayal of men and women in editorials and the project raises important questions about representation in the fashion industry. Whatever subject Yolanda tackles, her thoughtful and considered execution gives the viewer the chance to reflect and act upon her work.

Poses, 2011

What is the work? Why was it created? What did you learn while doing it?

The project that has had more visibility and span is Poses, in which I asked women of different sizes and ages go out on the street and adopt the same poses as the models in magazines, but within everyday contexts, thereby arousing the concern of passers-by. The aim was to make obvious the absurdity and the implicit violence embedded within some of those fashion poses. After launching the video, which went viral on YouTube (more than one million visits) and was spread by media from all around the world, I started receiving versions of anonymous women imitating the poses that they found in magazines and I thought that there was a huge potential there: working with the energy and creativity of other people.

In 2012 I launched a public invitation to imitate one of the poses of the new Chanel’s campaign and I received videos of women from all over the world. I edited the video Pose No. 5 with them. In 2013 I created the website www.strikethepose.org, an online platform where women and men can upload poses who seem absurd and humiliating and parody them. One of the best things that ever happened to me with the work is that the same platforms that usually publish these degrading fashion images I was criticizing (magazines, television etc.) also shared the video. And I think that’s where my message is really effective (the video of Poses was in the top ten best fashion videos in the world for ten weeks and was next to brands such as Dior and Lanvin).

What do you think of it now? How does it relate to your current work?

Ever since Poses I decided I should always collaborate with other people willing to participate in the project rather than sending my own one-way message. Every day I receive emails from men and women who want to take an active part in my actions and they even send me news, topics or issues they think I should tackle. In a way I have become a voice for them, a manager of people, creativity and common interests.

Kids vs. Fashion 2015

What is the work? Why was it created?

For this work I chose an existing and very popular format, “Kids react to…” in order to launch a different commentary. I always try to use new channels and languages that are likely to reach the most people and at the same time I’m very concerned about the ethical implications of everyday images. That’s why I tend to use the language of mass media in my projects so they can be seen and understood by the same people that usually consume those medias, which is where counter-messages make more sense.

In Kids vs. Fashion I wanted to analyse not only the pose but also the context and the underlying message beneath the image. Photographs are never just aesthetics, there is also an ethical responsibility of the brand and all the people involved in it. It seems that in recent years fashion editorials have become increasingly violent and humiliating towards women. They tend to normalise violence and associate negative values to femininity. The danger that lies within these images is that we are so used to them that we are not aware of the kind of messages they send. I wanted to contrast these images to the clean gaze of children to remind us adults how to read these images and realise their true message.

What would you tell your younger self about this work?

Keep looking for ways of communicating and connecting with people in new and different ways, and not to settle for the same traditional, already established channels.

As well as Yolanda Domínguez, Here 2016 speakers include artist Bob and Roberta Smith, design director of The New York Times Magazine Gail Bichler, and founding member of Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble, Joe Halligan.

We will also be welcoming creative director at MTV Richard Turley, illustrator Malika Favre and Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, art director and editor-in-chief of Apartamento magazine.

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