AMIE DICKE TALKS TO ANA FINEL HONIGMAN, 2007
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN: Is your work critical or fashion or do you admire it?
AMIE DICKE: I love fashion and love leafing through the pages, but at the same time it gives me an empty feeling. The ambiguity starts with buying the magazine. By cutting away, I tried to look for the deeper meaning (a truth) behind these images. Looking for the shadow side. The voids I created gave me a place to insert my own questions and feelings as an artist. A void is maybe never empty. It contains more than my imagination.
AFH: Have you always had a strong imaginative relationship with fashion?
AD: Magazines were always there when I was young. My parents bought both fashion magazines and design / architecture magazines. So I was surrounded with magazines. In my early teens I plastered the walls of my room with fashion pages. Like a big collage. Even my door was covered. More images of girls than boys. I often made collages as a child. Nowadays, I still use magazines for gift-paper and like a sketchbook.
AFH: When did you begin critically appropriating fashion images or producing work questioning beauty standards?
AD: It all started with a series of sculptures I made just before I graduated from art school. In that period I started to explore the position of women in everyday life, and the way they perceive themselves in relation to their appearance in public life. While trying to position myself both as an artist and as a woman, I observed other women. I was looking for a personal style or unique attitude or stance and, quite literally, tried to obtain one by studying the positions and shapes of the female body.
AFH: When you say ‘the female body’ is there a specific body or body-type are you referring to?
AD: I actually decided to use my own body to express this search for a distinguishable position. Like a statue, I made a pressing of my legs from crotch to foot in marzipan coated with icing. The soft substance echoed the negative curves of my body. The sculptures were smoothly molded and resulted in conical pillars of sugar, one broad and the other narrow. The latter one is veiled in deep pink icing. The broad one stands astride, luxuriating in the sugary substance of honey-like transparency that slides down its thigh. The two sculptures are entitled ‘How sweet is the space between my legs’.
AFH: So they were sort of a mixture of Rachel Whiteread and Felix Gonzales Torres? What was the lifespan of that piece?
AD: The sculptures proved to be more fragile than I expected them to be. I was promised by the baker who helped me prepare this project that the sugar would probably last for several years. But as soon as they were finished, the marzipan surface started to split and fall apart. During an exhibition the sculptures actually began to melt, and the colors blurred. The next year I remade them for an exhibition at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum (‘Soft Spots’, 2002). And this time they were damaged by visitors who couldn’t believe the description of the material on the title-board and left their fingerprint or nail-imprint as they tried to find out whether it was marzipan or not.
AFH: In retrospect, would you consider the obvious decay as adding an addition meaning to the work?
AD: Apparently, decay is a process to which my sculptures are prone. They are in a state of constant deterioration, through sagging and cracking. The discovery of these deformities provided me with a whole new perspective: the un-containable beauty. I am fascinated by the contrast between the “perfect beauty” as shown in magazines and on billboards and the inevitability of decline. Perhaps it’s the certainty of decay that makes beauty so appealing. My attempt to position myself permanently proved to be an illusion. The sculpture of the space between my legs is now nothing but a memory. Femininity, it seems, is not static and cannot be captured forever.
AFH: Is your observation that femininity is not static why you decided to begin working with fashion, since fashion’s rabidly shifting seasons and styles means it is in a perpetual state of transformation?
AD: I actually starting working with fashion images for more personal reasons. One year after my graduation a starters grant enabled me to spend six months in New York, where I found myself surrounded by the world of fashion and glamour. Walking around in a foreign environment, unable to find work, having difficulty making friends I found myself oddly susceptible to the advertisements of big fashion brands. On buildings, metro-stops, I saw them everywhere. Glowing lips and shining eyes tempting me. Like they were saying ‘All your dreams will come true, just insert personality here.’ I started to project my loneliness on the city where the most familiar faces were those of the supermodels on the buildings and in the magazines. While looking at the glossy pictures in the magazines I started to draw black lines on the faces and bodies of the women using a pen. By adding flowing lines of black ink I covered the original colors and other compositional elements. After that I took a precision knife and removed the space between the lines – the fashion, the jewellery, parts of the faces and bodies. What remains are fragile figures existing in a gossamer-thin web of contours. This way I erased the graceful positions and self-confident looks of the models.
AFH: Why do you work with high fashion, instead of mass media imagery for more mass-market produces like Hanes for Her or Gilette?
AD: The gloss and glamour is appealing, but most of all it is the aesthetics of the ‘high’ fashion. I prefer to see the beauty and drama of the haute couture, then the general advertising. It has something to do with decadence. I am working on a body of works with the title ‘this Decadence has lost its relevance’.
AFH: How do you choose which specific images to appropriate?
AD: It is an intuitive choice. I am already working on the image before I really realize why. I tear the page out of the magazine always a little too enthusiastically and always end up with a rough edge. When I made the cutouts I did have a few preferences for the image. For instance, the nostrils were important, mostly the head of the model is turned a little backwards, an arrogant look. Looking down at us.
The critique has always been towards myself never directly towards the industry. It seems almost too easy to blame the so-called big power houses – fashion and advertising. This imagery is based on everyone’s basic reaction towards beauty, seduction. It’s very appealing and at the same time superficial. I prefer the word shallow. Skin deep. Sometimes, you have to explore the surface to be able to go deep. As Georges Bataille says, ‘Truth only has one face, that of a violent contradiction.’