Who is Willi Dorner, the street artist behind Jacquemus’s latest advertising campaign?

Article publié le 21 septembre 2016

Byline : Jessica Michault
Photos : Jacquemus Fall-Winter 2016 campaign by David Luraschi

For ten years this Austian artist has traveled the world with his ephemeral art installations. Willi Dorner creates urban artwork where the human form interacts with its urban surroundings in highly unexpected ways. This Fall he teamed up with Jacquemus for one of the most daring and innovating campaigns of the season.

Everyone who got the email in their inbox or saw the posts on designer Simon Porte Jacqumus’s instagram feed of his fall/winter 2016 advertising campaign immediately asked themselves the same question “who came up with this idea”.

The image, which featured pieces from Jacquemus’s current “La Reconstruction” collection, saw models posed on top, along and over one another like a living embodiment of Tetris. Nothing was distinct; everything fit and flowed together to create one significant sartorial statement.

As all great collaborations these days seem to happen, Jacqumus first spotted photographs of choreographer and artist Willi Dorner’s work online. He reached out using social media to find out who the mastermind was behind the images of colorfully clad people stuffed into the openings of buildings or wrapped around the trunk of a tree in a city park. As luck would have it a friend of Dorner’s daughter saw Jacqumus’s plea and connected the two creative spirits.

Truth be told the Austrian born Dorner has been traveling the world since 2007 performing his ephemeral “Bodies in Urban Spaces” project. Visual and visceral happenings that the artist creates in cityscapes that, by the introduction of human beings into the urban landscape in unexpected ways, forces those who view the temporary installations toreassess their surroundings and see them in a new light.

“We are all a group of people together, so there is no individuality in this campaign, and there is something very playful. I like that in Jacquemus there is no hierarchy,” said the designer about why he wanted to team up with Dorner this season.

Needing to know more, Antidote tracked down Dorner to find out just what make this unique artist tick.

« Bodies in Urban Spaces », Willi Dorner
Photo : Lisa Rastl

What was it like working with Simon on this project?
He was really clear about what he wanted. Which was a situation that was very similar to what we do with “Bodies in Urban Spaces” and we did two different moments of sculptures. One was a bigger one, with more models, and one was smaller. And we both liked the smaller one, which is what ended up being the final image. We did it all in one afternoon.

You have been doing “Bodies in Urban Spaces” for almost a decade now. How did this idea first come to you?
I work a lot with body and space and how we can perceive things through space in general and in specific spaces too. Originally I was invited to do a residency in a new built building in Vienna before people had moved into it. So I worked in these empty flats and one of the ideas was, for example, how many people could fit into a bathroom, or a kitchen or a living room. Le Corbusier and the modular system, which is the relationship between the average European man and where he lives, inspired me. It was this idea that we use the size of an average European man to come up with the standard height of a doorway, the height of a ceiling, the width of a window and so on.

Eventually I was able to work inside apartments where people had already moved in. For me it was like almost a shock, after working in those same apartments when they were empty, to see how much people had crammed into them. So that brought me to this idea of looking at the in between spaces, focusing on the places that were left. And then I started to fill those spaces with bodies.

From right to left : Jacquemus Fall-Winter 2016 campaign by David Luraschi, « Bodies in Urban Spaces » by Willi Dorner

So that idea of filling them with bodies, was that to force people to see their space in a new way?
To make people aware of the size of the space. The size of the space that is left for us – for living, for moving. But the big step happened in Barcelona when I was invited to talk there about my site specific work. There they gave me carte blanche to develop a new concept and that is when I first transferred the idea to the outdoor spaces and finding those spaces in between that are outside. Then I realized that I really wanted to focus on marginal spaces and then the work became quite political, in a way. Nothing is improvised. Everything is very much planned out and the position of each body is precise and clearly defined.

How do you find the people who perform your pieces? Do they have to have any physical attributes?
When I started I was always looking for dancers. But then I realized, the longer I did it, that it would be good to have some climbers, free runners, parkour and circus people. But climbers and parkour people ended up being quite difficult because they have a hard time working in groups and it really is a group effort to create these pieces.

The people who create your work are always covered in brightly colored sweat suits with their faced obscured by their hoodies. What is the thinking behind that?
Buildings are brown, gray, black – lots of dark colors. And I wanted the team to create a very strong contrast to that. But at the same time, the reason for the hoodies, is because I don’t want them to show their faces. There are even moments when I have them use their arms to cover their faces even more it if is possible. Because it is not about the identity, it is about the anonymous and the anonymity. That is what I want these pieces to show. We are, in these big metropolitan areas, we are all anonymous bodies.

How long do the performers stay in one position?
It really depends on the position. There are some pieces that are very  difficult and they can only maintain it for a minute. But ideally they stay three to four minutes before they run off to the next place. It also depends on how big the audience is. When we have a very big audience it gets very interesting. What happens then is the audience begins to block the traffic, like when over a thousand people start to walk they can’t all walk on the sidewalk. They flow into the street so then become part of the piece, in a way. And they decide what is happening. Red lights or green lights, it doesn’t matter when you have that many people. They are in charge. I like it very much when this happens.

Talking about the public, what is the strangest reaction you have ever gotten to one of your performances?
There have been people who tried to pull down the performers. Or they come up to one of the performers and touched them very carefully because they were not sure if he was alive or dead, or a puppet. But usually the first reaction is – “I have to take a photo”. I love it when people take the time and don’t get too close to the performers. That they step back and look at them within the bigger context of the building and the urban area around the bodies.

I know you have performed “Bodies in Urban Places” around the world but is there anywhere you would still like to explore with your work ?
I would like to take it to India. This would be very interesting. Its urban spaces are so dense with people it would be a unique challenge.

« Bodies in Urban Spaces », Willi Dorner
Photo : Lisa Rastl

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