Dries Van Noten | Julian Kalinowski dresses dolls for Dries — Flaunt Magazine
There are very specific “miniature communities” online where people share the process of creating dolls, miniature furniture, and cooking small meals. What do you think of people’s fascination with reducing real life?
Jean Luc Godard had a great quote: ”Dead things are still alive. Living people are often already dead. I think artificial life in miniature can be more fulfilling than the boredom of “real life”. Dolls are a tool for the imagination. People can create dream living environments and experience a fabulous fantasy world even in a small apartment. They can buy stuff or do stuff as projects – it’s very fulfilling and kills time. Their dolls are their friends. You know, many dolls have stronger personalities than “real” people. Ask any doll collector this. It is a whole new “ideal of life”. It’s modern. It’s a “camp” idea, and as Susan Sontag wrote, “the eye of camp has the power to transform the experience.”
Sure, the dolls you create visually date back to a certain period, but so does your process. Where does this commitment to the period come from?
It’s the love of craftsmanship and that human touch. In the past, dolls made in factories were hand painted and finished by hand. Hand finishing gives a “soul” to even the most mundane objects. I base my process on how Bild Lilli dolls were made in Germany – that was the doll that Barbie was a copy of. Lilli was made of a kind of obsolete material called Tortolon. I use hard plastic. I design the dolls as a kind of ‘collage’ of existing dolls that I mix together. Bella’s Nancy mouth, Bild Lilli’s nose, Schwabinchen’s eyes and Caprice’s legs. Everything is very precisely referenced. Of course, when the dolls are made, these references are not important because the finished dolls become a thing in themselves. The plastic is spray painted as a base for airbrushing and painting. The hair is fixed under a screwed tab at the back of the head and fixed by hand. Or I get little wigs made.
Dressing and adorning them is a kind of “DIY”. Some things are made by very talented women that I work with – some things are found. I love accidents and I’m anti-perfectionist. If they look too “right” I put something “off” or it’s too boring. In the past, I loved to “dress up”, like all kinds of things – I called these looks my “disguises”. A lot of times I would dress as a ‘woman’, even though I didn’t really think of it that way – I was the one wearing women’s clothes. I never understood how a piece of clothing could really have a gender, logically. Although I understood, of course, that everyone seemed to do it. Women are always in the spotlight. Gay men are always in the spotlight too. They are both under the scrutiny of the male. But the distinction between this point of view is very different… It’s an object lesson for a man to know what it feels like to be SEEN as a woman. And I don’t mean as a woman on her ‘pedestal’. It’s an idea I’ve toyed with in the past. My dolls are often strange self-portraits that show my inner world.