Radical graphic-design duo Pinar&Viola’s latest annual Ecstatic Surface Design Collection uses the unlikely medium of beach towels to join the dots between teen-pop merchandise and middle-aged politicians embroiled in career-imploding sexcapades. On the five €600–€750 towels which make up the collection (entitled Scandal Aqua – Thrill Seekers Leaked), excessive, hyper-detailed embellishments – Blingees, browser icons, Blackberry themes, kittens – surround a slickly handsome middleaged man in the various settings of Domestic Affairs, Global Affairs, Sustainable Affairs, International Affairs and Urban Affairs. There is an accompanying series of suggestive iPhone self-portraits of wet-haired teen girls wrapped in the towels, and a similar self-portrait of the mystery politician wearing nothing but a towel and a #CHARISMA necklace. Pinar Demirdag and Viola Renate’s latest work takes inspiration from popular culture to lambast the absurdity of contemporary society.
Pinar Demirdag: Our work is highly inspired by contemporary digital folk-art. Now we look at the computer window more than the windows in our house. Our website refers to little gif animations, kittens, lolcats, ‘Welcome to my homepage’, glitter, all the little decorations that make our daily lives more beautiful and joyful.
Viola Renate: In this digital age things tend to denaturalise. So instead of putting nice stickers and ribbons around pictures in my photo album, I make a nice frame around my picture on Instagram and share it... the folklore becomes digital.
PD: None of the elements in our towels are random – everything relates to the theme. Most of it is taken from the internet and attacked by us.
VR: We start with a low-res gif animation, and then enlarge it, zoom into the pixel, refine it, decorate it, make it more exciting. So we’re freezing an image that’s part of today’s whirlpool of images, then putting it on a pedestal.
PD: This collection is like the Google Image search of the climax moment of Berlusconi’s scandal, and now it’s frozen in a gallery!
VR: Our towels are for everyone and anyone. But when you buy the towel, you’re part of the scandal. PD: I like that everyone has a different reason for buying the towels. Like my aunt, this very elite, old respected Turkish lady, found the colours and kittens beautiful, and she fell for the handsomeness of the guy. She’s going to use it! Another collector bought one because he’d like to hang it on his wall, teenage girls want to buy it to pose like the girls in the pictures... It’s where folk meets elite, everyone comes together. The towels are meant to dry your freshly clean body right after a swim or bath, and when you wrap yourself around
this corrupted politician, it’s an irritating, sexual desire. I mean, he’s a very handsome man – I’m completely attracted and repulsed by his presence around my body!
VR: Yes, it’s that contrast – this guy with his fake smile and evil eyes surrounded with the pink teenage-dream elements. Our work is a delicate balance between irony, critique, passion and love. That’s why we put our handsome, corrupt politician with Blingee’s girly elements that allude to seduction and intimacy. PD: All the recent political sex-scandals inspired us, like the heart saying ‘hot’ – that was the first comment the girl made under a picture of Congressman Anthony Weiner on his Facebook profile, and the start of his scandal. The towel is a reoccurring element – pictures of Weiner wrapped in a towel were leaked, and another congressman, Chris Lee, sent a shirtless picture to a woman he met on Craigslist. VR: The teenage girls are inspired by Berlusconi’s parties with underage strippers. The photos are taken in bathrooms, where it’s intimate, pure, secure. When the girls cover their freshly showered bodies with the fan towel, corruption meets purity...
PD: For these teenage Tumblr girls, social media’s a podium to get closer to corrupted moral standards – like desiring something unobtainable and powerful, and the internet brings these politicians together with girls. The portraits of these girls seem intimate, but all the girls look the same, so in a way it’s really depersonalising.
VR: It’s the confusion between sexual liberation and sexual objectification.
PD: The beauty of contemporary politics is that people are trying to get back their freedom by using the ‘like’ button that we use to like our friends’ kids, but they’re using it in order for Arab Spring to spread. And thanks to the Twitter hashtag, people agree, disagree and share opinions, all in 140 characters.
VR: In the photos, the politician is wearing a necklace that says #CHARISMA and the teen girls are wearing necklaces with the “#” symbol. Maybe it’s because they admire him, maybe it’s a gift, maybe they’re part of an obscure club. It stays a mystery, but they’re showing they’re part of this loving fan-community.
PD: These sex scandals are trending topics now! We’re getting so used to this overdose of political scandal and sexual images around us that they become normal, casual.
VR: What’s the next step after political sex scandals on a towel? We’re always triggered by extreme events occurring and we aim to push these events even further into their ultimate ecstatic excess. So maybe the political sex-scandals will appear on your underwear, or on your bedsheets...
Taken from the November 2012 issue of Dazed & Confused