Zoltar's Wunderland

Nike Commissions Zoltar to Create a Wunderland for Frieze and Art Basel Miami.

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Wunderland is the vision of Dan Macmillan and Keiron Livingstone, the masterminds behind the art and design collective Zoltar. Having worked with a variety of different mediums, including video, fashion, sculpture, and illustration, they were most recently commissioned by Nike to create a series of sculptures and illustrations based on the idea of a fantastical parallel universe in which Nike is featured as a guiding mythological image within the society. It was presented to the public in conjunction with London’s Frieze Art Fair, in the form of a weeklong installation at the Georgian Society’s headquarters on Fitzroy Square.

The project was such a success for Zoltar and Nike that they have decided to reinstall it at Art Basel Miami (Dec.4-7), at a yet undisclosed location. In the future the artworks will also be on display at the Nike headquarters in London.

Dazed Digital: Can you describe the concept of Wunderland?
Keiron Livingstone: Wunderland is this quasi-classical civilization with its cult appeal and monuments to the great classics the Airforce One, the Air Jordan 4 and 5 and the Air Max90. These are the classics of project Zoltar’s childhood, nostalgic and destined to survive the winds of time. Like the Corinthian column and the triumphal arch these cultural landmarks outlast their civilization. With almost religious devotion the sculpted form of the sneaker becomes animal, human and an object of worship and adoration. This is Wunderland: a state of mind and a place that transcends time.

DD: There are obviously a lot of different components to the concept, which are sort of fused in your execution? There are simultaneously many nods to Alice in Wonderland, Greek mythology and its modern interpretations, biblical apocalypse, as well as Georgian values and illustration.  Can you explain a bit about how these ideas developed and formed?
Dan MacMillan: The idea started with Alice in Wonderland. But we sort of took the idea and then took Alice out of it.  We wanted to focus on the wonderland because it was more interesting for us in terms of our research. Most of our work is quite historical, so we went back to looking at Nike, the winged goddess of victory in Greek and Roman civilization. We chose to expand on that to make the actual sneaker characters, with Nike sneakers as their faces, into monuments from some lost civilization. So the idea is that these are iconographic things that will stand the test of time.

DD: Well I guess as they are made of polystyrene, they just might…
KL: That was the thing. We used Piranesi and a lot of 18th century architectural artists who use this idea of collapsing civilization as the core of their work: Piranesi especially… and Joseph Gandy. Basically, we’ve always channeled into English history with the idea of updating it and making it relevant to now. While Piranesi is Italian, it seemed quite relevant to the current political climate in London, with the credit crunch etc. Basically, with the collapse of civilization, Nike is living on whether you like it or not.

DD: How did Nike respond to the depiction of their product at the center of a crumbling civilization?
KL: They loved it. In 2002 we used to have a shop, and we had done an exhibition using a lot of corporate imagery…
DM: But this time we were trying to make it more positive. Because they are such iconic things, partly from our childhoods but also from more general culture that they have really transcended beyond sportswear, that people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds wear them. It is almost like a sort of fanatical devotion towards certain sneakers that have become completely iconographic of an era, and therefore transcendent of it.
KL: And the fact that they are using neoclassical iconography, the association with classical architecture seemed self-evident.
DM: But even to make it sight specific, when you see the beautiful Cornice and all of the white architectural details and sculptures and such, it almost looks like a pair of spanking new sneakers. They are almost architectural.   

DD: Obviously you have invested a great deal in your historical research.  Why was the Georgian period key for you?
KL: We’ve kind of gone backwards in time, as before our work was much more Victorian. Now we are much more Georgian, a bit more me lady-ish. It's really much more decadent. Piranesi did portraiture of wealthy families, but he was much more interested in creating these completely fantastical scenarios and exploring the art and architecture of the Romans. Its all about the civilization and collapse, so it is almost like now, then.
DM: They were looking back into history as a reference point. The Victorians really changed things, because they were much more straight-laced and dour…
KL: Yeah, Terrible. Now we are coming out the other end, with the Internet, space exploration, and nanotechnology.  Morally things were moving on in the Georgian period, and people were a bit more free and revolutionary. So it was quite a bit like the 20th century, but that all came to an end with the Victorians…

DD: 6 Fitzroy Square was such a perfect space for your work to be displayed.  How do you envision it working in a presumably much more modern space in Miami? 
DM:  We have always been interested in recontextualizing our work; especially when it is sight specific, you can really see it change and evolve. I think it is going to be interesting to put it in the sunshine where you can see everything, as opposed to the shadows of a gloomy Georgian square in London. I am looking forward to seeing it amongst the palm trees. I think the colours will really show.


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