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Erik Bergrin

Costume with artistic ambition by the young New Yorker

Erik Bergrin taught himself to sew, to make clothes and to create art. Originally from New Jersey, he now resides in New York where he makes conceptual pieces that revolve around personal experience. Keen to bring his knowledge of clothes from his past jobs (producing foam mascots and costumes for Broadway) into his work, he has a tendency to construct pieces that cross over from fashion to costume to art. A labour-intensive range of KKK-shaped hoods embroidered with potent cultural symbols – like the phrase 'thug life' on a gang inspired hood and, on another, fast food emblems.

His most recent work discusses the effects of images and travel on experience; hundreds of 35mm slides showing exotic locations and canonical art were sewn onto a robe that is suspended from the ceiling and is topped with a satellite dish and mask. Viewers interact with the piece by stepping inside the slide-covered coat (without fully appreciating the slides' images) and are faced with the mask that gazes onto to the point of the piece: a blank slide. Dazed Digital spoke to Bergrin about his work, sewing and cocoons.

DD: Tell us about the hoods...
Erik Bergrin: The whole idea behind the hoods was that people hide behind masks because of being in pain. Embroidery is 100s and 100s of needle punctures, which is supposed to reflect the pain.

DD: What else inspired you... for example, where did the slides robe come from?
Erik Bergrin: I came up with the idea after travelling to Cambodia last year. When on display, the shoulders will suspended it and you will be able to enter the robe, stick your head through the satellite dish and look through the mask and see a mini satellite dish on the ceiling, in which a slide will be inside, but it will be blank. I look through photos to get inspired but never actually experience anything. The body of the robe is art slides, taken from the Whitney, and the tail end is slides from vacations. When you step into the robe you will think from all these wonderful photos that you look through the mask and see the point of it all. But, it will be blank. Hopefully it mimics the idea that you are not actually experiencing anything.

DD: What are you working on at the moment?
Erik Bergrin: I am making a full body cocoon. The bottom to the waist is an embroidered brick wall and from the head down to the middle there are different colors of yarn that resembles drips of feeling. The cocoon is supposed to be a safe and familiar place that you go to shield yourself off from the outside. That minute you are talking to someone and you say something that makes them shut down – they put up a brick wall  – this is what the cocoon is: a safe familiar place that is really suffocating us from having an open mind and heart. 

Photography Steven Chu and Eva Mueller