Diesel + Edun Studio Africa x Dazed & Confused: See Saw by Margot Bowman | London

You'd be forgiven for getting lost in the number of collaborations going on at Diesel Village last week. It was a meeting of great minds indeed. It all started with the Diesel + Edun; Diesel founder Renzo Rosso and Edun founders Ali Hewson and Bono joined forces with a shared love of the Africa. They produced a 25-strong denim collection for Spring Summer 2013 informed by and manufactured entirely in Africa, a box-fresh take on a place often overlooked in fashion.

That produced the Studio Africa Project, a spotlight to showcase seven highly talented designers, musicians and writers from the region. Enter artist, designer and creative director Margot Bowman; the South African who grew up in London runs Esthetica and has dressed the likes of Rita Ora. She worked with these creatives to make a series of art that was launched at a party with Dazed & Confused magazine and agency Margaret last week. Got that? Good.

In true 21st century style, I was Intagramming the whole thing for Dazed, but I got to talk to Bowman about the exhibition. The works capture and celebrates the spirit of the Diesel Studio Africa Venture in all its collaborative and forward thinking spirit. There are three basic principles mashed together: technology and the human experience; the international language of creativity; and the often-overlooked continent of Africa. Here is her take...

"The project is called See Saw, and it aims to create empathy between people. Using digital technology to create empathy is the opposite of what it normally. Most of the digital tools that we use are quite driven towards a narcissistic sort of behaviour, and I wanted to do something that was like the inverse of that. 

The posters are all really visceral, I think they’re really tactile. It’s all mixed media. I was using ink and paint and working with them digitally, and I hope that they’re really visceral works; you look at them and you don’t even know what it is, and you go closer, and you have a reaction to it. On each of the posters there’s an abstract or quite emotive line. There’s a narrative in that, and it relates to the video, which you can access through scanning the QR code that’s on the poster, and basically I asked everyone who was part of the Studio Africa campaign to make a video of where real and magic could be in their world, and the posters are inspired by their videos. 
It’s this idea that there is a sense of magic in the world that we can all relate to, it’s not really religious, it’s just kind of like a spiritual thing; and if we all acknowledge that we are inspired and touched by the same things, then I think we can find common ground. I think we all feel quite different from each other, and quite isolated. I never feel more lonely than when I’ve been on Facebook; it’s not system-specific, but I just think it’s something about watching other people and not taking part, being like a passive person. I kind of wanted to go against all of that, and show that like, you can have a really visceral response to something, like a poster, and connect with what it’s saying.
Be part of the narrative; and then, see what someone who lives on, like, the other side of the world, what is important to her, and where real and magic could be in her world, and empathise with it. With the mobile side of it that we are taking to it, when you scan the barcode, you navigate through rotating your phone, and that was really important, because I didn’t want it to be a passive digital experience. Like fucking scrolling man! Scrolling isn’t touching! Everybody on the bus is scrolling, and I just wanted to do something that was a little bit more interactive, like, you have to rotate your phone! It’s not a big deal, but you have to do it, so you move with the content. There’s a couple of pages that build on the narrative that’s developed in the poster. Then there’s the video which encapsulates it, and then there’s a final page about who made the video, and where it’s made, and some really factual stuff to counteract the abstract text that’s gone. 

I feel like we’re moving into this time of people being quite spiritual and kind of hippy, but in a power, digital way. Iinteract that; because everyone’s fucking lost. Noone’s got the answer, and everyone’s looking for it. It talks about it with the exhibition, but our parents don’t have Twitter, they don’t get it, and the government just seems really out of touch with what we’re doing. I feel really international; I know I live in London and stuff, but I don’t really feel like contained by that, and I’m not religious, so, it’s like I’m looking to technology, or I’m just looking on the internet for like, “what’s going on?” and, “why am I doing this?”, “what should I do next?”. Looking to technology is really understandable for our generation, but the same time, it might not be the right answer to look at technology in the form that it is at the moment.

We control technology. It’s a Catch 22 when you personify technology, like it’s something that’s controlled by people, and we are the people that control it, and we can do whatever we like with it. I think that we’re going to change, and the technology we’re going to make is going to change. There’s a lot of a short term gain that’s going on; it feels good when you go on whatever social media site it is you care to mention, and you’ve got a “like” or whatever. That feels really good, but then afterwards it doesn’t feel good, and then you’re chasing that high. We just need to be more critical; it’s like, you always look when you cross a road, and we need to start doing that with technology, questioning it, having an opinion. It’s really complicated and people don’t have an opinion on it, and it’s like, how the fuck does your phone work? You’re like, oh, whatever it does, it’s fine. We need to question things; is this a good idea for me? Is this what I should be doing? Do I want to login with Facebook or should I just go on this site? 

The Studio Africa Project a really cool thing. What I really like about it is that it acknowledges complexity. People are actually different, and there’s some really fucking cool shit happening in a place that you didn't think there was anything cool happening, and it’s a fresh look, and an honest look, at something that is amazing, and I think by showing the continent of Africa, and the people that are involved in it as real people. They’re bloggers, they’re stylists, they’re photographers, you can relate to them like you can give them empathy, you make them more, like, more relatable, and it’s not like this facade of like safari or slum, which you can’t connect to. Because it’s like, I’m not a lion! And I live in a building with walls, so both of those scenarios I can't relate to at all, so, why would I care about it? If you can't connect to something you can't give a shit about it. And what I think is really great about this is, it's like, “yeah! They have Tumblr too!”"

A big thanks to Margot for her time! 

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