“I wear ordinary, worn-out or used clothes, precisely because they are comfortable and cheap by default”

June 25th, 2017

Do we need to develop an interest in clothes if we have a solitary job? I walked in three artists’ studios and spoke with another one over the Internet to see how they work and what kind of working clothes they choose to wear.

*

Teodor Graur lives and works in Bucharest, Romania. His work includes performance, photography, sculpture, painting and installation. For the last years, the artist has focused on a series of objects comprising a “museum” that is equally nostalgic and ironic.

I spoke to him in his studio and he wanted to release this content as an interview.

What does the verb „to wear” mean for you?

For me, the verb “to wear” means to use. In the studio, an artist usually works in his “working” clothes, and the garments I use serve to provide the comfort needed to concentrate, to focus on a particular task. Also, I use clothes and accessories as protective equipment – helmets, glasses, gloves, aprons, jumpsuits, etc.

What kind of clothes do you wear when you go to work?

I wear ordinary, worn-out or used clothes, precisely because they are comfortable and cheap by default. Let’s not forget that an artist works mostly in solitude, without an audience and without witnesses. We have no reason to dress to impress.

An exception to this rule would be the traditional costume (the large shirt and beret worn by painters) used by some artists to play a role in which fantasy can be, let’s say, a mobilizing factor. Let’s recall Salvador Dali – the last surrealist, as he named himself – playing his own character in a continuous performance. He often appeared in front of the audience in a tuxedo, with his well-known silver cane, sporting his famous mustaches and other accessories used in the surrealist aesthetics, obviously. In his case, we cannot talk about “working clothes,” that’s clear. But it would seem that it actually confirms the idea – shared by many – that “the coat makes a man” .

Do you think there is a dress code in your field of work?

At the moment, I do not think there is a specific aesthetic for the artists. You can not recognize an artist by the way he dresses (like a social category). If we refer to the garment issue in general, I think the reason for choosing a certain outfit would be to look for an edge, anything that could enhance our physical qualities, our knowledge or our need for showing off. Thus, this discussion depends on gender, age, education, and other criteria.

Obviously, we can create a public figure, a representative suit, with the help of clothes. Consequently, to other people (provided they can decode the signs) we will be: a schoolgirl, a corporate employee, a secretary, a banker, a plumber, a nun… I mean, without actually being one.

I think there are clothes that give you personality, style or clothes that turn you into a character. All of them would seem interesting to me if I could get out of the routine of my comfortable outfit that I have been adopting since my youth: short American denim jackets with metal buttons, vests with many pockets, jeans and sports shoes.

Do you remember the changes you’ve had over time regarding your style? What criteria did you use to change your clothes?

I haven’t really changed my style over the years. I think I’ve always worn tight jackets because they are suitable for driving (I’ve been a driver and a biker for so many years) and the blue jeans are already a trademark of my generation.

I’d like to take the time to give due credit to jeans, a clothing item that we used to long for during my childhood: they probably originated in the western films that were broadcast back then (and were popular in the 60’s). The young hippies of the Flower-Power movement adopted blue jeans as the main piece of nonconformist clothing, and the skirts accentuated this expression.

The jeans are the typical example of a bold style to me. Under the Communist regime, they were the object of an embargo and a clandestine trade, more or less, in all Eastern European countries. During the 80s, I remember I could only buy them from the western “Free Shop” stores, strictly controlled by the authorities.

I remember my first pair of jeans well and what I had to go through to get them. I also remember the special feeling I experienced when I wore them for the first time, a feeling totally different from what I got from our usual clothes. It felt like they merged with your skin.

At that time, we were dealing with the problem of large-scale counterfeiting and so we were only looking  for “originals”, and they were expensive. When I finally found a pair, I wore them until they came apart.

Over the years, this product has undergone many changes, shaped by fashion trends (from one decade to another), new fabrics emerged, new shapes and colors, but the original concept – which appealed to us from the very beginning – has remained unchanged for me, as well as my personal context around it.

I also noticed that in luxury shops you can now find first-rate goods, already deeply worn: the clothes are perforated, with cuts, tears and stains, giving you the impression that they have survived a cataclysm, which makes them more of an actor’s costume. This evolution of jeans and clothes does not alter my generation’s feeling about the initial concept of them, quite the contrary.

Photo credit: Bogdan Ioniță.