Dutch-based independent design duo Pinar & Viola (aka Pinar Demirdag and Viola Renateare) are the creative minds behind Ecstatic Surface Design, a conceptual, hyper-detailed take on visual aesthetics that pushes contemporary imagery to glittering, overloaded extremes. In this exclusive interview, the pair talk political sex scandals, the concept of beauty and why Michael Jackson is the perfect Pinar & Viola pin-up.


LOGO: Talk us through your concept of Ecstatic Surface Design – what’s it all about?

P&V: It’s a new approach to design, consisting of hyper-detailed surfaces filled with colossal visual gestures, excessive embellishments and conceptual decorations – and sparkled with what we call “political glam”. Our creations are reflections of the contemporary, depicting today’s scandals, sensations, ambiguities and desires through an ecstatic visual narrative; our works are overloaded with information. By transposing, fusing and altering these contemporary concepts, we aim to subvert conventional compositions. We take the ornaments that bring joy to our everyday lives to the next level, treating decoration as our means of self-expression. We decorate our ecstatic surfaces with conceptual graphical elements, in order to make them sync with the overloaded contemporary visual culture.


Every year, we launch an autonomous surface collection that explores excessive events in politics, culture and economy. This is what we call the ‘haute-couture’ part of our practice. Next to that, we apply our creations in a more ready-to-wear line for clients.


LOGO: Out of everything you could have specialised in within the field of graphic design, what motivated you to concentrate on exploring surfaces specifically?

P&V: A surface is a skin that covers material as well as immaterial matter, so it can be seen as the facade of content. In a way, the facade can be seen as the appearance, while the content is the ‘soul’. In today’s media-controlled reality, we all need to take aesthetic responsibility for our appearance and self-design, because we’re all in competition for the viewer’s attention; surface has a crucial role in our totally designed reality.


LOGO: You talk about Ecstatic Surface Design as a new tendency – so are there more of you, or are you looking to recruit more people to the method? 

P&V: Yes, there are other people who have a similar approach to creation. Ecstatic Surface is an all-encompassing term we came up with to make it clear to our clients and the outside world what it is they’re staring at. We are transparent with our inspirations, points of interests and who we consider other Ecstatic designers – they are all reflected in our blog. Newcomers are more than welcome to be inspired by our work, but it’s not the central aim of our studio.


LOGO: You’ve made artwork that features famous names like Courtney Stodden and Brangelina – if you could pick one celeb to be the poster person for Ecstatic Surface Design, who would it be?

P&V: It we selected a poster celeb, he/she should change every year – or would be consistently synced with the desires of today, like fashion. However, if we had to choose a classic name, it would definitely be Michael Jackson. It may sound lame… but, he has been the central figure of making people come together around the idea of creating an utopian ideal of universal harmony, perfection and beauty. Also, his love for plastic surgery gives us the option of having another variation of Michael Jackson every time we use him in a design.


LOGO: Aesthetics and decoration are obviously a big feature in your work – what kinds of elements and objects do you find beautiful?

P&V: When we speak about beauty, we don’t mean harmonious refinement and grace – we’re a big fan of questionable beauty: the beauty that has a monstrous, sexy side. Our focus lies on finding unexpected beauty in the intense reality we live in; for example, in how people are able to reconcile differences and agreement with the help of a hashtag sign, or in the beauty of the ‘like’ button’ (i.e. the uncomfortable feeling of the comfortable action of pushing a ‘like’ button as a political act, and the effort of participating to an online petition).


LOGO: You talk a lot about the commercialisation of culture – is ecstatic surface design almost an anti-movement of that? Are you trying to disrupt the contemporary social status quo (and if so, why)? 

P&V: We have never said that we are anti culture-commercialization; it’s fun to work on commercial projects. We believe in variations, and believe we’ve found our own way of operating in the commercial sphere. Launching visual haute couture collections every year is a way to showcase our treasures to the world, where we are happy to apply our decadent visual skills and our critical futuristic vision on brands without compromising the quality of our work.


LOGO: When you talk about your ‘visual haute couture’ collections,  is that in reference to the high level of quality and construction that goes into them? 

P&V: Yes, that’s right. We’d like to bring back the dignity of ornamentation, craft and quality in the digital realm – without having the crippling weight of nostalgia. It’s also a way to distance ourselves from the default visual language emerging from the democratization of the design softwares and the latest tendencies in today’s post-internet culture. We’ve launched three collections so far: the Credit Card CollectionDiva Opaque – Anonymous Guardians of IntimacyScandal Aqua – Thrill Seekers Leaked and 4eva, a capsule collection love message service. We would like each collection to be a reflection of its year; similar to the approach that fashion designers have when they start thinking of the theme for their collection.


Tell us a bit about your 2013 Scandal Aqua – Thrill Seekers Leaked collection. What kind of themes inspired it?

The collection is a visual scenario inspired by the latest political sex scandals, and expresses the mediatization and tabloidization of politics through hyper-detailed collages. Pink beach towels display overly self-aware portraits of a fictitious politician, alongside a series of mirror self-shots of teen girls in their bathrooms, wrapped in these ecstatic pink towels. The portraits display the confusion about women’s sexual liberation and sexual objectification, fitting today’s casual attitude towards explicit sexual imagery – provoking the suggestion that political sex scandals seem to be the perfect fit for our highly sexualized culture and its constant flow of entertainment.


LOGO: And leading on from that, what can we expect from your next collection in 2013?

P&V: We can’t give any hints… we can just say that we’re currently working on it.

Interview: Charlotte McManus

About Charlotte McManus

Editor for and Freelance writer - The Creator's Project, SUPERSUPER!, Don't Panic, FAULT, Flux, Who's Jack & more.

Posted on 10/06/2013, in Art and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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