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fig.: View into Thomas Baumann's studio in Vienna, Nov 2009. The artist, born 1967, has studied at the classes of Bruno Gironcoli and Max Melcher. On his website, Thomas Baumann publishes movies about his partly interactive works on movement, light and sound

'The Little and the Big Black'

Vienna Insight by Karin Sawetz, November 2009

A private view into the artist's space

It happens very rarely that I mix up my private and professional time. But on occasion of a (private) visit of an exhibition opening at the Belvedere, I met the Austrian artist Thomas Baumann. Three days later, he invited me and a friend to his studio. This was the beginning that my professional life started to be complicated. He had one sculpture - it's about the little black dress by Coco Chanel - that got my professional interest. It was hovering without gravity in the center of the studio.

In the following days I fixed the problem how to use a conversation with a person and photos I made during a private meeting for publishing the information legally for the users of Fashionoffice. Fortunately, Thomas Baumann and I have found a consensus which opens you now the sight onto his work and into his studio.

Question: When have you created the sculpture 'The Little and the Big Black’? Is it aluminium?

Thomas Baumann: I developed the idea in 2006/2007. In the beginning I wasn't sure to realise a piece with a deeper meaning that looks in the end so simple.

The balls are in stainless steel, polished with 2 engraved names.

Question: The 'Little and the Big Black' are standing for an idea? Two balls are silver – you can mirror yourself in them; what is black on them? What’s the idea behind the title of the sculpture?

Thomas Baumann: The idea was to initiate a process in the spectators’ mind - to connect the name and the person Coco Chanel with Martin Luther King, a kind of mind and meaning-marriage between 2 aspects related to a black story. The little black is known as a dress of Chanel; she also stands for the idea of emancipation of women - not only, but it’s present in her work. The civil rights movement from Martin Luther King was responsible for the right of black people to vote in the States - a big achievement. The aspect of mirror should describe that everybody should be part of democracy and humanism.

Question: Is it important for you, that the surface mirrors the recipient?

Thomas Baumann: Everybody is part of conscious processes. You can see yourself beside these two important persons of social history; the recipient gets confronted with their ideas. The nice surface also helps to touch the recipients’ meaning. It’s maybe a kind of camouflage to use a slick nice decorative surface for a much deeper meaning and attitude.

Thomas Baumann has donated one of his 'The Little and Big Black' sculptures to the charity of Francesca Habsburg for the association 'Unser_Kind' of the University Hospital for Children Surgery. The charity party 'DJ Battle' was held on 27 Nov 2009 at the new to-go-location in Vienna, the Ankerbrotfabrik.

On the internet, a famous quote by Coco Chanel is published on several websites: "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."

Through the last century, the world of fashion has generated symbols, an own language that is used in contemporary art; such as the little black dress by Coco Chanel. It seems as if Thomas Baumann wants to infuse the sculpture with a relational aspect; a model of set theory? Or has it a cynical meaning that political movements are adapted by the 'cocktail society' because from time to time it's chic to be political active and to have a social consciousness? It's up to you to reflect on Thomas Baumann's work in your own way!

In the catalogue 'Thomas Baumann - Balancing the Wrong and the True...' (published by Folio Verlag, 2008) the artist states: "Man wants to live a beautiful dream. In this, we're all the same: equally poor and equally rich, equally significant and equally insignificant. ... A wish for a model of society where the laws of gravity no longer apply."

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