WDE Spotlight: Angel-Rose Oedit Doebé
In the series WDE Spotlight, we give the floor to various designers of the Embassies. This time we speak with Angel-Rose Oedit Doebé who contributes to the Embassy of Inclusive Society. What is her background? What inspires her? What does she hope to achieve? You can read it in this Q&A!
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background, and your design practice?
Hi! I’m Angel Rose. I studied Fine Arts at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU). I see myself as a visual artist who works with photography. My work has actually always been involved with society.
I work from the concept of The Angel-Rose coloured glasses. This is actually a mix of camp, folk culture and activism. And within that mix, I talk about marginalisation and make fun of it. I want to make it clear how unfair it is how some people are treated.
Your project, The world of The Angel-Rose coloured glasses, is part of the Embassy of Inclusive Society during Dutch Design Week. What can you tell us about this project?
The Angel-Rose coloured glasses is my graduation project. It is an installation with an accompanying photo series. The project’s title is a combination of, of course, my first name ‘Angel-Rose’ and ‘coloured glasses’. The latter refers to the ‘rose-coloured glasses’, seeing something in a more romantic light than it really is.
I am often told that my emotions are not valid. For example, when I express myself about marginalisation or tell them, it’s not okay how I’m treated sometimes. Of course, I’m not the only one who has experienced this, so I wanted to express myself about that inequality. I started researching during my studies how I could do this in my own way and in a sharp way. I was able to develop The Angel-Rose coloured glasses over two years to where it is today. It’s almost a satire for marginalisation, with which I want to reclaim this story and my place in that society. I am talking about the white and western society, which was not made for me. I want to create work that connects because that connection is very important to me. That’s why I wanted to build a world that makes people part of the work, rather than just a viewer.
You can see two parts of the installation at DDW. A photo panel, Twinning is winning, and a mirror, I hope I have the confidence of a mediocre white guy today. Twinning is winning makes people part of a representation that is about shortcomings. At the same time, it’s a double play: I want people to be aware of what it means for your position in society if you add your head to a brown, fat body. I wonder if people have that realisation. I want to test and try people on their intellect. My work may look stupid and naive, but it actually has a lot of intelligence; that’s what I’m playing with.
‘I hope I have the confidence of a mediocre white guy today’ is a mirror. I often work with mirrors that have certain statements written on them because my work is about self-reflection on privilege and marginalisation. If you look in that mirror with text on it, it means something different for everyone. I write the words by hand because I want to claim a humane place in that plastic, western culture; imperfection in that fake world. The text “I hope I have the confidence of a mediocre white guy today” refers to the sacrificial point of privilege. People with the most privilege sometimes have the most arrogance. I just can’t understand that. And I’m not the only one.
Can you explain how your project relates to the story of this Embassy?
I think the Embassy is very much about telling stories that go unseen. That is in line with my work. In fact, I’m trying to create a world where people can share their stories and come together. To not feel alone. And the reason I use myself in my own work isn’t that I think I’m so great, but because you don’t see many people like me in society, whether it’s because of my looks, physique, or skin colour. By using myself, someone else can also see themselves. When you make a good self-portrait, the viewer sees themselves and not you. If someone feels less alone by looking at my work, then my goal has been achieved. And I think everyone in this Embassy just wants to share a story that deserves more light, which is true of mine and many others. The Embassy is about coming together and becoming one, and that matches.
You have done many projects around inclusivity. Why did you decide to deal with this theme?
I think that actually happened consciously or unconsciously because of my own position in society, I was actually drawn into that theme. It is about being seen, and not only myself but many others are not seen. I want to tell a story with and for those people. I want to show a more realistic picture of the world, an image that we are entitled to, as humans. It has not actually been a choice to talk about inclusivity. I just feel a certain responsibility from my position to speak out about inequality. I express myself through my work and art.
What kind of design/project would you like to realise in the future and why?
In the near future, I will focus on Hindu, Indian and Desi cultures. I won an award, the Keep an Eye Photography Stipendium, and submitted an annual plan to delve deeper into those cultures. This stems from the love/hate relationship I have with my own roots. I think that’s because of the unfamiliarity I have with it, and I just want to share with the world a certain representation about my own roots that also hasn’t been told. Not in the way I would like to see it myself. In particular about women in an LGBTIQ+ community within these communities. I’ll be creating it next year. What I would love to do even more is be involved in the art direction for larger installations or stage performances. I’d think that’s really cool too. I would also like to get more into fashion. Not as a designer but more about the concept. My goal as an artist is not to have one form, so I would like to develop that further. So do more research into textiles, fashion, installations and spatial work.
Can you name another interesting designer who deals with the same subject, and why is his/her work so strong in your eyes?
I can immediately think of someone, admittedly not a designer but a visual artist. What I try to do with my work is tell stories that deserve a stage. To help me, I have used and studied the work of Raquel van Haver endlessly. I’ve been a huge fan of her work since the beginning. The materialising and theoretical research, how far she goes to dig into the roots of her work and then also manages to visualise that, that is phenomenal. Her work is beautiful. It’s raw, authentic, real, sincere and narrative. There is so much going on in the scenes, people and textures that she uses in her work. Everything has content and a story, whether it’s the technique or the materials she uses. It’s just so personal, great, beautiful work.
How do you think you can make an impact with your work?
That’s a tricky one for me. I know from reactions that my work affects people a lot. It is there, and people have an opinion about it. Not everyone finds my work equally beautiful or cool, but many people think it is very beautiful and are happy to see themselves in my work. It is revealing and has a certain humour and brutality that some people can appreciate. I find it difficult to say this about my own work, but others tell me it has that impact. People often feel more seen through my work. It gives them a certain peace. I think that is the biggest compliment you can get as an artist, that your work evokes something and that people feel more seen through the work.
Who would you choose and why if you could choose any person to work with (a scientist, artist, philosopher, biologist, designer, politician, anyone)?
I am a huge fan of fashion designer Fong Leng. I think she’s a fascinating woman, and many people don’t know what she meant for the Dutch art and fashion world. I saw her once in real life, and the aura that surrounds her, it’s fascinating, and it scares me in the best way you can imagine. I think she is a huge pioneer for women of colour in the Netherlands and certainly within the art world. As an artist, I owe a lot to hard workers like Fong Leng.
Which company would you like to work for or with on a project? And what kind of project would that be?
I would then choose Maison the Faux; I would like to work with them for, for example, stage design or performance. Create a set design together, or come up with the concept for it. I think my strong visualisation of colours and materials could work well with their vision. I think we both have a kind of camp aesthetic in our own way. And they don’t just do fashion. They do a lot more by stepping out of their comfort zone and trying different forms of creativity. So I think we would be a very good match!