Objects
Rosa Pfluger

Transnational Student Collaboration

 

Lawrence Kyere, Ghana & Rosa Pfluger, Germany: Safety Suit

 

Working on an exhibition together with an unfamiliar partner from a foreign country: That was quite a challenge for both of us. During my studies, I did have the possibility to partake in several group exhibitions, but – contrary to my hopes and expectations – it was always more about organizing and curating than really collaborating and discussing creative or esthetic ideas with another artist.


Because of my fascination with crafts and design, I was very interested in working with someone who specializes in the applied arts. With the help of Ernst Wagner and the platform “Exploring Visual Cultures”, I got to know Prof. Osuanyi Essel, who teaches textile design at the University of Education in Winneba, Ghana. Prof. Essel called Lawrence, one of his students, told him about the project in Munich and asked him if he would like to join.


Lawrence was happy to work with a student from Germany, thus Prof. Essel introduced us via video call in May 2020. It was a bit clumsy at first, but since then, Lawrence and I have been in continuous contact.


At the beginning, Lawrence and I exchanged common interests. We realized that both of us reference their respective traditions in our work. The first idea was to blend traditional textile patterns like a collage, in order to develop new esthetics, for example traditional Bavarian embroidery applied on top of colourful designs made or collected by Lawrence. These ideas changed drastically when on May 25th George Floyd was murdered and demonstrations all over the USA – and in Munich as well – took place. Germany and Ghana both view themselves and are regarded as relatively safe countries. Still: The news headlines and the relentless images were impossible to escape from. It also changed Lawrence’ and my view on this project: George Floyd, being a black man like Lawrence, and me being white. Our collaboration felt even more relevant. Lawrence and I wanted to find a way to make our stand clear and to show our support for the protestors, in a defensive, peaceful way. Thus, the idea emerged to create a protective body suit. My contribution to this multipart project was going to be the sculptural shape, the “inside” of the body suit; Lawrence planned on designing the pattern for the textile coating. Because of the difficulties that might occur when sending packages from Ghana to Germany and vice versa, Lawrence decided to send his designs via email and had the printing done in Germany. It was important to both of us to talk about major decisions and ideas and to consider the other’s view even though we work in very different fields.


Even though this plan was fixed, Lawrence and I kept exchanging and discussing current events. Of course, Covid-19 and climate change were also big topics that are deeply affecting us. It felt natural to expand the idea of protection. Lawrence decided to design another pattern to raise awareness of the dangers of the virus and the according safety protocols. His openness to work with topics or images that might seem obvious or bold and to react quickly to current events was new to me and inspired me to approach things more directly, to cut to the chase instead of tiptoeing around it.


The resulting work “Safety Suit” is a mixture between Lawrence’s patterns, colors and designs and my preferred artistic approach to create a series of prototypes from makeshift materials. We don’t feel like this project is just a compromise between two independent strategies; each contribution can hold their own, but in the end, it is also more than what only one of us could have achieved. – Rosa Pfluger