Monday, May 18, 2009

Jacqueline Hassink: Creator of Car Girls

Exhibition of J.H in the Netherlands

"Car Girls" Photography Collection by Jacqueline Hassink

Jacqueline Hassink is the creator of several signature art compilations including: "The Table of Power” published by Menno van de Koppel, (Amsterdam), 1000 copies, February 1996. “Female Power Stations: Queen Bees”, published by Menno van de Koppel Amsterdam, 2200 copies, October 1999. “The Table of Power” (reprint) published by Menno van de Koppel, (Amsterdam), 1500 copies, September 2000. “Mindscapes” published by Birkhäuser Verlag (Basel), 3000 copies, 1 March 2003.“The Power Book", published by Chris Boot Ltd. (London), 3000 copies, October 2007.“Domains of Influence”, published by I.B. Tauris (London), 2000 copies, June 2008.“Quarry Walls”,(New York), 10 copies, July 2008. "Car Girls" (luxury edition), published by Aperture, 1500 copies, April 2009. "Car Girls" (travel edition), published by Aperture, 7500 copies, September 2009. Today she spoke with me about her latest artistic exploration and publication, Car Girls. It is as one writer puts it a “huge economic matrix that is otherwise invisible; the car girls are a visual manifestation of all these marketing and branding strategies…”

What inspired you to create the amazing photo collection, Car Girls?

A major part of my work is about economic power and I started my career with the project The Table of Power in 1993. I photographed board room tables of Europe's largest multinationals. In 2001, I befriended a woman who worked for Fortune Magazine and she said, “If you really want to learn about the Japanese economy, you have to visit the car show in Tokyo.”

Did you immediately start taking pictures there?

No. The difference between a journalist and an artist is an artist only takes a camera with him or her if there is a clear idea. When I first went there I didn’t have my camera. I just watched everything. The car industry at the time was one of the richest and most powerful in the world. The sky was the limit…the way the car girls were dressed, the music…it was such a sight. I was fascinated by these car girls. Every brand had a different type of car girl and that’s how the idea started.

Do you mean a different car meant a different type of woman?

This was like eight years ago. There’s a German brand called Volkswagen and they had this tall, blond, Russian girl and she looked like a prima Donna and she had this sophisticated look and then there was a small SUV kind of jeep/car and they had this Japanese girl with a much too revealing, sort of sexy short shorts…that was an extreme example of the difference between the car girls there.

When you were creating Car Girls did you work exclusively on it?

No. When I make my work I work on three or more projects at the same time. What usually happens is all this information starts to bubble in my head and when I’m on the plane from Tokyo to New York for example a concept might shape. I wait usually two, maybe three more weeks and if the idea is still good it almost feels like I’m falling in love. I get butterflies in my stomach and then maybe three or four months later…I begin to embark on the new project. April 2002 was the first car show I photographed right here in New York.

I read you were surprised at how typical the Car Girls were in the United States compared to other countries.

Yes, it’s fascinating. We have one of the most boring car girls in the world! I’m from Holland and I think the United States is very urgent with TV shows, Hollywood but when you go to a car show in New York, it’s just like an office…the girls are in suits. It’s like Anne Taylor style; they’re nothing modern or contemporary about it. I guess the customers are just looking for what they’re familiar with I think. The woman in the United States are mostly participating in the work force so maybe there are more female customers going to car shows and they don’t accept a woman dressed like (this).

What is your interpretation for the use of a car girl at these car shows?

That feeling of luxury in a normal economy, unlike this recession…a car is the largest asset aside from a house….it’s a style icon that comes with the woman. When a man sees a nice car with this gorgeous girl standing next to it, they think, I can get both. I saw this was common in New York but not in other places. In New York some of the men at the shows tried chatting up the car girls. (Laughing)

Really? Why was that not as common in other parts of the world?

I think it’s the culture. The men here may be more outgoing. Also if you look at the photos most of the time, the car girls standing on these circle platforms and they’re just part of the shows.

Where were the most spectacular car girls?

Geneva…it’s the most important in Europe, all the CEOs go there to give their press conferences, Tokyo, Shanghai…Paris is also very nice.

You also became a car girl to experience what it would be like.

I did this also with my other work, I do a self portrait. For this I got a make up artist and a close friend, a photographer in Frankfurt photographed me as a car girl. I was wearing really high heels and people believed I was a car girl. The problem was just that there are different types of girls I was supposed to be a “sexy girl” so it was difficult for me to be judged in this way. You’re in the limelight and all these guys are checking you out and it’s a very strange feeling…I was only there for 15 minutes. After that I just had to go, I wasn’t comfortable.

Are there any artists that inspire you?

No. I travel extensively. I just see what’s happening around me and that’s my source of inspiration.

Do you have a favorite concept that you prefer researching?

They are all different. The thing is more that people react different, but it’s also very personal, the Car Girls concept is very easy for a broad audience to understand while others like Mindscapes only architects, curators and intellectuals would appreciate.

What are some interpretations of Car Girls that people have come up with?

One is that it’s discrimination against woman. I don’t agree because none of the car girls were unhappy in fact most of them think its fun and it’s an easy way for students to make money…instead of working in a bar till late at night, this is what they do. But then again there are different types of car girls. There are the ones that stand there (sexy girls) and then there is also the woman that is professional and is trained by the car company. She sells the car.

Do you have a specific photo technique?

The camera technique is very simple, for the car girls I use a fast film, for the interiors I use a slower film and I work with a tripod. For the car girls there is a very strong focus where I just walk around and wait for these specific moments, for interiors it’s about getting as much information in the photo as possible.

What is the length of these shows?

Really big shows are limited for the press during the first two days, I go the first and the second day for the press and then the show is opened two weeks after that for the public. Sometimes I go twice like I did in Detroit. If there are not enough photos and I need to take more, I went back to that car show the next year. And in between I was spending a lot of time in the Middle East working on another project Arab Domains.

What else were you working on?

Mrs. Haifa Al Kaylani who has an organization that works with very high profile woman in the Arab world (AIWF) was working on a project and I collaborated with her. So I met about 36 Arab women from 18 different countries…I was in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and all the countries in the middle east…the book came out in the summer of 2008, it was launched in Dubai and was presented….Domain of Influence.

Your book also points out the similarities and differences of uniformity of trends or lack of, depending on the car company….

When I was at the car show in Tokyo I saw a “Volkswagen girl,” the ballerina type, and then I wanted to see how a “Volkswagen girl” looked in Shanghai, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Detroit and New York. The Ferrari girl for example almost always looks the same but if you look at other car brands, another guy in Paris visiting the car girl is looking for a different type of girl and when their eyes fall on a certain girl they want to see more and this is what the shows do on a global scale. I was also interested in how they do this marketing on a smaller scale.

Speak about the music.

It’s like lounge, feel-good music, never aggressive. If you go to my website, that’s the type of music you’d hear. The booth of a Mercedes Benz for example is the same everywhere you go. They want to get you to feel good with the beautiful woman, the contemporary music; it’s like if you go to a W hotel.

And the car girls, how did they feel about being photographed?

They opened up because there were very few female photographers; they were quite friendly all over the world.

What did you discover?

They were doing their thing. Whenever some one took their picture, they would pose. But with me I tried to find these other moments where they were immersed in their work and not really thinking about the camera. I tried to capture them underneath this theatrical façade.

What made you decide to finish this project?

When I spoke with Aperture, we began to print it in China…Irma Boom was very important in the compilation of this book, she created the design of the book. There was a deadline and by then I had enough material to begin to publish the work. There were many people involved in its final creation.

Your work takes on a very unique approach in analyzing the economy and the idea of power. I look forward to further exploring your work and looking at your other publications to compare the different approaches you took to embody this

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Interview with Anders Bramsen

undated photo: Chelsea Hotel Production Crew

film stills

the artist immersed in his work

ponders inspiration

the filming of the magnificant "Chelsea Hotel" NY's Historical Stomping Ground

The Unique Creations by: Anders Bramsen

Anders Bramsen's films demonstrate an individual artist who sets himself apart and does his own thing. Like Diane Arbus, (visionary photography artist) he gives the outsider only a speck of what he sees and leaves the rest up to the critics to interpret in multiple ways. From viewing clips (from his editorial work) "Chelsea Hotel" directed by Abel Ferrara to (his own) Dennis Hopper (Retrospective) film collage, I became quite interested to learn more. I hope to see his completed film, "The Gold Fish Doesn't See The Bowl" soon at the Indie Film Festivals next year earn its rightful recognition.

What do you do?

I write, direct, edit and produce my own films.

Have you ever worked with any famous people?

Maybe, but I try not to namedrop.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been focusing mostly on the writing of two screenplays THE GOLDFISH DOESN'T SEE THE BOWL and LAST BOAT TO AMERICA but I’m always editing film and video projects.

What is your genre?

Neo-Noir I suppose. With a hint of middle-class realism…I think…

Sounds like John Steinbeck, are you a John Steinbeck fan?

John Steinbeck? Is he a filmmaker?

No, a writer.

Oh, I love Ingmar Bergman, his focus is the psychology of man…it’s extremely fascinating. The human condition was his specialty.

Did you go to school for this (directing)?

I guess I did a little bit but I don’t feel like mentioning any names…you mean as far as schools I’ve gone to? That’s boring. I mean I’ve learned from all the teachers I’ve had but I've always learned much more by doing…making tons of mistakes, it’s the best way of learning I think.

Where are you originally from?

I’m from The Unified Field, as modern scientists would say!

How long were you here?

On and of since 2003...I go back several times a year. I love to go back for work or to visit everybody. I’m still very Danish. I love Denmark and my roots. of the only countries that tried to help the Jews during the Holocaust.

I don’t know if we were the only one. But it’s true the Danes did a lot to help. If you do the research…I think we saved 95% of the Jews there during the war - we got them over to Sweden on boats. It was quite extraordinary. We tried to save everyone! And it’s wonderful being in New York and being around so many Jewish people here…people actually thank me. We know about it in Denmark but it’s different when you’re here and Jewish people thank you. When you think about it… My grandparents helped these people survive. I have many Jewish friends in New York and I’m so glad about this…

Have you ever been to a Jewish museum there?

I know there is one in Israel…they have an actual boat that took people over. The boats weren’t that big. There is a Jewish comic who I think is a powerful example, he was the most famous Danish Holocaust survivor…Victor Borge…Why are we talking about the Holocaust?

As an artist, do you have a set schedule?

Not really. I guess my independence is the most important to me. I’m pretty much my own man…but I always work with certain people like Pacific Street Films.

Did you get grants to come here?

No I came here with only two hundred dollars and a film (Liden Tid- screened at the Brooklyn international film festival in 2004- it screened at the Brooklyn museum- Google LIDEN TID for more info) under my arm…it was pretty hard coming here to New York. Lately, I’ve matured in terms of being able to ask for help… I have been applying for grants. Now, I feel more entitled to ask for help because I know I’ve done a lot of the hard work myself. Now would be a good time to do it.

What about the recession, do you think it’s making it more difficult for
independent artists like yourself to survive?

You know what, I really don’t have an idea. But I think that maybe…I think there are still people out there with trust funds or, you know? I still don’t think it’s a bad card to play. I don’t know if it has any influence, good or bad.

Do you know that famous writer, Flannery O’Connor?

No, why?

She was in your situation and got a lot of grants and eventually made it as a writer, I just love her, she wrote the eerie short story, “Good County People.” Who are your influences?

I have so many hero’s……Bergman I guess or Terrence Malick's two films from the 70’s: Badlands and Days of Heaven. I think it’s important to project real life in film and the mysteries of our selves…whatever doesn’t make sense…film can be such a beautiful window. It’s a way of getting out of yourself and then gets back into the self. I think it’s a wonderful art form. If you have something on your mind and you want to express it through film, well then it’s just vast. It’s still a very new art form….it’s still early…only a hundred years old. Not like painting, which we’ve been practicing for 8000 years…don’t know where I’m going with this…

I never thought of it like that before. You’re right; it definitely is an art form. So, aside from film, are there other types of art you enjoy?

I have been doing fine art painting long before this.

What do you paint?

I want to say um…abstract expressionism…you can call it neo-neo expressionism. If there is such a thing? A few years ago I painted a series of paintings. It was so nice working with canvases again.

What’s the series about?

My new formats are very horizontal…it’s almost like they’re favoring plainness and because my earlier works were more action I’m now trying to strive away from that…I got tired of that, tired of the chaos and confusion.

That reminds me of what Picasso did.


You know at first he was very detailed and then he got so simple. Are they untitled?

Some are. Others have titles such as “Black Band on canvas" because there is a black band on the canvas. Most of my earlier canvases were all titled and it had to do with my mood or the mood of the painting, or something that inspired me. However, later when I became better at what I was doing, I began to simplify my titles while at other times, I don't title my work at all...sometimes I just don’t find it necessary.

Ever been to the Guggenheim here in NY?

Many times, I was first there in 1988 as a 14-year-old boy-it did a huge impression on me! Last year I played a museum visitor in Tom Tykwer’s movie The International. It starred Clive Owen, Naomi Watts and my fellow countryman Ulrich Thomsen as the bad guy-villain.

OMG! How cool.

I was only on set that one day but yeah it was cool.

What is your next project?

It’s a movie I call, “The Goldfish Doesn’t See The Bowl” which will include archival footage from when I was young. I am writing several grants to complete it at the moment. My project envisions is a film universe in which odd personalities operate in indefinable patterns; a world in which philosophical questions are displayed in a series of grotesque vignettes. The picture also strives for a unique visual aesthetic. My goal is to create small episodes questioning faith, doubt and the meaning of life.


My project envisions a film universe in which odd personalities operate in indefinable patterns; a world in which philosophical questions are posed to the viewer in a series of grotesque vignettes. The piece also strives for a unique visual aesthetic. I wish to build a bridge to the audience’s senses and spirits,thus melding the message (an exploration of the breadth of art in our time and culture) with the manner in which the story is told. THE GOLDFISH DOESN'T SEE THE BOWL is a barrier-breaking exploration of the human condition, merging performance art, painting, photography and film language.