Dennis Vanderbroek is a Rotterdam based studio that designs and creates spatial installations for clients in fashion, theatre, and beyond. With its hyper aesthetic visual language, the studio designs physical spaces in which the dialogue between the visitor and space is central. Among the studio’s work, you can find autonomous installations that question the construction and reconstruction of the complexity of identity with a sense of humor and intelligence.
To get some insight into the studio’s work and what it’s like to work for names as Dover street market, Palais des Tokyo, Y/Project, David Laport, and Reconstruct Collective I got in touch with Dennis from the studio to ask a few questions.
What does it mean to you to be a visual storyteller working in spatial design?
Having a background in performance art the physical space means everything to me. The idea that people come together in a space in order to collectively experience something stays mind-blowing to me. People are purchasing a ticket, paying actual money, to agree on using their imagination, and to be taken to another universe. To me, there is simply nothing more powerful than that. That experience can not be replaced by the utterly inspiring digital world. The absolute necessity of this concept proofs itself once more with our current locked-down situation.
You work on a variety of projects, therefore often the concepts are quite diverse as well. How would you describe the studio’s signature style?
The studio approaches every project in exactly the same manner. Whether we are working on a small theater project or a huge fashion show we always start to surrender ourselves to the content and conceptual framework of a project. The collaboration both internally with our small studio team and externally with the collaborator is essential. The context may differ but our methodology stays the same. We do not consider our studio as an architectural company, neither as a collective of set designers. We are a studio that creates spatial installations, on an international scale, for both commissioned and artistic purposes. With our hyper aesthetic visual language, we only work in the physical space. Designing universes in which a dialogue between the viewer and our designed space is key.
Can you tell a little more about the process of developing the studio’s signature style?
Todays’ outcome of our signature style finds its core in the collection of my experiences before starting to carefully construct it. From studying performance art and fine art to assisting various set designers, scenographers, and working at Bureau Betak. When starting the studio I decided to work in ‘chapters’ to define the various stages in my own work and which is still the way we work in my artistic practice now. Currently, we are in Chapter 2, so we are only just getting started.
Due to the current circumstances (COVID19), many artists are in some way limited in their work. How do you experience this?
On one hand, we are luckily working on collaborations in the near future, on the other hand, some very exciting projects got canceled. What is strange is that when you work on a project you are working towards a moment of relief in order to let the project go. A moment to display, where the adrenaline that you have been building up, can be released. Where the transition from “owning” a project gets handed over to the public. Due to the situation and the inescapable cancellation of some projects this moment never happened leaving us in a weird limbo. The access to certain spaces we love is closed and I am the only one who is physically allowed to work in the studio. We are surrendered to the digital world which feels paradoxical when your artistic practice is everything but. However, we are embracing this digital intermission with creating a self-proclaimed digital exhibition of a collection of our physical spaces.
Have these limitations influenced or inspired your work?
These limitations gained us the opportunity to look back on both small and large scale. Something I truly believe we should consider as an opportunity. This ominous intermission raises a ton of questions for which I have not found the answers yet. The only way to positively come out of it the other way, with all its insecurities and anxieties, is to allow yourself to feel and embrace them. Perhaps that is the best inspiration you can get?
Most of your work consists of collaborations, are there any collaborations that you would personally like to work on and with whom would that be?
Go big or go home has always been my motto. So ideally the studio will take over the world. There are so many imaginable individuals and institutions I would love to collaborate with, for example Prada can always give us a ring. I would love to do a spatial design for an International ballet, Opera, a Broadway musical, Beyonce’s concert, a new live performance for MoMa PS1, The Dutch pavilion and a nursery home for sure.
Do you have any projects you are working on or planning for 2020, that you would like to share with us?
At the moment we are working on our biggest scenography to date. It is for a Dutch theater company and it is one of the most iconic theater plays in the world. Fingers crossed it will premier in the fall of 2020. Besides that we are preparing a spatial design for an exhibition that got postponed to next year. And I guess I am also taking this time generating new dreams for ‘Chapter 3’.
For more on the studios work go to the links below and see what ‘Chapter 3’ will be like.