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Sarah Ama Duah is an experimental fashion designer who’s not interested in the commercial usability of her clothes. And Conny Kirste is a self-taught photographer who approaches her work in a conceptual way. Together, they’ve joined forces to create Liberation, a story whose goal is revealed in the title itself. With a performer as the model and main character, the series pretends to make us think about what we reveal, what is concealed, and what prejudices and social norms are stuck in our brains without us even realizing.
Hello Conny and Sarah, could you please introduce who you are and how did you become a photographer and a fashion designer respectively?
Sarah: Hey, my name is Sarah Ama Duah. I pursue an experimental fashion practice with clothing as the main subject of research. When I was eighteen I applied for a fashion design program in Hamburg. I think back then clothes were an important medium to express myself and they still are. Now, I am based in Berlin with a studio in Mitte.
Conny: I’m a self-taught photographer born and raised in Berlin. Since my childhood I loved photography. I’ve never planned to become a photographer; it was more of a natural process.
When and how did you two meet, and what’s sparked the fire of this collaboration?
Sarah: One of the many good things about Berlin is that the city is full of creatives. I was looking for a photographer interested to join the project. A common friend suggested Conny. I think it worked very well because Conny could really connect to the material and to the idea of working with a dancer. We both agreed on skipping the makeup and fully focused on the interaction between the naked body and the silicone moulds. It was a very intimate shooting and I loved the energy working together in a team of three women.

This series you’re presenting is about the liberation of the body. What kind of freedom are you portraying/looking for, and what role does the body play to achieve so?
Conny: The series is about our own identity and the world we’re living in. It stands for the egoless state – our Self. We all have created limitations that conceal human beings’ inner nature. The liberation I’m talking about is the freedom from all limitations, conceptions and prejudices – mentally, socially and sexually. Esra’s movements embody the liberation of all of these bondages. Quoting Rosa Luxemburg: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”.
The clothes are made of liquid silicone. Sarah, could you please explain us in more detail how did you make them, and how did you get to use this material for creating fashion?
Sarah: I always prefer working with handicraft techniques rather than using the sewing machine. Working with silicone was another step of finding different methods to create clothes. I’ve been experimenting with the material for three years now and my atelier has become a sort of sculptor’s studio. With background knowledge in mould construction and textiles, I developed a technique to take thin moulds from collected second-hand clothing.
It’s not the first time you use unusual materials to create garments, as you’ve already done pieces with fake hair/wigs, for example. Are you interested only in experimental fashion, in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible instead of wearable? How do you approach fashion when creating it?
Sarah: My main interest is working with clothes rather than creating fashion. In my atelier, there is no fashion without an audience, without a stage, or without a model. For me working on a dress is a possibility and a way to express and question things – especially through the material per se – and to think about the effect and use in that sense. My artistic research is therefore not oriented towards commercial usability or the functioning in daily use.

“My main interest is working with clothes rather than creating fashion. My artistic research is therefore not oriented towards commercial usability or the functioning in daily use.” Sarah Ama Duah
The material of the clothes in this shoot is rubbery, shiny, robust, water-resistant and soft, and it’s used for coating, isolation, and connection. Is there any symbolic meaning between the use of this material and the aim/goal of the photo shoot?
Sarah: This played a more important role during the phase of creating the moulds. Silicone as a material sure tells its own story. What I really like about connecting silicone and clothing is that it’s possible to adapt the form, colour and fabric details of ‘real’ clothing and it still has the character of not being really related to textiles.
The garments are semi-sheer, so the body is half revealed and half hidden, and the texture looks rigid but smooth at the same time. How do these contrasts embody the message of freedom you want to convey?
Conny: The clothes reflect the process of the liberation itself. You can guess what’s behind although your sight is blurred. Some parts are even hidden. Our inner nature remains concealed by the mind, by sensations, suffering, pain and ignorance. By moving, more and more parts are set visible – more and more freedom is accomplished.
The concept of the collection is about the ‘performativity of things’, and the model is Esra Vianne Graul, a dancer. How did you find her, and how has her background in performance contributed to the final result of the shooting?
Sarah: Esra is a friend of mine. I’ve known her for two years now. Esra became of the project part when it was about focusing on the practical experience of performativity in action. The collaboration was framed by the idea of how clothes perform and make our body visible. Her interpretation translated into movement was very impressive. It was a great experience of interdisciplinary work.

“I think it is more important than ever to find our own freedom and experience the base of our being.” Conny Kirste
You talk about liberation thorugh the body. Is the model being a female related to this search (or even fight) for freedom? Would it be different if it were a boy?
Conny: I can’t say anything about Esra in particular. Actually, it is about every human being – no matter if woman or man. Every human being has his or her own fears and expectations. Liberation is about understanding the meaning of the world and its diversity.
How does this series/project fit within your general body of work (both as a photographer and as a designer)?
Sarah: It was my MA degree work. During my final exhibition, my professor told me: “Sarah, you have to decide whether it will be fashion or art.” The project marks a point in my body of work where I was trying to let go of classic principals of dressmaking and runway presentation. It’s the start of a new phase of more interdisciplinary collaboration and a search for orientation both outside and inside the fashion context.
Conny: Showing the pure and un-optimized nature of a person is mandatory for every single project I start. This one in particular is merely important to me in order to display the world’s drifting component towards an increasingly bizarre direction. The really important things in life seem to fall into oblivion. I think it is more important than ever to find our own freedom and experience the base of our being.

Arnau Salvadó
Conny Kirste
Sarah Ama Duah

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