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Welcome to Youthquake

In conversation with Bas Kosters and his up-and-coming masterclass at Kunsthal Rotterdam

If you ask us, nobody seems to personify ‘age is just a number’ better than Bas Kosters.  Creating his own universe in a world ruled by limitations and boxes, the Dutch artist remains expressive, yet soft. His designs are vibrant and out there, but in times where humanity seems to be hardening, he stays fluid. With his cheerful and raw designs always transporting us to an alternative reality, Kosters has mastered the art of authenticity. His latest project for the multimedia exhibition Youthquake, as part of Kunsthal Rotterdam, is our new save-the-date. At the event, Kosters will be exhibiting three of his works as well as teaching a masterclass (register here) into the spiritual exploration of what it truly means to be ‘young’. In light of this Friday’s occasion, we had a chat with the visionary in a bid to learn life’s desire to encapsulate youth. 

Youthquake encapsulates the idea of eternal youth, and the lure to stay young forever. How do you perceive this within the industry, as well as yourself? 

I think ever since the 1960s, youth culture has been revolutionary. Looking towards myself, I think I’m a very youthful person, but for me, it’s just more about spirit than appearance and age. 

For sure! I think there’s two dynamics in which we celebrate youthfulness, and in some ways the industry is very focussed on aesthetics, rather than the spirit … 

I think this exhibition also shows this difference. For me, I don’t design clothes for any age, I design clothes for people. 

For a state of mind, not a body! Societal ‘beauty’ has to be tied into this.

Playfulness and youthfulness are so important. I think it’s strange that people get judged for not looking ‘age appropriate’, beauty in that sense – to me – is not really important, and also something that is not achieved but given. It says more about the viewer than about the one that is being viewed. Why can’t we embrace the fact that we can be so much more than just a beautiful person? We can be a whole palette of things. It is so important that we break free from all these expectations and the boxes we put ourselves in.

As part of the exhibition, you are also teaching a masterclass at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam- super exciting! Distribution of knowledge and insight is so important. What do you hope the participants take from this session?

I want to bring across that you can be anything you want and that you can create your own future, but I also think it’s very important to realise that it takes an active approach to do so. I like the fashion industry for the sake of self-expression, creativity, and craft. What I want this exhibition to bring across is that I’m in a very investigative moment in which I am transforming my practice to create more autonomous art (although it has never really been only a fashion practice).

The pandemic has brought on this rise of DIY culture, breaking down the boundaries of creative labelling. We’ve seen a more transitional focus … Do you think lockdown has inspired your interdisciplinary (even more)?

This has been a change that I set course for around 2015. Next to making collections, I started making a series of drawings, glass objects, paintings and tapestries. Now, I’m really trying to create a space for myself to develop these things further and broaden my practice. So on one hand I work on my autonomous projects, but on the other hand I also work as a designer. Product design, print design, costume design, I do the whole lot, but always with the same intention. I don’t think the pandemic changed my work a lot or had a great effect on my work – because I was lucky to be riding on a wave of enthusiasm. I was already in dialogue with the world!

Within this playfulness and expressiveness, did you face any obstacles? The fashion industry is quite primitive, and the art world even more so… 

It’s very difficult to please everybody. My work is very specific, figurative and loud. Sometimes maybe a bit primitive, but that is just the way I am. Every now and then, I’ve also felt not taken seriously. But I guess that’s something everybody experiences, as sometimes people can also take themselves not too seriously! 

The fashion industry appraises youth, whereas art is quite heavily focussed on maturity, scholar and canonization. How is it intersecting these spheres? 

I think in the fashion industry there’s the problem of always looking for something ‘new’, which I find really tiring. We can also be content with pants that are out of fashion- whatever! This is also one of the reasons why I started transitioning more into the art space because I wanted the things I do to truly matter. I do think I have achieved that through my fashion practice, but maybe I am looking for more…

A lot of creatives try to find their boundary, testing how far they can push their creativity. Is this something you are practicing with your art?

I actually have always done this, but in a very Pippi Longstocking kinda way (I have never done it, so probably I can do it!?). Looking at my art practice now, I realise I might be in my own way a bit. I have always moved quite freely around my fashion and I just always did whatever I wanted to do. But now I’ve been trying to create a shift in perception in my practice and in doing so I realised that I myself might be judging myself too hard. What does it matter if I’m an artist or designer, I can be anything I want!

Absolutely! Sometimes we can be our own biggest critic. When thinking about the idea of ‘grown up kids’, what childhood characteristics do you wish to carry on today?

I think we live in the great luxury that we can be so playful! I think our lives are quite careless, so in a sense, we are very grown-up kids. I’m not far from my youthful self, as I still enjoy doing the things I used to do as a kid. I used to dress up and craft, and that’s what I still do now! The older I grow, the more I realise how significant that small self is.

 

 

We all experience this to varying degrees, and creativity is a nice way to release that. As well as being very playful and lighthearted in your work, there is also a political message behind it. I recently saw your hot toilet lady realness picture on insta! In many ways, satirizing the housewife stereotype… 

I can be quite bold and quirky in my work. This work also has a nostalgic and romantic intend, it’s not meant to be loud. I just found a way to make this approachable, because for me a lot of my work is about humor. 

Bringing light to darker spaces!

Hahaha, yes! I certainly enjoyed this assignment.

It’s been a difficult time for this industry as a whole… What have you been doing to find inner peace during this time?

I had already been focussing a lot on being an improved version of myself, so I was already a bit prepared. This is a situation unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but because I had the space to bring some safety and comfort and joy to other people, I’ve been getting through it!

Masterclass with Bas Kosters (English)

Friday 26 March: 11am-1pm

Sign up here!

 

Read more about the exhibition at Kunsthal online

 

Images Bas Kosters: courtesy of Bas Kosters and Marc Deurloo for Bas Kosters

Images Youthquake/Kunsthal: Eva Bomert

Words by Grace Powell 

Edit by Brechtje Polman