Fall Arts Issue
The Hygienic Dress League reinvents street art by mocking advertising — and more ...
Published: September 14, 2011
Steve: Should we go off the record?
Dorota: Nothing has been said about it yet.
Steve: We were just in Toledo.
Dorota: You've already said too much.
MT: Dorota, you work in advertising, yet HDL mocks marketing and advertising. You participate in and poke fun at the industry that pays your bills?
Dorota: As an artist, I hope I have insight into advertising in a way that I'll see it differently. It works on the flipside, too. Working in advertising, I see art differently.
Steve: You see a lot of stuff out there posing as fine art but when you get to the bottom of it, they're just trying to sell you something. We're actually doing the opposite, posing as advertising but really there's art behind it all.
MT: Last weekend was the opening of your first legitimate Detroit gallery show. How'd it come about?
Steve: I'm conflicted about calling it an official Hygienic Dress League exhibition. Toby Barlow (adman, author and Dorota's boss) actually was the first to propose the idea, which was basically that a photographer like Scott Hocking would be, fictitiously, out in Detroit when he spots employees from the Hygienic Dress League and has sort of a Bigfoot moment, and starts shooting, bringing a reality to the fantasy narrative. So the way we see it is a collection of five photographers from the Detroit area (Nicola Kuperus, Dave Krieger, Greg Holm, Scott Hocking and Tom Stoye) who took pictures of the Hygienic Dress League employees, and those photos are being framed in an exhibition-style setting. The photos validate the reality of the Hygienic Dress League. We left it up to the photographers as to how they wanted to portray the employees, so we were able to collaboratively build a narrative.
Dorota: These photographers have been shooting the area for a long time. The idea is that they'd basically put us in the context of their work.
MT: Is Detroit the place you thought it'd be?
Steve: Detroit's been absolutely brilliant, from the reception of the work to the number of people who help us do the things we want to do. ...
Dorota: I think Detroit fosters creative projects better than any other city. It's just an incredible place.
MT: What's the next HDL promotion?
Steve: We have a lot of ideas. Basically, we're a hype machine, and we want to put these photos all over the Internet. Then Dorota's going to take the photos and blow them up on adhesive vinyl, and we're going to put them on all of these empty 8-by-4-foot mini-billboards we see all over Detroit. The idea is to put them everywhere. We're also releasing a promotional video soon.
MT: As far as Detroit's art scene at large — high-brow and low- — where's your niche?
Steve: I see us as people who are diversifying the types of public art you see in the city. ... We're all about the transient characteristics of street art. A piece creates interest; it peaks, then goes away over time.
MT: In what ways are you working to evolve street art and public art experience?
Steve: We want to further transcend traditional street art by bringing some augmented reality experiences to Detroit, something you'd experience through the use of the camera and GPS in your smart phone. We see our role as introducing new types of art. We can create multi-experiential platforms — Internet videos, billboards, a neon sign, a magazine ad — because the corporate concept allows it. With the augmented reality piece, ideally we'd replace every major billboard in the city with our own. You'd aim your phone at a billboard and see a Hygienic Dress League ad. We're already working with some computer scientists.
The Hygienic Dress League Satellite Office is now up at the Public Pool art gallery located at 3309 Caniff in Hamtramck. Open Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. Or call 313-405-7665; hygienicdressleague.com.
> Email Travis R. Wright