This interview was originally published in Spanish by Catálogodiseño (20/10/14) LINK
Zuzana Gombošova: the Slovak designer behind a world of bacteria and Victorian tales.
The work of the Slovak designer Zuzana Gombošova is like her: curious, interesting, explosive and unexpected, but overall brilliant; Gombošova is one of those persons that appear every certain time to dazzle with their geniality and spark. Leaving conventions and preconceptions aside to face her projects her work becomes a maze full of little corners to explore.
She has done a series of fashion collections and an MA project (Invisible Resources, Gombošova,Z. 2014) that gives an ingenious and refreshing twist to technologies so frequently visited such as biopolymers and 3d printing. During the time the MA lasted (a bit less tan two years) I witnessed her invent and manufacture machines in hours, learn to program an Arduino processor in a similar time scope and almost simultaneously, figuring out a way to make stunning illustrations that leave more than one person impressed.
At her young age Zuzana Gombošova has plenty of edges that will give others something to talk about and I am positive her vision will guide many young designers interested in dedicating their careers to the more experimental lodes of design, sometimes even more necessary to enrich the exercise of the discipline that the others devoted to developing ready-to-sell products.
DT: How or when did you become fascinated by bacteria?
ZG: :- D
I think I became really fascinated once I started thoroughly studying microbiology. Sometimes during last year I came across several design and art related projects where living organisms played vital role in the creation process and were presented as a possible future technology.
I began reveling their diversity, functions and I got a more holistic perspective of our co-dependence on each other as biological species. Suddenly I stopped looking at them as gross microscopic creatures causing us disease and evoking a feeling of dirt and began to perceive them as an essential part of the planet's ecosystem and evolution. From there on, I began to slowly reveal my way of working with bacteria as a design tool, resource or media.
I created a parallel world in which bacteria became essential part of manufacturing and processing, dividing them into groups according to their capabilities, functions and source.
DT: What made you decide to “migrate” from fashion and textiles and how have Invisible Resources influenced your current practice.
ZG: I think my deviation from the area of textiles and fashion per se started the very moment I enrolled my MA studies at Textile Futures. As anybody else, I also expected I would mainly focus on textiles as a main area of study but the course led me towards the exploration of completely different way of looking at the design practice. I started to think much more about materials and their importance in the design process and that naturally sparked curiosity in me. I wanted to cross those boundaries fashion and textiles had and see design as an idea rather than a product.
The "migration", as you call it, was a slow and intuitive process for me. I learned to go more in depth and think about context when working on my projects and that meant not limiting myself with constraints that conventional understanding of fashion and textiles carried.
Working on the Invisible Resources taught me numerous skills. It s difficult to talk about the character of my current practice yet, as it has been only few months since I finished working on my graduation project. The practice is being formed now and I think I will only be able to talk about it once it is fully running and I will be able to reflect on what I learned, experienced and what has changed in my approach to work.
DT: I have always been curious about your signature “dark” aesthetics, including the blood project (MANfacture, Gombošova,Z. 2013). Is there any strong aesthetic influence you can recall or is it just a personal distillation of several things?
ZG: Well, I think it is a combination of both. I have been a huge fan of dark Victorian tales for many years and in a way they have inspired almost all of my recent projects. For some time I have been looking for a way of my own re-interpretation of them for the modern context.
I think the formation of this direction started sometimes in 2011 when I was working on a collection of apparel designs called Obey. I think many people associate "dark" with something negative. I don t necessarily think it should be understood that way. Thinking in "dark " directions made me think about different approach to work. It' s not necessarily about problem solving and presenting a better future, it becomes more about what if…..Human nature and psyche is rather complicated and for me it was interesting and liberating to start thinking about let's say "less likely" possibilities for the future. And when we start thinking about the "less likely" to be possible, we often go to the more hidden and mysterious thoughts. They evoke darker aesthetics in me. Dark, because it's something intriguing...peculiar, but not negative.
DT: What is your vision about technology and its domestic usage in the mid future?(10 years)
ZG: Hmmm…..I think technology is already a very essential part of our lives. Our grandparents use Whatsapp, iPads and Skype. What else is there to say ? :- D
I think in the future we will gradually stop perceiving technology as technology. It will become something very natural. So natural we won't even realise it s technology who's doing the job.
It is very exciting for me to imagine the role and perception of technology in different cultural and social backgrounds. So far it's been only technology. But gradually technology merges with biology….and that might give rise to completely different products, environments and even types of consciousness. I know I might sound a little bit confusing at the moment, but I do believe there is something yet unimaginable waiting for us in connection with technology in future. It's an evolution of its own kind.
DT: How do you relate to technology today?
ZG: I still find it difficult to relate to it sometimes. I am from the generation and geography that is familiar with technology and uses it, however I still do find it relatively alien at times. Technology of today is more intelligent, smoother, smaller and definitely faster than it used to be.
It makes our lives easier and more complicated at the same time. We are bound to live faster and often, I think, we are also slaves of technology.
I think learning more about how technology works made me less scared of it . Before the Invisible Resources I was purely a technology consumer. I am still mostly a consumer, but having an experience of the actual "kitchen work" helped me think about it more critically and objectively.
DT: Did you know you were such a good hacker before starting Invisible Resources?
ZG: Hahaha….thank you for the compliment. I did reveal many unexpected skills and capabilities I thought I didn't have during working on the project. I also tried many things that didn't work and I hope I never have to do them again.
I don't think I m an exceptionally good hacker, but I would like to improve and try to hack many other devices. It's fun.
Until back then I perceived electronic devices as ready-made, unmodifiable objects. I didn't understand much from the world of electronics. I still can't say I do, but I am much braver and have some experience already, which helps.
DT: What do you expect from your practice in the next couple of years?
ZG: In the next couple of years I would like to work in the field of design research.
I hope I will be able to keep on working on the projects that are interesting for me professionally as well as personally. I hope I will be working with people that I will learn a lot from and I hope one day I will be officially recognised for my weirdness 🙂
One fortuneteller once told me I will be learning until the age of 45. As long as her prediction is true, I will be happy in my practice.
©Daniela Toledo 2014 for Catálogodiseño, Chile
Zuzana GomboSova, portrait by Zevgi Kaymak