Text: Dr. Elke Backes, Photos: Marina Kiga
Loud and trendy, or futuristic and downright cosmic, Sophie Ramirez alias SOFF poses on the photos of her brightly coloured Instagram-Feeds. When meeting the student of Kunstakademie Düsseldorf privately, you get a surprise. Her extraordinary styling is not just a means of her staging, but an expression of her personality. Make-up, clothing – everything is loud, stands out from what is usually described as “normal”. SOFF lives this style. Bold, and impressively self-confident! But, what exactly is her art? Doesn’t SOFF fall into the rather more superficial category of pop culture or, is she simply a good model?
I wanted to find out and go and visit her in her live-in studio. Still stressed out from finding a space to park, I press her front door bell and am immediately sucked into the SOFF cosmos. The door is pulled wide open, I am enthusiastically welcomed, and am immediately in a completely different world: A mixture of Villa Kunterbunt, Barbie‘s Home and World of Warcraft. Every corner is individually and lovingly arranged. I don’t know where to look first, while SOFF prepares the coffee. Despite the scurrility of the interior, everything appears surprisingly structured and tidy. Nothing looks like work in progress.
“But you mostly work here and not at the Akademie, don’t you?” is therefore my first question.
SOFF: Yes. It is here that I create my outfits, backdrops and ideas for what is then implemented in an urban space or wherever.
E.B.: … and, as a result, becomes the basis for photographs, films or performances?
SOFF: Photographs and films yes, performances no. I am simply present. During a performance I would differ from my natural conduct. And that I don’t do. I am always part of the context in which I move.
E.B.: When do you decide on what staging? Looking at your Soffsmultiverse Website, one gets the impression that you are the protagonist of a computer game. Looking at your Instagram feed, you seem to be the influencer of your own fashion collection.
Bottom: Screenshot from Soffsmultiverse Website, top: Screenshot from the Instagram-Feed.
SOFF: With my art project I am exactly at that interface. That is, between art, design, the digital and the virtual world. We are living in times where everything increasingly merges into one. What is the difference between the Avatar that one creates as one’s own player character in the gaming world and the profile, that one creates for oneself by way of one’s own staging in the social networks? In both cases, imagined identities are created, which are inspired by images of the digital, virtual and physically real world. Why not transmit the freedom and aesthetics of the digital and virtual world to the here and now? Concretely put: Our patterns of behaviour change with the times and in different dimensions, but our patterns of perception do not. To make development possible, an awareness of this must be created.
SOFF between art, design, and the digital and virtual world.
E.B.: So, you want to provoke irritation with your staging and presence, which invite such an involvement and drive a development?
SOFF: Yes exactly. And I do this, like the setting up of a scientific experiment, by going out into the world and watch what happens. I then return home, process what has happened and then give structure in form of artistic works to these experiences. All in all, for me, it is about the self-reflective investigation of the absurd phenomenon of being human.
E.B.: That sounds like an enormous mission. You are therefore your own research object, that allows new insight to be created with this change of perspective?
SOFF: Exactly. It is always a mixture of self-experience and observer reaction, which stimulates new actions and allows new pictures to emerge. Here, too, is a link to an actor in a computer game. With his Avatar, he reacts nonstop to the events in the game, but continues to see himself from the perspective of the camera.
E.B.: I suppose the idea of the self-reflecting examination started with your studies. Your spectacular outfits are the essential preconditions for your investigation. When did you start and what caused you to create your own outfits?
SOFF at work.
SOFF: Very early on. At the early age of nine I did not want to follow some normative without thinking about it. I thought it was absurd to abstain from colourful clothing just to be cool. I’ve always loved role playing games. Therefore every new outfit is like immersing myself into a new part with which I become one. Clothes to me are like an extension of my body and just as vital as eating [laughs].
E.B.: And why did you shave your head? Was that also part of an art project or rather more personally motivated?
SOFF: As I said, I do not really separate the two. I was almost fanatically attached to my long hair and literally panicked when even the tips needed some cutting. At the same time I found the idea to shave my head very attractive. So, yes, my Viking-syndrome got the better of me. Whenever there is something that I am not confident to do, I absolutely have to do it to prove to myself that I can grow. I made the development to my final cut public on my Instagram account, which subsequently resulted in the Hot Girl Summer Postcard Edition.
Hot Girl Summer Postcard Edition.
E.B.: As always, bright and colourful, and, at a first glance, it is staged as a typical holiday post and not recognisable as art. Is this part of your fundamental concept?
SOFF: I always try to keep the question open as to what is artificial and what is genuine; I like to play around with prejudices and contrasts between pop and art or irony and seriousness. The changes in the structures of our society need new concepts of order, which are appropriate to our environment today. I want to use my art projects to demonstrate that we, as individuals, to not have to fit into a culture or mass market, but to life. That seems to me to make sense overall.
E.B.: Despite being serious, you are a cheerful person. The aesthetic of your art creates cheerfulness. Is there also a message in this aesthetic which can be found in connection with the digital and virtual world?
SOFF: Yes, definitely. There are such fantastic worlds in gaming, which, at the moment, are only used to escape into. There is so much energy and creative development in this, which could just as well be used for the composition of our physical, real world. I want to demonstrate that both can be combined with each other. That is the reason why I usually move outside the typical art frame and enjoy experimenting in public spaces, where I am perceived differently. The reactions are more spontaneous. It is interaction on an eye-level, where I can directly observe the reactions. Incidentally, I prepared something…..
Eagerly awaiting the things that may come, I am totally amazed to see SOFF appear with two newly created dresses from behind the door.
SOFF: I thought that a joint staging as a kind of self-experiment would be awesome for you to get a live impression of my work. We get changed, walk to the station and pose. You will see how exciting it is to watch the reactions.
No sooner said than done.
Fitting before the joint art project.
The reactions are really fascinating. They are a mixture of the expected and the surprising. Cell phones are pulled out, selfies taken, compliments shouted, there are also some stupid comments and some playing up as well as cautious questions about what we are doing. Nothing but interaction and, indeed, an unusual form of social study!
Joint art project in a public space.
In conclusion, I can answer the question as to whether the art of SOFF falls into the category of pop culture or whether she is simply a good model with an unambiguous “No”. As a medium between the worlds, she literally embodies her artistic ideas and has a clear message. Research project: Human Trans_Mission. Stay tuned! These are the beginnings of great things …
SOFF, Medium between the worlds.
Website Soffsmultiverse: https://soffsmultiverse.com/homepage/