LP: The snail is one of the main protagonists in your current show. It appears in your rug hookings but also in form of large knitted sculptures placed on mobile platforms that are driven around the gallery, controlled by a human being. To me it underlines the absurdity of a world that is obsessed with technical progress and constant improvement of the self and others. Do we need to celebrate the importance of being slow?
MD: I think we do. I love the symbol of the snail as a very slow but persistent creature. It is genderless, very resilient, eats anything. I have my own pet snail, a large one, that escaped once and hid for several months in hibernation somewhere in my house. When it suddenly reappeared, I was so amazed that it had survived and it made me think about how these small animals are so different from us. Snails are very survival oriented, but they are so slow about everything, just wandering around, looking for food and going into whatever direction they think is best. They do what they need to do. Humans are the opposite of snails, it is never just about basic needs, there is always some middle interest or something more we are aiming for.
LP: In his book „From the diary of a snail“ from 1972, German author Günter Grass has established the image of the snail as a symbol for political and social progress. I find that quite accurate. Take gender constructions for example: snails are hermaphrodites, fitted with both male and female reproductive plumbing, and can mate with any member of their species they want. Imagine we would apply this to human society.
MD: This would actually be much more natural, to have these options and that everyone could do whatever they like or be with whomever they like. We humans tend to limit ourselves in so many ways that honestly doesn’t make any sense to me. Of course we need a system of rules in order to have a balanced society and environment but I think it often is too much and we would be ultimately happier if everyone could live a bit more freely without fear of judgement, punishment, or being seen as social exiles.
LP: So whereas in your animal society, life is going pretty smoothly and naturally, the world’s most powerful human characters don’t seem to be handling things too well. What do characters like police officers, religious leaders or Mark Zuckerberg represent for you?
MD: For me they represent sort of a failed attempt at our current society, at this all-encompassing power that a lot of people crave but never really works out in the end. These so-called leaders keep disappointing their constituents. A lot of people keep putting their hope and energy into these systems that are proven more and more often to not work as well as expected. We need structure but people focus too much on these godly representatives instead of the actual principles that they might be trying to spread. Things and messages get lost along the way and nobody really does anything in the end. These leaders are usually men, not always, but even a figure like the Queen of England, she represents a whole patriarchal system that is failing. We can see it failing, it is just not sustainable anymore. It is also not about making fun of these specific persons, it is more about mocking the system that they are representing.
LP: Your tapestry compositions can be read like paintings, yet when you are face to face with them, the rug hooking technique also offers a sculptural dimension. Now your works have actually evolved into sculptures for the first time. How do the topics you approach translate into this new medium?
MD: It’s true, my works are flat but also kind of 3D, sometimes I even refer to them as textile sculptures. But I approach them as painting, I have sketches on paper with all the different colors that I then translate into the rugs. I consider all my work as part of this world that I am creating with different characters that sometimes are recurrent in multiple works. It is almost like a game and I’m building the characters and loading them into this world that needs to be populated. I felt that some of these characters deserved to be actually larger and in 3D so that people can get to know them. Since I spend so much time with these characters I sometimes genuinely feel like I’m friends with them and I like to see how they can interact with each other.
LP: Your works comprehend and document aspects of contemporary society, to me they are like portraits of the chaotic world we live in, reflecting on topics like environmental issues, gender inequality and the misuse of power in whimsical and witty ways. How does humor help coping with the craziness of our everyday life?
MD: I cannot say how it helps other people that see the works, maybe it makes it even worse for them. It helps me to understand the problem. Even before making art I reacted like this. I use humor as a coping mechanism in my life in general and sometimes feel that I use it as a crutch in many situations. Often if I feel uncomfortable or anxious I will try and make a joke sort of as a panic response. I don’t know why I do this but it seems I also do it in my art work in a healthy way. Seeing all these depressing things on the news or feeling guilty about throwing a plastic bottle in the trash, I have been there, I’m still there. But once you start thinking about it you realize we put so many barriers and hurdles on ourselves. Making jokes about specific topics that are usually bum you out helps me take things a bit less seriously. As one single person I cannot do much anyway, humor is a way to cope with the fact that things are going downhill. It is not about being cynical, because I really do believe that we can change things. Although my works take place in the future they are very much rooted in the present. They show situations that should make us realize if we were to continue like this for a long time, this is a possible outcome of how the world could look like in the future.