ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Art as Commoditiy. The New Economy and the Art Markets

Entangled Plagiarism - Stephanie Syjuco's Round of Counterfeiters


Stepanie Syjuco's crochet workshop in Karlsruhe. CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY. All images: Fidelis Fuchs. © ZKM

In the Philippines almost nobody can afford designer originals, in spite of the fact that the counterfeit industry is flourishing there. The artist Stephanie Syjuco, born in Manila and brought up in the USA, has been working on the Counterfeit Crochet Project since 2008: in this online-based project, she calls for a strategic faking of designer products – bags by Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Co., and her users from all over the world do, in fact, send her handmade bootlegs – ‘outsourcing’ is what Syjuco calls it. We were present when the artist produced an entire bag collection for The Global Contemporary with a hobby crochet group from Karlsruhe.

In the backrooms of Wunderwoll, a business for handmade products in the southern district of Karlsruhe, wool is amassed in fluffy and soft piles in the shelves. The five women smoothly wind the threads of wool around their fingers; biscuits and fruit juice begins to collect in the center of the table. Gabi, the shop’s owner, is presently working on a classic brown Louis Vuitton.

“I am interested in the handicrafts and the skills that one requires for these”, explains Syjuco, while gazing with concentration at her hands. Every country in which the Counterfeit Crochet Project has shown itself until now, she says, has its own handicraft culture. In Beijing nobody was really able to grasp the significance of her project – “a few people in the exhibition even said that I could buy better counterfeit handbags just a few streets down the way”, she said, laughing. In a workshop in Istanbul, she wanted to teach a few men to crochet, but they were vehemently opposed to the idea: “it was all pretty macho”. She asked the group of crocheting women what it was like in Germany? Vanessa recounted a crocheting macho, who she knows, and the shop owner Gabi, describes the so-called Boschi caps trend of the Allgäu skater scene, which results in the lads doing their own knitting.

And what about the Karlsruhe Women? “They are incredibly fast!”, says Stephanie Syjuco, obviously impressed, and she is almost unashamedly happy about the fact that she is able to realize her Louis Vuitton project with experienced crochet knitters. In 2009 Syjuco received a letter from Louis Vuitton, which forbade her to continue to use the label’s logo for her handbags. Handicrafts such as these support child labor and terrorism, the letter said. She received this letter a total of three times. Syjuco is now crocheting with the ladies on an entire collection of the label: “I actually do not see the legal problem. Most of the time, I am not even the producer”. She glances around the circle amused – “If anything, then Louis Vuitton should be going after these ladies”.

Conversation: Vanessa Werthwein und Frauke Schnoor. Wunderwoll crochet group (et al.): Gitta Tabery, Rita Elsäßer, Gabi Bodesohn, Vanessa Werthwein.


Add comment

Security code