A Short Introduction to Interdisciplinary Artist Sonja Bäumel

It’s difficult to introduce Sonja, because there is no one specific word that can define her profession. Her work does not fit easily into standard categories: it includes art objects, living paintings, films, material research, costumes and product design in which she mediates between art and science, fashion and science, design and science, between clothes and body, between fiction and facts. I had the opportunity to interview Sonja. This is the result of our conversation.


Sonja at Ignite Amsterdam 13 - Sonja speaks about her new material research. Photo taken at Ignite Amsterdam 13. Govert de Jong

Who is Sonja Bäumel?

In her projects Sonja moves from one field to the other combining what she finds attractive from each one without ever committing herself. Sonja explores the indeterminate in-betweens, questioning and expanding definitions and breaking down the barriers that traditionally separate these disciplines. This footloose position allows her to remain critical and to avoid getting comfortable in the specific disciplinary discourses. It is only from this distance that she can generate the new vocabulary with which her creations converse.

How does one arrive at this interdisciplinary combination?

Sonja started out in the fashion world studying design at the Fashion Institute of Vienna and later worked for Swarovski doing trend research. However, she felt that more could be expected from the fashion world and what she refers to as our second skin. During her masters program at the Design Academy Eindhoven she came into contact with the fields that provided the fresh perspective she was looking for: bio-art and biology. Since then her work has altered and combined these disciplines, producing projects such as The Textured Self in which she knitted a recreation of the invisible bacteria found on her body’s skin on a specific day.

What does her work pursue?

Through her work, Sonja raises awareness for the body (which is taken as a starting point of investigation) and its collaboration with the environment and the organisms found there. Not only does this focus provide her with new inspiring aesthetic perspectives, but her work has social purpose as well: Sonja truly believes that by making these physical symbioses visible and by integrating them into our daily interactions through fashion and art, we can improve society.

If you want to know more, visit Sonja's website.