19 February 2015

German artist inspired by homeless for controversial collection

While the latest designer fashion clobber or edgy new art installations filling up catwalks and galleries might give nods to modern culture, they probably won't have a particularly huge impact on society in general.

But with his latest collection, German artist Winfried Baumann aims to make a bold statement about homelessness by blending art, architecture, fashion design and social activism.

His 'Dumpster Diver' suits (pictured right) are part of his Urban Nomads project. "It's all in light of the fact that the urban nomad, the hunter-gatherer, is back on the city streets," he says.

Images from Winfried Baumann's Urban Nomads collection.
"Over the last 10 or 12 years, nomadism experienced a renaissance. So the purpose of my work became not only the "classic" homeless person who's been thrown off course in life, but also seasonal workers, students and "work nomads" who can be constantly moving around with no more than a laptop and a small travel bag. This also means a loss of social structure."

Baumann's collection includes a range of "Instant Housing" models (pictured right) that see wheelie bins and large suitcases transform into mobile shelters. The Nuremberg-based artist has also worked with German street paper Strassenkreuzer to design mobile trolleys for vendors to store copies of the magazine.

While his work has received some criticism, Baumann says the response from homeless people has generally been positive. "The question comes up time and time again as to whether we're creating art at the expense of the homeless - but always from people unaffected by homelessness," he says.

"I've never experienced this reaction from homeless people. They definitely understand the hidden humour in the work."

Bauman's work certainly promotes debate.While his designs are a far cry from practical solutions to homelessness (similar to the 'coffin slumber box' for the homeless that recently appeared in Belfast city centre as a 'social experiment'), they do draw attention to the fact that finding permanent and lasting solutions to homelessness is a global need that is always in vogue.

This blog is based on article by Florian Blumer from Swiss street paper Surprise originally published on INSP's News Service. The original article is also available for street paper editors to download and republish in English and German.