Saskia de Brauw Makes an Art of Walking

Saskia de Brauw Makes an Art of Walking

The model transcends the runway in new Red Hook Labs exhibit.

The model transcends the runway in new Red Hook Labs exhibit.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

When she alighted on the scene in the early 2010s, Dutch model Saskia de Brauw was a tad older than your garden-variety new face, but her clever, artistic airs seemed to transcend fashion’s fickle nature. With her stonecut features, cropped hair and statuesque frame, the former art student's almost mythological look was that of an Athena-like huntress, bobbing and weaving between art-house editorial and top-tier campaigns.

But behind the scenes, de Brauw's jump from the Netherlands to New York wasn't so nimble. “In the beginning, working in fashion was quite a lot to take in. I found [New York] quite a difficult city to be in. For me, it was overwhelming and too fast paced,” she tells us. Her response to the daily stimuli was to begin the practice of silently walking without a destination. “I started to do these slow walks that calmed me down, and that gave me a very pleasant feeling,” she says.

What began as a self-soothing habit became a philosophical and artistic pursuit; de Brauw eventually traveled to a Buddhist monastery where they practice walking meditation. That physical and spiritual journey culminated in the multimedia project “Ghosts Don’t Walk in Straight Lines,” a collaboration between de Brauw and her husband, photographer Vincent van de Wijngaard. Opening tomorrow at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn, the project captures a day-long pilgrimage that de Brauw took in 2015, and the urban landscape it encapsulates. In a film shot on Super 8 by van de Wijngaard and an accompanying book, de Brauw traverses the length of Manhattan in a custom-made gown by friend and collaborator Haider Ackermann, following the city’s north-to-south axis and largely ignoring the grid system.

While it may imply a renunciation of not only the linear model’s walk but also one’s corporeal form entirely, the film’s theme is not a rebellion against fashion, says de Brauw. “It’s a direct result of me going to New York working as a model and the personal experience I have,” she says, “but the walk is not a critique in any way on fashion.”

That said, what united the husband-and-wife team, who have historically avoided working together, was their common interest in the immaterial—despite their fashion-focused occupations. "I don’t think we are interested in decorating, if that makes sense," says de Brauw of their artistic philosophy. Van de Wijngaard, who concentrates in site-specific and travel-based photography, says that urban environments can be just as invisible as they are physical. “You can actually go really rapidly from one end of Paris to the other by following this [unmarked] line [that’s along] earth’s meridian. You might think it’s a long walk, but it’s not,” he says. “We found out the line was not marked correctly which it made it more interesting.”

De Brauw’s walk may have started in fashion, but in today's media and misinformation-saturated world, her simple yet powerful practice feels universally applicable. The truth, she reminds us, is out there, no matter one's surroundings: "Even when I work as a model, I try to access [truth] as much as possible. It’s sometimes hard to find. But I like it when things have meaning." 

“Ghosts Don’t Walk in Straight Lines” will be open to the public at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn on November 9 and 10.

Ghosts Don’t Walk In Straight Lines (photo: Vincent van de Wijngaard, courtesy of Red Hook Labs)
Credits: SASKIA DE BRAUW BY NATHANIEL GOLDBERG FOR V79

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