ECOCORE – In conversation with Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE - Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE is an​ ​irregularly published zine that aims to edit the identity of ecology from the point of view of art. It has pioneered discussions around ecology since 2010, by thrusting ecology into the agenda via the commissioned work of artists, writers, poets. ECOCORE questions the established rhetorics of environmentalism, without providing definitive answers. Its mission is to promote creative agency toward the proposition of future alternatives to the current global environmental bankruptcy. The zine operates as a point of intervention, assembling leading creative and theoretical voices across a range of mediums to discuss nature and the environment, as well as the problematic relationship between architecture and natural ecosystems. Concerns regarding human agency within nature are central to the publication’s discussion, motivated by environmentalism’s struggling project for sustainability. ECOCORE hopes to offer a forum for thought and expression regarding the co-evolution of human economies and ecosystems within creative practices.

ECOCORE IV seeks to explore G( )D as an ethical mechanism within deep ecology, biocentrism and nature’s profound mysteries. Deep ecology has emerged as a ‘secular’ proposal to reinstate spiritual intimacy and reverence for the earth. Nature has ended, meanwhile we enter into the new ideological sphere of ‘environmentalism’, directly subject to human action. A covenantal agreement is demanded in our approach towards utilization of the earth’s resources, alongside a formalised collective contrition for our ecological sin. Environmental crisis changes the basic facts behind the spiritual meaning of the world around us; presented as God’s creation, ‘Nature’ and what it signifies metaphysically has been perverted.

ECOCORE1

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

In an age where fanatical and self-righteous lifestyle choices, kale tribes, health ‘binges’, fair-trade coffee (the price of staving off perdition included in the price of the cappuccino) tenuously abate a sense of guilt within consumerism. An ecological ethos shares the same notion of progression as capitalism and neoliberalism, a teleological ethos, which insists that we must be better for future generations. By this logic, we must protect the earth to secure future growth. Given that environmental control is significantly left to human manipulation – nature can no longer keep its promise of beneficence or paternal love – we will need to restructure our outlook towards assuming responsibility for a healthy and integrated environment.

Ecology is the oldest and newest religion; a moral claim that nature has inherent value. Nature itself is calling for an end to instrumentalism and anthropocentrism, asking for us to reconstruct an idealised state of wilderness according to utopian values. ECOCORE questions the possibility of embracing the elusive nature of ecological systems, admitting to the limits of science when met with enigmas such as Higgs Boson or the ‘God particle’, in search of men’s place in the continuity between science and mystery. Is it possible to restructure a future according to a biospiritual agenda in which pollution is in decline, agriculture is sustainable, and species are revived?. ECOCORE The G( )D Issue looks at discussing the role eco-anxiety, ecoterrorism, ecofeminism, anthropocene theories, and radical environmentalist groups have to play in the restructuring of our contemporary ideology and our collective spiritual reactions to the environment. ECOCORE IV ventures to propose a politics of paradise, working on the principle that nature is sacred.

In the press release of the new issue of ECOCORE, you state “Ecology is the oldest and newest religion; a moral claim that nature has inherent value.” Is that what pushed into choosing G( )D as the new concept?

I saw an urgency in by-passing the established secularised approach to ecology and Nature. Something that has been canonised recently by the COP21 resolution…I was drawn to explore deep ecology in its possible connections to current political struggles. In this issue I was interested in the relation between ecology and politics and business: for example ISIS’ terrorist attacks are in many ways connected to an ecological struggle: COP21 has been read as a messy attempt to get away from fossil fuels to counteract the Islamic State agenda….things are changing!

As contributor Oscar Khan put it: deep sadness at the pitiful excuse for a climate accord reached in Paris which has almost no legally binding caps and features wealthy, historical polluters offloading responsibility onto smaller nations. In many ways this is as weak as an accord as the one signed in Copenhagen. If there is a time for divestment and direct action it is now. Mourning the devastation that 2 let alone 3 or 4 degrees increase in temperature will wreak on the planet.”

Why did you decide to create a zine as an instrument to illustrate your thoughts about the current state of ecology?

I was inspired by HOMOCORE a 1970s queer zine. I was impressed by the rawness and power of the medium. Recently an art blogger reviewed ECOCORE saying that they loved the latest issue but it was badly printed…She was referring to the sometimes poor quality of the images, which is totally deliberate and mirrors the grainy xerox quality of punk zines. The zine is printed in Italy to an art catalog standard 🙂

How do you evaluate the new era and movements of “environmentalism” that have become extremely popular in the last decade?

The one I’m most interested in is the NO-TAV one, it feels like it will be the model for youth participation in politics in the future…

Do you think that up to this point we have become successful in putting an end into the instrumentalism to protect nature – something you call sacred?

I’ve definitely helped that process with ECOCORE, but the zine is full of contradictions! If you read all the amazing contributions by all the stellar contributors, you might find an answer!

ECOCORE - Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

Alessandro Bava is an architect, editor, and artist. His work focuses on the relationship between architectural form and technology. He is the founder of Bava and Sons, a design practice working on architecture projects, cultural commissions, and research. In December 2014, the office realized an exhibition environment for the Google Cultural Institute residency program in Paris, presented at the Cartier Foundation. In June 2015 he completed a large scale installation at Moderna Museet in collaboration with artist Simon Denny. Bava is also editor and founder of the ecology zine ECOCORE, which has recently guest edited the “Disaster” issue for DIS magazine. He is cofounder of​ ​ÅYR, an art collective which explores the complex, post-internet evolution of domesticity and the home. The collective has exhibited internationally, at including Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin and the Swiss Institute New York. Bava recently published a book of architecture and poetry with the poet Harry Burke (Version House, 2014). He is the recipient of the 2015 Re Rebaudengo.

ECOCORE

ÅYR

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In conversation with Luca Massaro

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

Having been published in the same period, in which ways are L’Aquila e La Rana and Foto Grafia interlinked?

They’re somehow two opposite books: Foto Grafia was born after 4-5 years of a slow conceptual practice, a typology from different countries; L’Aquila e La Rana is the result of a short artist residency and a simple narrative process driven by coincidences and in-deep researches on a very limited topic. But the more these two children grow up, the more is possible to see they’re almost heterozygous twins: they’re both structured in two chapters with a circular ending interrogating the photographic medium and the interaction of languages, the duality of past and future, history and coincidences, image and word. I also later discovered the strong similarities between the afterword texts, the funny linguistic link between frogs and spoken words (in J.P. Brisset, Michel Foucault, etc.). The exhibition “quasi-quasi” at Matèria Gallery in Rome was the chance to discover all these unconscious associations and give them a shape in the installation space and time.

There is a certain amount of duality and difference also between printed and digital. How did you come up with connecting them in L’Aquila e La Rana through an interactive experience?

Yes, the newspaper L’Aquila e La Rana was followed by an interactive website The Eagle & The Toad. The double artist book is published by LDS Editions, which is my quasi-publishing house producing books at the intersection of printed and digital. The first self-published publication had a frog on the cover, and we later thought about amphibians living both on land and in water and decided to give the publisher this imprint, releasing contents both in the web and in printed form. The virtual corollary allows the viewers to get inside the book’s bigger frame and decide which of the forking paths to take in the two parallel chapters: the reading of this book from beginning to end can take from only 10 seconds up to hours. I think Borges, Queneau, Perec, Calvino, etc would have been very excited to exploit this magic box new possibilities for a narrative purpose. So we built a complicated novel to interrogate our contemporary reading habits online and the structure of the Internet itself as “a garden of forking” hyperlinks.

In your opinion, what is the connection between an exhibition and a book conceptualizing the works and the framework?

I think in the photographic field, the exhibition space is often overlooked or not enough exploited. If in the arts, it was often the case that an exhibition produced a derivative catalogue (sometimes as a poor description of the installation on paper), now the rising number of photographers working first on the printed book, inverted the attitude and many use the exhibition as a translation of the printed page on the wall and not as a different medium to discover something new about the work in the time and space of the installation.

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

How did you realize your interest for photography?

I started taking a lot of pictures of friends while working in the editorial office of PIG Magazine in Milan, which by chance developed in commissioned works; and for the first 4 years, I was obsessed in collecting pictures of words, signs and graphics, that recently became the book published by Danilo Montanari.

What was the starting point in putting together photographs and words?

I moved to Milan – then to Paris – to study Literatures and Linguistic, and started working for PIG and other magazines because I wanted to become a writer or a journalist. I guess that my archive of photographed words (and also the other two books I’ve done up to now) is somehow the diary of a wannabe writer, or the attempt to write a story/poem/book through photographs.

You have started from self-publishing and you’ve moved towards working with a publisher. What do you think about the current rise in the area of self-publishing due to the increasingly digital processes?

I self-published L’Aquila e La Rana when I was already working with Danilo Montanari Editore on Foto Grafia. The newspaper was then presented at his stand at Offprint Paris and other people helped, but I never asked anyone to publish it because the creation of the “quasi-publishing” house was somehow a follow-up of the fiction of the book in the real world. It later developed in an occasion of experimentation and total freedom from the market. I think independent self-publishing is interesting when it tries to question the major conventions and that’s why LDS Editions will keep working on the digital possibilities linked to artist books in many different outcomes. But I think I still prefer to work with a real publishing house for bigger projects – and I’m lucky I met Danilo, one of my favourite Italian artist books publisher – because of their developed experience, the production costs investment, their visibility during artbook fairs, and distribution channels. It’s just like putting out music on Bandcamp/Soundcloud or signing with a small label.

What projects are you currently working on?

I spent 3 months in the US, mostly New York, working on a new project started in Italy last year, that will soon become a book (or a double book), but not only a book. I keep working on various commissions that allow me to live and not to be stuck doing only one thing, but to contaminate different approaches with mutual inspirations.

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

Luca Massaro

In conversation with Aapo Nikkanen feat. Alex Bailey

be me - a collection of greentexts

be me – a collection of greentexts

The following conversation recollects the events of a semi-random evening six months ago. I had set up a meeting with Aapo Nikkanen, curious to hear more about his book project, which was still a work in progress back then. We had been talking about doing an interview for a good while already, yet the right context seemed to be missing. As we didn’t want the conversation to follow the obvious patterns of two friends having a chat, Aapo had suggested bringing in a third person, to play the role of a commentator. One day, I got a phone call from Aapo saying that a friend of his, Alex from London was in town, and would be the perfect person to do the job. The following day, I arrived to the meeting point, a carefully selected roundabout in Eastern Paris, with no set-up, just ready to press the record button on my phone. This three-hour recording, whose original version is way richer than written down here, extended to months of typing, deleting and typing. The book, be me – a collection of greentexts is ready and out there now. But first, let’s go back to the events of one sunny evening in May 2015.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Hey Mark, welcome to Paris! Is it your first time here?

Alex: First of all, my name is not Mark.

Sini: Oh, sorry!

Alex: It’s quite alright, and actually it’s funny that you call me Mark. It reminds me of a story, listen to this: once when I was in a bar and actually introduced myself as Mark, and the person said: Bark? And I thought, he either misheard me, or he actually thinks my name is the outer layer of a tree. Or, it was some kind of command: Bark! Haven’t seen this guy since. But I have to say, what concerns me a lot is the premise. It has to be established and clear right from the onset. The story will work, if the premise is in its place. What was the premise for you to do this interview? Does me being part of this conversation serve a specific purpose?

Sini: On my way here, there was a lot of things going through my mind: mostly, what kind of impact will your presence have on the conversation? Then I realized that I can’t have any prearranged plan since I didn’t know the first thing about you.

Aapo: I see you as the gonzo element: of not having the boring “same questions same answers” kind of thing, written in international art English.

Sini: Why did you want to invite Alex in particular?

Aapo: I just thought he was a suitable person.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Alex: And I was free and I was available: listen, pragmatism is nothing to be ashamed of! Before coming here, I was thinking about me and Aapo’s friendship, and what I came down to was basically is that I know things of a personal nature about him that he wouldn’t like me to tell. And vice versa. So there’s a sort of sensitive trust between us. I would also like to know why are we in this specific place. Do you come here often?

Aapo: I live down the street, so I pass by this place very often. When you’re in this roundabout it feels like you’re in a bubble: around it’s super busy all the time, but people come here to relax, they’re always chilling out here, drinking beer and smoking. This is a physical bubble. When everything around us is moving, there’s something very calming about it.

Sini: Do you have a hard time finding this kind of bubbles in Paris?

Aapo: I don’t think it has necessarily something to do with that. Since I got the funding for my book project, I realised I didn’t have any outside pressure on my work. However, there’s no ending to it in a proper sense: this project is not going to end up in an exhibition for instance. In this sense, I’m working in a bubble right now, without any stress – I could do this work and then just put in a drawer without ever showing it to anyone.

Alex: What kind of book proposal did you have?

Aapo: I’ve been collecting stories online since late 2010. Everything started when I found one really good one and wanted to make a work out of it, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it – and decided to save the story for later. Then I started collecting more and more of those stories. I ended up having loads of them, and proposed to make a book based on these stories: a book which would also function as a tool of access to these stories, to make stories out of stories.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Where did you collect them?

Aapo: Almost all of them come from 4chan. For most of the people it’s a terrible site, it’s seen like the dumpster of the Internet with basically one million posts a day. When facing this crazy content, what people do, is when seeing even a mildly amusing story, they take a screen shot and post it on these image boards, like the ones where people post cat pictures, flows of visual data. And this is what I follow.

Sini: So there was already a sort of preselection?

Aapo: Exactly. Every half a year I deleted half of the stories, because there was too much of them for me to handle them, and to be honest, I’ve read thousands of really shitty stories at this point. However, I think they’re very poetic in a sense: the stories have developed their own literary genre, a statement-like internet expressionism.

Sini: What about the criterion when selecting the texts?

Aapo: Yes, I’ve spent many terrible hours when selecting them, so I had to come up with certain rules. For example, since they’re anonymous – and this is the most important thing – they should be stories that we want to believe in. And obviously we can never know if they’re true or not. With the best stories you think that they cannot possibly be true – but who knows?

Sini: How about your other ongoing work, does it somehow reflect the same themes as the book? I remember you talking something about crying instagram selfies…

Aapo: One day I saw one crying selfie online and was wondering what was it about. I noticed that this was a sort of trend: people trying to win their lost love back by posting crying selfies publicly on Facebook, which inspired me to start a collection of these images. There’s the same element present as with the stories: if the pic is good enough, you want to believe it to be true. However, for me this phenomenon represents a sociological problem that hasn’t been resolved yet.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Could you precise?

Aapo: Let’s say that if me and Alex would break up here, obviously it would be public in a way, since you and the people sitting at the bench over there would witness it. But it would never be a hyper public situation, since they would forget about it, and it would fade away. But when this happens online, it only takes one share and becomes a virtual act, and never disappears. This kind of posts are done by younger generation, people who have been familiar with Facebook all their lives, and it has thus become a normal act. In my view, there will be some social rules which will be generated on the Internet: this is already visible to certain extent for example with posts where people write content warning in the beginning, that people can hide or skip it. But this is only the first, awkward way of dealing with this.

Alex: Let’s say if we broke up here, those guys over there they wouldn’t necessarily come up here staring at my face, but online they wouldn’t necessarily press the hide button. What did you do with these images?

Aapo: I printed some of them on a thick plexiglass, perhaps half a size of an Ipad screen. The form resembles a little bit of a tombstone. By the way, I used to work for this company, who wanted to launch a virtual graveyard for rich people. My job was to translate all the content into Finnish, because they were aiming worldwide. So if you were rich enough, you had the option of buying yourself a virtual space and upload content there that people would remember you, and which could be unlocked by your children for instance. I don’t even know what happened to them afterwards: my guess is that the timing wasn’t right for them and they didn’t succeed.

Alex: You pick up cynical subject matters, do you? The work you do, can always go to both ways, either they can be super genial or pure cynicism.

Aapo: Not true. I’m actually doing a series of work on love as well, entitled What is love?, which started from a mixtape of hiphop lovesongs. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop in Finland, and when I moved abroad I had to leave all my vinyls there. Since I couldn’t bring them with me, I started to make huge playlists on iTunes. While listening to these hard core rappers, I realized that their best songs are often love songs, something that I find very beautiful: it gives an interesting vision to this very otherwise macho world. The same theme is also to be found in my book: amidst the homophobic, hateful and racist online stories found on 4chan, you can actually find a lot of love-related stories.

Courtesy of 4chan

Courtesy of 4chan

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