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

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