The following interview and collection of collages appear on Issue Zero of LONGITŪDINĒS. Get your copy now!
Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic journey? How did you come to the art of collage?
I am usually a ‘logorrheic taciturn’ so I’ll try not to keep it long, but neither to cut it short. I don’t think I can call mine an ‘artistic journey’: I never had the necessary talent to afford that, nor the ambition.
I lack the vision, the constancy, the imagination. I feel that the things that I make are pretty far from an artistic act. I am very interested in art – when made by others –but that sense of interest doesn’t apply to me in the first person. In my home, there were always plenty of crayons, markers, and sheets of paper. My parents – just like many other people their age who were born in Brianza and grew up during the 70s – studied to become interior decorators. Because of the massive presence of furniture companies and not much else in the area, there was a constant need to train people to design the furniture made by local artisans.
Ever since I was a child, I got used to seeing my dad busy in the evening, drawing on the drafting machine. To me, that machine looked like a spaceship, with its blue lightbulb illuminating it from above and the small wheels pushing it around. During the day he was in the showroom, and in the evening he kept working to earn more money. If I close my eyes, I see myself sitting on the sofa in the living room and he is in the middle of the room, focusing on the tracing sheets. On the table, there are rapidographs, the Staedtler water markers, the Letraset dry transfers. This image has influenced me over the years that followed: the idea that the best time to work seriously on something is in the evening or at night.
My mother, on the other hand, has always been very passionate about arts and crafts: paper, flimsy paper, cardboard, scissors, markers, wax crayons, cloths, cutouts, bigger and smaller boxes.
She was interested in preserving things, but not in accumulating them. The seemingly meaningless things she set aside, sooner or later, would find a purpose. From my mother, I learned that the best part of a gift is the card that comes with it: there you can show how much you care about someone. It is the easiest way to say: ‘I thought about you for seconds, minutes, hours’. Whether it is for a friend, a relative, a lover, a colleague, doesn’t matter much. What matters is the time.
Among the first ten memories of my life, there is her transparent drawing folder – just like those used by pupils for their technical drawing classes in secondary school. It was full of paper of all colours and shapes (she still has it, we don’t throw things away while they are still useful). The folder is on the kitchen table in the evening, all the lights are out except for one, small and warm, which is on while my mother is cutting, gluing, finishing with marker and crayons letters and cards for birthdays, anniversaries, first communions and baptisms.
All this is to say that, without even realising it, I have brought the kitchen and living room tables together: my mother’s attention to detail and my father’s precise eye. This is how I have come to collage: always doing something else in life and continuously remembering that a present without a card is worth way less. One should imagine that card as a bookmark inside a book, hung to the fridge with a magnet, framed, resting at the bottom of a drawer.
Since I couldn’t draw, I tried collage: it made me feel good, and I stayed.
Why did you choose collage? What is your relationship with it?
I owe everything to others. I never thought that collage would be something that could come out of the perimeter of my bedroom and of those who are close to me. Until someone pushed me – without pressure – so allowing it to happen.
Long story short: for a period, I shared an office with Giulia Perona. Together with Giulia Cuter, she created the podcast Senza Rossetto, designed to discuss present-day feminism. At some point, Senza Rossetto became a newsletter. Giulia saw on my desk some of the collage experiments that I used to make during my lunch breaks to understand how to design the visuals for the blog of the publishers we were both working for. They were drafts, nothing more, messy notes. But she saw something and one day she asked me if I could make a collage that would go together with a tale by Serena Carollo that was to be published in the newsletter. I did it with little confidence, lightheartedly: Giulia and Giulia liked it very much, and when it was published, others liked it as well. From that moment on, I started showing more of what I did in my bedroom: I had never thought it could interest anyone.
The world is full of exceptional illustrators, cartoonists, and collage-makers and I feel nowhere near as good as them. I was lucky enough to find people that supported and encouraged me. I am thinking – other than the Giulias from Senza Rossetto – of Valentina Zilliani of Dance Like Shaquille O’Neal, of the editorial staff of Inutile magazine and of Add Editore that let me use my collages to illustrate the pieces that I published on their blog Spazio B. Without them I would never have come out of my shell.
What do you want to tell the world through this form of art?
I like the feeling of suspension that a collage can give, and also the idea of re-contextualising an image.
In everyday life, my head feels congested by chaos. Weeks and months go by, and I have the feeling that I don’t understand anything that is happening around me, that I am unable to decode any aspect of what’s around me.
If I try to imagine the brain, I see it as a box into which something enters with a particular shape and comes out shaped differently. In my case, this process seems to stop; my head becomes a place where things enter but never come out again. They remain stuck inside, and they make a lot of noise.
Collage helps me, somehow, to momentarily pause that noise: I take a space, I empty it almost completely until it’s white. I choose only one thing to which I add other coloured or abstract elements, or elements that assume the form of something that already exists and of which I only keep the line of the contour.
In my collages I subtract, I simplify, I reduce to the basics: everything I am unable to do as a person, in my everyday life, I can do on the page. I look for a moment of rest, both for me and for those who look at my collages.
What triggers your creativity? Where do you find inspiration?
I like images, I always have. At the same time, I like things, objects. When I moved to Turin, for the first time in my life I had to rationalise the number of things I could keep, particularly books.
When you live with your parents there will always be room in the house for your things. In the worst-case scenario, you make some space between the garage and the cellar. But when you only have one room in a house that you share with three, four, five strangers, or you end up in a 14sqm studio apartment, things change.
All those encyclopedias that you saved from library charity markets, all those beautiful books that you unexpectedly came across through bookcrossing, or at small-town flea markets become a problem. From that moment on, I started clipping, removing, selecting the pages that seemed most meaningful to me.
And what do you do with those pages then? You keep them, but there are still so many, they take up space in drawers, boxes, shelves, and they summon the ghost of the hoarder that does it just for the sake of it. To avoid that vicious circle, collage seemed to be an excellent way to give meaning to my passion for keeping things from the past.
At the same time, I used to do the same (and I still do) with my computer: folders and image folders, drawings, screenshots from movies that are then moved on to usb sticks, hard drives. I spent hours on Flickr, Google Images, museums digital collections, Pinterest, Tumblr (R.I.P.), online magazines.
And, if all those hours and the ‘stuff-keeping’ give birth to at least one collage, my sense of guilt is mitigated. Finally, I would say that my sense of guilt might be considered as the constant fuel of everything I do, hence also of collage.
Collage is obtained by superimposing/assembling different materials, originally created with different aims. Do you think that the idea of cross contamination lies within this artform?
There is nothing less exciting than fenced courtyards. What I find particularly stimulating is to look for connections and links between different fields. I like to see, for example, how the same topic has been investigated in literature, music, film, painting, and architecture.
I admire those who specialise in a specific field, and I understand why they do it, why they study and delve into just one thing. But that doesn’t work for me. I wouldn’t be able to think of art without music, literature without painting or photography, film without politics or poetry. I particularly enjoy seeing the results of two artistic souls that recognise each other as similar and come closer together, despite operating in two different fields. Classic stuff: Ghirri and Lucio Dalla, Ghirri and Gianni Celati, Rodari writing for Sergio Endrigo, Guttuso painting for Fratelli Taviani’s films or Francesco Rosi. I like it when languages mix together and the root of the shared way of looking at things comes to the surface, even where things are seen from a different point of view. I have always found this particularly exciting, and I still do.
Who are the artists you look up to? What are the biggest influences on the way you make art?
The best way to work on a collage is while listening to a nice album: those that I have listened to the most while holding a pair of scissors in the last year are Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill by Grouper, Devotion by Tirzah, Crushing by Julia Jacklin. They keep time and allow me to distract myself and wander off. You can sing or simply follow the instruments.
And then there are all those artists that I look up to with great admiration: authors like Sarah Mazzetti, Giulia Sagramola, Marianna Coppo, Bianca Bagnarelli, Alberto Fiocco Giulia Pex, Miss Goffetown, Zeno Peduzzi, Cristina Amodeo, Valerio Vidali, Giulia Perin, Silvia Rocchi, Eleonora Antonioni, Alice Lotti+Patrizio Anastasi, Andrea Mongia, Cecilia Grandi, Eliana Albertini, Elisa Lipari, Valeria Santamaria, Giulia Milos, Marta Giunipero. Susanna Galfrè – with whom I was lucky enough to collaborate and who I got to see working from close up.
To me, all these people are on a faraway planet which I will never reach. Every time I feel down or disheartened, I look at the things they do, and everything just goes away for a moment. It’s like chewing on a Zigulì: it is a pleasure and an immediate relief. And it’s good for your health.
© Enea Brigatti. Interviewed by Andrea Romanzi