* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Matteo Cremonesi (Milan, 1986). He studied at Accademia di Brera (Milan). Ha esposto il suo lavoro presso Still Gallery (Antwerp); Docva, Fondazione Hangar Bicocca and Nowhere Gallery (Milan); Family Business (New York); The Orange (Seoul); Museum of Art (Tel Aviv); Jarack Gallery (Venice).
The subject of your eye seems to be a daily ‘third landscape’, made of normally neglected objects, yet united by some characteristics which are hardly to define … Which ones?
What drives me towards a subject is its ability to embody a ‘bureaucratic’ character, that is, to be simultaneously a sort subject / object for itself and for its function. In my work there is nothing to see, almost nothing. Or rather, there is what we constantly see without looking. I think my practice can recount itself as a placid observation and recording of what is constantly close, usual, overtly insignificant, ‘democratic’.
What do you mean by ‘sort’ subject?
I mean categories of subjects which have essential properties in common and differ in non essential properties.
The Japanese sense of sabi which a Westerner connects both mistakenly and automatically with an ‘anonymous’ character seems to be historically tied hand in glove with the success of the most iconic Western design. Today, after the post-modern design of the 80s, we have returned to the simplicity of the BIC pen with the success of the iPhone: a monolith with a political agenda. How do aesthetics relate with the socio-political dimension in your work?
My work reflects on the formal aspects of the contemporary habitat trying to find a poetical way for them to relate with it. The standardization processes, the inclusive attitude of the markets, their productions, the aesthetic values proposed by them, are constant issues of my practice and observation. An argument not devoid of emotion of what surrounds us, and the way this talks about us and changes us.
What is your relationship with your subjects? Do you study them for a long time, do you spend time with them before posing them, or do you use photography as a tool to exhaust them, consume them?
I think of my work as an observation that begins with noticing something before deciding to pay attention to it. To become familiar with the subject I need to review it many times and in different moments, to attend it until I know it by heart. This living together can last weeks or months, and in most cases it does not lead to the creation of anything, it dies, unable to recover from the laziness of a gaze that exempts me from initiating a gesture. Only what survives this moody dance becomes a subject. I investigate the surface through the shot and the pagination. I recognize my practice of attention in this relation among surface, framing and layout. Through the serial photographic account I try to report every track, every detail, every rhetorical character of the form. I stop to look at the parts, selecting those portions of the surface, the ‘skin’, which retain a tension, in tune with my impression of it. I try to understand the formal potential, the boredom, trying to free the subject from its primary function in order to render an impression of ‘sort’.
Is yours is a functional use of photography as a medium, or is there a will to be part of a tradition?
Yes, I think one can speak of a functional use of the photographic medium. However, some formal features of my work can easily find a point of adherence in a certain photographic tradition (for example the Düsseldorf School). Recently I’m often watching the work of Franco Vimercati in which I think I can trace several formal and biographical similarities.
Can you tell me about your fascination for the Middle East and about your travels?
The Middle East has always exerted a powerful influence on my imagination. A fascination that I had the opportunity to mitigate through some journeys. Crossings from which I learned the ability to hold a point of view that would put the mark on an essential representative value in its synthetic, vital, peaceful practice, away from words.
It seems that Milan is gradually gaining self-awareness and with this also a bit of pride in relation to its specific nature, a very recent phenomenon though: until a few years ago this was not the case. Do you feel this too? Could you describe what you think this specificity is?
Yes, I agree, several changes have taken place in recent years, there has been a sort of ‘ferment’. I personally believe that the gradual disappearance of an economic support from the more structured realities and of the resulting securities that this involved, has encouraged individual initiatives and independent realities to which, next to what has survived the economic crisis, it seems has been given the task of reorganizing the dialogue with the city itself. This ‘movement’ is not, however, lacking in complexity, and we have to see whether it will be capable of encouraging quality or, instead, simply organize ignes fatui.