A Conversation w/ Con.Tatto
The following email conversation took place in December 2014 and January 2015, upon the acquisition of Person-A (2014) by Con.Tatto (Francesca Leoni and Davide Mastrangelo) for active Video Out distribution. This work will be shown as part of a Recent Acquisitions Screening at the centre in February of 2015.
Still from Person-A (2014).
Jeremy Todd, VIVO Member, Video Out Distributed Artist and Enthusiast: Person-A presents what could be a performance artwork, but you’ve chosen not to document without edits in real-time, incorporating post-production alterations of sequentiality and movement despite the fixed camera position. There’s a very dramatic music score too. How did you arrive at these kinds of decisions for the piece?
Con.Tatto (Francesca Leoni and Davide Mastrangelo): We work mainly with Video Performance Art. VPA is a video art in which the performance is present with an action that is possible only on video. It’s not the video of a performance (documentation) and it’s not only video art. Person-A is a performance that can be performed live, but the digital medium can ad a further meaning to it.
This work its about social masks that each one of us carries on in life, especially within interpersonal relationships. The mask is a very ancient symbol, and it has for each one of us a different meaning and feeling. In this video we decided to keep the noise of the “strap” of the mask under the music, created by a few musicians that often collaborate with us, to give the mood of what we were feeling in that moment. Showing to another person your “real face” can often be painful, risky and at the same time liberating.
VO: Is VPA in part a methodology and term that has developed out of your practice over time? Are you engaging with aspects of theatre as well?
CO: When Davide and I started collaborating, our first video was already a video performance. It was natural to name it in that way, because we couldn’t say that it was only video art or a performance. It was both. With a professor of the academy of fine arts of Bologna we started searching for other video performers and we found out that there was a new generation of video artists in Italy that were working mainly in VPA. Why did we start with a video performance? Because we both came out of theatre, and we were both video makers. Theatre was an important part of our background, but we needed something more, something more personal and challenging. Performance was the right evolution for that need. Maybe one day we will go back to theatre again, or film. Who knows? We want our art to evolve all the time, so we try not have limits.
VO: Person-A could be seen as a kind of statement or meditation on relationships between women and men. Is this something Con.Tatto explores on a regular basis? Is there something particular to your collaborative relationship, both as artists and people, generating the work?
CO: Many of our video performances and live performances talk about relationships. We tend to explore relationships (any kind) in contemporary society starting with our own relationship. Davide and I are a couple in life, and that makes it impossible for us not to talk about ourselves, but, since we use symbols that are universal people can relate to our work in different ways. Our works are open to interpretation. Each person can interpret Person-A using their own sensibility and personal experience. We heard many interpretations of this video. As I said before, we start from ourselves, our relationship, to create our videos, but we want to represent more than a couple, we want to represent the feminine and the masculine, positive and negative, and anything that is opposite but complementary. This principle is present in almost all of our videos. In particular Person-A comes from our need to search for the other’s true self, necessary in almost any kind of relationship to grow or die.
VO: How did you first discover VIVO/Video Out and what has your experience or understanding of the centre been like so far?
CO: As video artists and video makers, we always try to search for realities or institutions that aim to spread the culture of video art and help artists to broadcast their work. It’s a continuous search that we make through the internet and the information we receive from other artists and institutions. That is how we found VIVO/Video Out. There is nothing like it in Italy — you not only give artist distribution and visibility — you also have screenings and exhibitions, workshops and classes, equipment rentals and production/post-production facilities. From what we understand, VIVO is a 360 degree spreader of media art culture.
VO: Can you talk about some projects in development?
CO: We have many projects for 2015, both personal and in groups. Right now I’m in Brazil recording a documentary about a foundation that is using art to create a better life inside a favela. Davide is in pre-production for his first short movie (to be filmed in our home town). At the end of January we are going to film our new video art work that will be continue our exploration of relations. We both think it’s important for each of us to explore other forms of video individually and at the same time be strong and united in our video performance art production. After that we will be organizing the second edition of Re-Azione, an event dedicated to video performance art and performance. And this is only the beginning.
VO: Thank you Francesca and Davide for this opportunity to talk about your practice and this first work to be distributed with Video Out . We’re looking forward to your next submission.