Interview | Marco Scozzaro, Italian Photographer & IAP Alumnus
“NYFA and IAP opened a new world for me. Getting to know other artists and art professionals and start a conversation with them is the aspect of the program that I personally treasured the most.”
Marco Scozzaro is an Italian artist and an editorial and commercial photographer currently living in New York City. As an artist, Marco tries to blur the lines between artistic photography and editorial/commercial photography. His recent solo show, Digital Deli, was the final part of his residency program at Baxter Street at the Camera Club of New York, which allowed him to explore and participate in the discourse about art and photography. Marco is an alumnus of the IAP Mentoring Program and of the NYSCA/NYFA Artist As Entrepreneur Boot Camp at NoMAA.
NYFA: How do you see yourself as a photographer right now? Has anything changed from your initial vision of being a photographer?
MARCO SCOZZARO: I’ve been interested in art from an early age and discovering photography was a great epiphany. There is something strange and subtle about the artifice of photography and its apparent simplicity that mesmerizes me. This very modern medium that engages with both the fine art and the commercial worlds really appealed to me and gave me space for experimentation. Its multi-faceted nature as a representation of the real, document and archive of our memory, and fictional element and starting point for something new still has a big impact on me. The more I explore the medium, the more I get excited about its possibilities. I am an artist but also an editorial/commercial photographer, and I’ve always tried to blur the lines between these two worlds, although I have often faced the fact that they are still perceived as separate. Being a photographer today is challenging and exciting at the same time. Photography nowadays is, of course, ubiquitous, and society is more interested in engaging with it. I am curious to see if the diffused vernacular and the democratic gaze will push the medium instead of spreading mostly stereotypical and generic images, which I address with my current project.
NYFA: No one can avoid the impact of diversity on their daily lives. What role, exactly, does diversity play in your work and practice through the photographic medium?
MS: I have been exploring how culture and mass media influence our identity; the impact of technology in shaping behaviors and the perception of who we are and how we behave. The most recent step in this process has been the paradigmatic switch from analog to digital. Digital images are the syntax and the grammar of today’s vernacular. We communicate through images more than we do through words, especially with social media. We cannot avoid that. The process is fast, on point, and fulfills that lazy instant gratification that we all seem addicted to. In my recent practice, I have been embracing what’s happening around me in this particular moment as the starting point for new possibilities; letting the medium speak for itself about its identity. A photograph is an image but it can also be an image of an image, and the subtle gap between reality and its fictional representation is what really interests me.
NYFA: In your recent works, there are more explorations of using photographs in the gallery space as installations. What’s the idea behind those works? What would you like to communicate to the audience? What’s the relationship between your 2D photo work and the installation?
MS: Before embracing visual arts, first with collage, then with photography and installations, I have performed in several bands and experimental electronic audio-visual projects. My practice has always been multi-dimensional, and I have been interested in blurring the lines between different disciplines, including photography, music, installation, and video. Lately, I have been very interested in the sculptural dimension, which is very related to my longtime fascination with design and architecture. Since my early projects that I exhibited in museums and galleries in Italy, I have been engaging with the space on site-specific installations that include photography, sound, language, and light. After moving to New York seven years ago, I have been focusing somewhat on photography, either published by a magazine, printed on a book, or hung on a gallery wall. With my current project Digital Deli, I felt the need to expand the space of my practice, and I have been exploring how to expand the two-dimensionality of an image, and using the apparent paradox of reproduction as the starting point for a new conversation. In my recent show, I created images that look like objects and objects that look like images. I want to let my audience reflect on what an image could be: either a printed photograph, an image on a screen, a sculpture, a tapestry, wallpaper, etc.
NYFA: Can you give us some examples of how you play with different materials, and how they work with photographs? For example, in Digital Deli you combined real life objects/people with artificial props, digital drawings, etc. Are there any specific reasons why you chose to pair them together?
MS: With Digital Deli I embraced a very eclectic approach, and I created a diverse range of images that reference or appropriate different languages and genres in photography. One of the topics that I wanted to explore was my natural attraction to opposites and contrasting/contradictory elements. The moment I realized that these signs could coexist in a new possible dimension, my work was opened to new possibilities. I like to deconstruct and re-contextualize elements that are apparently different but related on a broader level. I take them from different frameworks and juxtapose them to create new associations. I create sculptural compositions in my studio, and I add different layers on an image both physically or through digital interventions. I juxtapose portrait and still life, details and textures. I sample cultural artifacts, I re-photograph my photographs, I make sculptural constructions with images, and I arrange all these elements in the space so that they can be in dialogue outside the limit of their frames.
The conversation between 2D and 3D elements happens in the exhibition space as much as within the images themselves. My photographs are not traditionally framed but mounted on fluorescent acrylic so that the reflected light creates a glow around the image that virtually frames it. Some images are printed on adhesive wallpaper so they can be overlapped and the flat appearance counterpoints the tridimensional look of the other images. One of my photographs is woven into a blanket, creating a parallel between the subject — a girl wearing a blanket on her shoulder — and the meta-photographic representation of it.
NYFA: Does the popularity of image-based social media (e.g. Instagram) affect your practice? If so, in which ways?
MS: At some point, I started to think seriously about the circulation of images on social media and the Internet in general. I wanted to use these tools my own way, and I studied the different dynamics related to these new ways of experiencing/consuming images. My current project is basically my comment on the way we use these new tools.
I am fascinated by the possibilities of juxtaposing images from different contexts in curated mood boards on Tumblr or on Google Images search results. My own Instagram account is a parallel project itself that I called Sviaggioni (the word in Italian slang can be translated as “big mental trips”). I post photos taken with my iPhone and the images are automatically reposted on my Tumblr page, where they appear in a slightly different layout grid. I might post some images directly on Tumblr that are not on Instagram and vice versa. The way the images appear on the screen inspired me to make a book where each double spread represents an edited version of a collection of photographs as they appear on my Instagram or Tumblr. I then realized that what I thought were just visual notes I was recording with my iPhone were actually the starting point of a new project that would become Digital Deli. The book Sviaggioni, together with my Tumblr and Instagram feeds, became the mood board for the images that I would create later.
So, to answer your question, I think that the theoretical structure that I created from my exploration of image-based social media was the starting point for my current practice. By using the same language, Digital Deli questions the overwhelming amount of images that surround us, and comments on a generic, stereotypical, and glamorized visual language that these mass media might inspire us to adopt.
NYFA: Can you share a bit about your recent solo show, Digital Deli, at Baxter Street in New York? What’s your relationship with the organization? What does it mean to have a solo show in New York City?
MS: My solo show Digital Deli was the final part of an artist residency at Baxter Street the Camera Club of New York, one of the oldest nonprofit art institutions in the city. Being selected for this competitive residency program has been a very important step in my career, and it certainly opened my work to new directions. The instrumental support and the ongoing conversation with a big community of great artists helped me develop my practice and deepen the conceptual thoroughness in my work. I see my solo show in New York as an important stage of the process that puts my work in a broader arena and me as a more official participant in the ongoing discourse about art and photography. I enjoyed and treasured the whole process, from developing and conceptualizing my project to creating the site-specific installation for the gallery space. It has been definitely the starting point for a deeper engagement with the art community and future development in my art practice.
NYFA: You have participated in NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and the NYSCA/NYFA Artist As Entrepreneur Boot Camp. What are your key takeaways from these experiences?
MS: NYFA and IAP opened a new world for me. Getting to know other artists and art professionals and start a conversation with them is the aspect of the program that I personally treasured the most. I became friends with some of the fellow artists and mentors, and some collaborations started after the program. I could not be more grateful to be part of such a great community! The program is very informative, the staff at NYFA is super friendly and supportive, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. I surely recommend that any immigrant artist apply. It’s very helpful to not feel isolated and learn from the experience of other people with similar goals, problems, struggles, or success.
The NoMAA boot camp was a similar experience, more intensive and condensed over a weekend. I was already familiar with some of the topics because of IAP, but it didn’t hurt to have a refresh. There were very interesting and informative sessions about finance, legal topics, and marketing. It was another great occasion to meet fellow artists working in different disciplines and share experiences, ideas, and recommendations with them.
NYFA: Can you share your strategies for finding opportunities in the city?
MS: I don’t have just one place or strategy to find opportunities, as I am always on the lookout. I never stop searching. There is something that interests me everywhere: on the Internet, subscribing to newsletters, going to museums and gallery shows, open studios, talks, lectures, book signings, reaching out to the people who inspire me. I always take notes and do my research. But talking to people is the most effective way to know about the best opportunities out there. Networking is a great source of inspiration, and being part of an ongoing conversation with other artists and art professionals is fundamental.
NYFA: What will your next project be?
MS: After wrapping up my show, I have been focusing my research on video. I want to expand the conversation created with Digital Deli and explore the potential of its concept by using different media. I was selected by BRIC as a Media Arts Fellow, and this program is giving me the space, time, inspiration and support to develop the part of my practice that is more related to performance, video, and music. I am planning to explore the potential of public access and sublimate my conflicting relationship with pop culture and mass media by producing and hosting a TV show that will incorporate all these elements.
This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #93. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events here.
– Interview conducted by Judy Cai, Program Officer
Image: Marco Scozzaro at the opening of the Immigrant Artist Program Benefit exhibition curated by Kate Bellin, Photo: NYFA