John: There seems to me to be a political resistance within your work or a search for alternative modes of production through a collective mentality? Would you identify with that term collective? This action, call it your practice, walks the razors edge between being co-opted into the hegemonic dominances of capitalist west and occupying a space of resistance both working within and striving for change? Am I wrong in this perspective?
JW: There seems to me to be a political resistance within your work or a search for alternative modes of production through a collective mentality?
TCC: Well. What do you mean by political? What do we mean by resistance? Of course we like to investigate the frictions in a present that is quickly becoming smoother and smoother day by day. At least in wealthy countries we are all heading towards a future with no conflicts. That's the general idea. Everyone is promoting it, in very different ways: from the Pope to Donald Trump, from the environmentalists to transhumanists we are all trying to make heaven happen on Earth. In most of the cases, unfortunately, the only thing that's actually realizing this smooth present is cognitive capitalism, through a variety of techniques. The most effective and scariest are those affecting the way we produce and experience culture. Social media platforms have contributed to the rise of a culture of aggression and victimhood, where the debate, the discussion and the sense of belonging have been deeply altered. Even the most open-minded have been infected by this sense of protection and exclusion. Heaven, in fact, is probably the best example of exclusiveness.
So, as artists, we have always been interested in friction points. What happens when your plans hit the ground?
The second part of your question concerning collective mentality is something which needs a lot of talking. Collective mentality is a nice concept, but does it work? Does it belong to an old idea of democracy - or to a nostalgia for democracy? Or is it trendy because now we read its meaning differently, as it is lit by a sci-fi/posthumanist framework everybody in the art world is talking about? The expression collective mind is complex and not easy to handle. It probably applies better to machine learning and collective habits that involve huge amounts of individuals. Usually, we refer to our work as the practice of network-building. It starts before the work enters an exhibition place and actually it never ends. Perhaps part of the network dissolves once its task is accomplished, but perhaps some sections will become active again in the future due to external causes. Or we will become part of a wider network. You really can't tell. Networking happens on several layers and it doesn't mean necessarily human contact opposed to virtual interactions...
Would you identify with that term collective?
We are a collective. We are two, as it is clear from the choice of our name, The Cool Couple. And we are not intended to become a trio, or a quartet or a symphonic orchestra. The Cool Couple is born with a clear intention and a precise approach to problems. Its genesis is to be found in the previous researches we conducted individually and the unique path of TCC is due to this background.
However, it doesn't mean we don't collaborate with other artists. Also, it doesn't mean we don't like becoming part of a wider collective, as in the case of POIUYT (the core of which is composed by three artists - two collectives and an individual artist - and two curators). We have always been interested in the potentialities of a collective as an entity where the single author loses his/her importance. Individual identities aren't important because TCC is a sort of brand that swallows everything and vomits it out as a blob or a good-mannered-schizo-montage, which is probably a better definition of what we do (even if, under this point of view, we could refer to attention deficits caused by FOMO and the fact of being Millennials).
A collective does not have a definition. Every collective is like a little habitat and all its inhabitants have to find the balance in order to coexist. There's no golden rule or the safe conduct...It's both a modesty thing and something that makes every decision more complex, longer, or sometimes impossible to take. On the other hand, a collective means some warranty. You're never alone. So it's all 50-50. You get used to people switching your name and calling you Nico instead of Simo and viceversa and so on...
The last thing to say is that we've always thought of TCC as a band. We are not a couple in life and for life. We close the studio and go home, where each of us has his private life and nightmares. We of course have a lot of things in common: same luggage, same jackets, we both have a dog, but then a lot of differences too. So the band-idea was a simple way to say: if you want to take your time, do it. You can make a solo album or start another band, without forgetting that remains the first and main thing. We've never done that, but we're getting more specialized year by year, which means that we do almost everything together except things where one of the two is better than the other (like delicate phone calls or writing texts). It really helps. All the thinking, developing, designing, still remains a totally shared practice where the person's contribution is indistinguishable from the other's. Quite a mess, yeah.
JW: This action, call it your practice, walks the razors edge between being co-opted into the hegemonic dominances of capitalist west and occupying a space of resistance both working within and striving for change? Am I wrong in this perspective?
TCC: the razor edge is quite a nice metaphor, but perhaps it makes everything more heroic than it is in reality...:D Well, maybe it's time to open a door into cynicism and disillusion. We'd like to confirm what you state in the question. It's a wonderful reading, so powerful and we would love to do that. But lately we started to doubt that such an approach inhabits our practice. Working on friction is fine, we can identify them and try to develop devices or strategies in order to expose it (and try also to fight attention deficits, stereotypes and the prejudices inside the art world). But then the question remains: what is political art? Can we do something that really is an act of resistance? The problem generates when we consider our position as artists. One thing is to make art without being an artists, but when you consciously decide to be part of the art world, you inevitably get rights and duties. And you live within a contradiction between cultural production and politic action. Or, perhaps this isn't a problem any longer because at this stage of cognitive capitalism we're all always cultural producers, cultural consumers, exploited slaves and teachers.