2018 marks the first year of an exciting collaboration between Fujifilm and Unseen, where an artist or collective is invited to research into the nature of Fujifilm Original Photo Paper. A summer of travel, intensive research and creative production has led the commissioned artist duo Niccolò Benetton (1986) and Simone Santilli (1987), who together form The Cool Couple, to Calabria, Tilburg and back again, as they unravel a narrative exploring the intricate paper creation process of Fujifilm and its rich history. We caught up with the pair ahead of their presentation at Unseen Amsterdam 2018 to hear about their process.
The Fujifilm commission asked you to research how photographic paper is made, and what processes are involved from photo taking to final print. Can you tell us how you went about your research for this?
Questions play a key role in our artistic research. They are not just starting points. They follow you all the way through the development of a project. On the one hand, we considered the nature of photo-paper in relation to its users (it has a fundamental tactile and interactive aspect, when it is considered as a stable and shareable image support); on the other, the role of paper in a world increasingly populated by screens was an open invitation to think about the different temporalities that characterise our lives.
Another element we paid particular attention to was the story and philosophy of Fujifilm. The questions we asked referred to the people behind the products, the people not only designing, testing, producing and distributing the paper, but also those involved in the process of developing and printing the pictures of people from all over Europe. The feeling we got from the visits at the production sites was that of a big and solid family, where human connections were literally overwhelming technology, in a kind of healthy inversion of the processes happening elsewhere, where we are becoming more connected and at the same time losing human contact. Fujifilm, however, is not naive about these transformations, that is why investing in photographic paper today is possible only if you have a lucid vision of the future.
This connection of past, present and future was particularly interesting for us and, combined with the interaction in the nature of the paper itself, helped in coming up with an idea. As we usually do, we tried to find a simple concept that could generate a whole exhibition. In this case, the concept is embodied in an object: a time capsule.
In what ways does the process of a commissioned project like this one differ from your self-initiated projects?
In our case, a commissioned project does not differ too much from our own work. We carry out research on the long-term, by which we mean, if we do not have a deadline, we can continue researching or brainstorming for long periods. When we initiate something on our own, we tend to write abstracts, organise moodboards and all the preparatory materials to present a project proposal to someone.
In the case of the Fujifilm commission, we did not feel any particular difference: we always tend to consider all the parties involved in a project, be they a company, a fair, a gallery, curators, other artists and so on. We are a collective and when the team grows in size it creates new opportunities to share and learn.
You’ve participated in Unseen Amsterdam’s programme on more than one occasion. How important is it for you to collaborate with art and photography organisations?
It is the other side of the artistic production, we guess. You can choose to do art for yourself, without showing anything. But if you want to be an artist, working in the art system, you can’t avoid entering a network of relations that goes far beyond your friends. Focusing on our relation with Unseen: it has been the first art fair we have ever attended as participating artists, and it was love at first sight.
What should guests expect to see at your exhibition at Unseen Amsterdam 2018?
We do not really know what to expect, because the project asks people to contribute actively and discuss the dynamics behind image-production, through very personal experiences. In every process of reciprocal exchange there is a lot to discover and this is probably the most exciting aspect.
Thank you Niccolò and Simone!
Follow their journey on Instagram as they take over our account for three days.
Image: The Cool Couple, 2018 © Rachel Morón