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An interview with an Italian artist in a Milanese café

Part of our mission at The Hippo Collective is to discover new, exciting and serious artists and to provide a space in which to engage in conversation about their philosophies, goals and creative methods.  As young people, we ought to use our opportunities and capabilities to support and interact with each other in order to begin a dialogue.  Through this dialogue, we can explore and develop new concepts, innovate and debate questions that address artistic, social and human issues.  With this in mind, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Elisa Carassai, an emerging and extremely talented Italian artist who is also a good friend of mine.  Elisa recently graduated from the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design in London.  I interviewed her in Milan, Italy for The Hippo Collective.  We spoke about her current project, The Flâneur, a zine that she published in London.  We also chatted about her future projects and aspirations, radicalism and boobs. We will release our lengthy conversation in several parts so be sure to check back on The Collective in the next few weeks.

An interview with Elisa Carassai:

The Hippo Collective: Hello Elisa!  Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me this evening.  Congratulations on publishing the first edition of The Flâneur.  The zine is a beautiful publication and it is obvious that you have created it with skill and consideration.  The first topic we need to discuss is why you began this project.  Why did you create a zine? Elisa Carassai

Elisa Carassai: At the time, I was studying at Condé Nast College and I decided that I would create a magazine as my final project.  It was a sort of thesis I had to present in order to complete my degree.  My professors didn’t give me a brief, they just told me I could do whatever I wanted.  I had to present them with an idea and pitch it in a consistent, detailed and organized way. 

I decided I would create a zine because I’ve always had a great passion for niche magazines and I’ve always wanted to work at The Gentle Woman and Dazed [and Confused].  Dazed is one of my favorites!  So that was the main reason.  However, my publication isn’t really a ‘magazine’, it’s a zine. 

[The idea for a zine] came about at the time because I was (and still am) into nineties culture.  I was listening to Sonic Youth and Bikini Kill.  I was also researching them because when I listen to a band, I look into their cultural background and rise to fame.  What happened was that I discovered Bikini Kill derived their name from their eponymous zine.  I decided that I would create a zine.  Their magazines were created out of a desire to create a platform that wasn’t glossy and they wanted to talk about social and cultural issues.  My idea for the zine was to create a platform that would focus on the talent and ideas of young people before they venture into the ‘adult world’.  Some of these people are technically adults but they are still youthful.  I decided to contact people that I know in person, know over Facebook or never actually met. 

THC:  Before we move on, could you describe the differences between a magazine and a zine?

EC: Ok, a zine is a publication that people would give out at concerts or at shows in the eighties and nineties.  They wouldn’t make profit but they would try to design them differently and attract new and younger audiences.  You know, try to make a statement.  A magazine, on the other hand, is subscription based and has advertisements.  It’s much more formal and dependent on ad revenue.

THC: You have spoken a bit about your influences.  Did you have a lot of source material other than the publications that you just mentioned?

EC:  Living in London, I went to a lot exhibitions.  Especially regarding the first edition’s theme, interpreting the word ‘radical’, I went to a few exhibits that were related to the word and the theme of the zine.  I went to see [Alexander McQueen’s] ‘Savage Beauty’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum and to the Tate Modern.

THC: Before we explore the contents of this edition, I would like to talk about the technical aspects related to constructing a zine.  You did all of this work on your own?

EC: Yes I did!  The collaborators produced the content, but I conducted the art direction, I wrote all the captions and the introductory letter, and the layout.

THC:  I can imagine that this was a big task!  How much time were you given to complete the project?  How long did it take?

EC: Technically, I had twelve weeks, but it’s never that easy.  Stuff gets in the way; you know holidays, procrastination and people not sending you work when they’re asked.  I stressed a lot about all that.

THC:  How did you do it then?  Did you have a timeline or certain goals?

EC:  I knew that I had to submit the finished product by May 25, 2015 so I told all my contributors that I wanted all their work by May 20 (or earlier). 

THC:  And did people actually submit earlier?

EC:  Actually some of them did.  The girl [Carol Civre] that produced ‘Butt’ did.  While I was telling her about the project, she had some ideas in mind.  She told me she was completing a final project of her own.  She asked if the ‘Butt’ piece would fit with the theme.  I really liked her idea and she sent her piece in by May 7, so I loved her!  I chased people for their bios because I wanted to present them, not necessarily in a formal way, but so that they could tell me their stories in personal way.

THC:  I think that this point comes across well as the contributors chose a few different styles.  In the end, it does seem personal.  What is the most useful piece of information that you have learned from this process?

EC:  I learned that I love getting to know different people in the industry.  I love discovering new talent and bringing together people that have the same mindset.  At the same time, I would love collaborating on a project with other artists.  I really need to work with organized people!  Some of the individuals were quite good [at collaborating] but some I had to chase down a lot.  I was stressing.

THC:  Given your current job and this experience, do you think that in professional magazines, they have this process under control?  Do they still stress a lot?

EC:  There’s [still] a good deal of stressing!  I know that because my boss used to work for the US edition of Harper’s Bazaar.  It’s a magazine that has considerable resources and features big celebrities on their covers.  My boss told me that she was shooting and interviewing a celebrity.  Apparently, the celebrity didn’t want to shoot that day because her make-up artist wasn’t on set.  They had to reschedule everything because of a fucking celebrity! 

That concludes the first part in our series of interviews with Elisa Carassai.  The first edition of her zine, The Flâneur, can be downloaded from this page.  I suggest that you take a look, especially as we will be talking with Elisa about its contents in the next article.  Follow her on Twitter: @elisacarassai and check out her portfolio on http://cargocollective.com/elisacarassai.  Stay tuned for the next part of the interview, soon to be released! 

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