Why did you choose photography as your way of expression?
Cheryl Dunn: Photos were a big part of my childhood. The recording of events which enabled memory. I remember very precisely events and scenarios from many years ago because of visual records. I always thought recording experiences was super important, it becomes our history and stops a moment of time to reflect on. Also I cant stop taking pictures. A scene strikes me hard and if I miss it makes me feel crazy.
Alessandro “Zuek” Simonetti: Because I’m impatient and I’m satisfied by it. A picture can be strong as a painting or a sculpture. The process is really fast and it satisfies the way I like to express myself and create. I didn’t start to take pics when I was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. Everything came before, when I was 16 years old and I started to take pics of my skater friends, my graffiti, punk and hard core shows. It’s always been instinctive. Then my mother is an art teacher, my father has a creative personality and my house was always full of photographers. It’s been natural for me, when I was young I already handled cameras in my hands.
What is for you New York City?
Cheryl Dunn: New York is like a big magically place. I think it is the city of the world. It is not necessarily american. It is the place where all artists of all mediums come through. It is a place of dreams where people have come to make a better life for decades and centuries. It is where my ancestors immigrated to from Italy three generations ago to follow dreams. When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, the next state, New York was bankrupt. Very dangerous, very exciting. when you entered it your heart would race, your adrenaline would rush. It is obviously different now. It is in constant change, something is important one week and then next week it is something new. That is why I am compelled to record the life.
Alessandro “Zuek” Simonetti: I didn’t plan to stay there for five years. At the beginning it was only for three months because it was a sort of journey to Mecca. When I was in Italy I always looked to a series of things that were part of american culture back in the ’80s and ’90s: punk and hard core shows, graffiti and a certain type of atmosphere. Every of these things were born and developed in New York. You have a lot of inputs there but also relationship problems, because people always change really fast so it became difficult to create strong relations. For a while I considered New York a place where I could live but in the last year I started think about it as a temporary place.
What is for you Italy?
Cheryl Dunn: Italy is my roots, it is a part of me. I am very proud to be of italian heritage. I feel the power of my grandmother in me who immigrated to New York City when she was 14 years old on a boat to Ellis Island. Staying in New York without her parents and worked in sweat shops to send money back to Italy. She was very independant and strong and I like to think her spirit is deep in me. When I was 24 I lived in Milan for 2 years, I just walked around this city and studied the art on the walls and absorbed the history and the life here in a very solitary way, I really grew up at this time. So to come back here now so many years later to have an exhibtion is very special to me.
Alessandro “Zuek” Simonetti: Now that I’m living in another country I re-evaluate Italy but at the moment I wouldn’t go back to work or produce there. Quality of life, relations and culture are better then american ones. I feel good in New York but culture and mentality are different. Now, when I’m in Italy I appreciate the smallest things. For example I always go to the mountain and I didn’t use to do it. I’m visually relaxed here. My eyes are tired of New York.
“UncanNY” what do you think about when you read this word?
Cheryl Dunn: This was a discovery of sorts with the work of Alessandro and myself. When we were choosing work and composing how we would make the show, we realized we had a very similar imaged of a back of a car, his with a human skull in the back window and mine with skulls painted on the roof. These images were taken 30 years apart from each other within 3 city streets. The notion of having a similar experience on the same streets, at such a different time makes you think about history and the millions of people that have walked on the same street, lived and died and that their spirits still inform us and move us to go certains ways. I love this idea.
Alessandro “Zuek” Simonetti: It makes me think about the meaning of the word and the concept of déjà-vu. I started from it to find the name for the show. First year I was in New York I had the feeling to live in a costant déjà-vu. We grew up looking at american movies and serials, so at the beginning everything looked familiar. You ask yourself “Why it seems to me to know all this already?”. Then the word ends with NY, it’s been a random thing and intrigues me. Cheryl has a sensitivity similar to mine, despite she comes from the previous generation. We have the same approach to subjects, with only 20 years of difference.
Are you working on a film about your friend Dash Snow, could you tell me something about it?
Cheryl Dunn: I had recorded him many times over the years. He was one of those NYC kids that was like a shining light. A super special soul. He would run up to me and show me his big stack of polaroids like a little kid so excited, he was a product of that city and all its extremes and excesses. I mean he wrote “Fuck Guiliani” in huge letters while hanging off the Brooklyn bridge. His life was fast and furious with out filters without reserve he acted out all of his compulsions. His light was too bright for this world. In New York no one stops for anyone, anything, except when they pass away. This was a day, that friends stopped what they were doing and spent the day and held on to each other, and shared our love for him and shared our love for each other. A day when everyone stopped the New York bullshit and just became open like children, not afraid to cry or be outwardly emotional. We all shared stories of him, his spirit was so strong all around us. I remember just having this feeling and shaking my head at the notion that he was gone. As if I could shake that reality away. The feeling was super intense. But those feelings fade with time. So I want to make a film piece with hours of video interviews I have including thoughts of close friends and arts works that were inspired by him. A film that is as close to him to preserve his spirit in the truest sense as I can. I feel this is very important.
What can you tell me about dd/mm/yyyy?
Alessandro “Zuek” Simonetti: It’s a project developed between 2010 and 2011. I didn’t plan to do it because I’d like it to have the attitude that you have when you take pics with your mobile phone. So it has to be free, without thinking to much about what you’re shooting at, posting everyday as a diary and taking pics with my analogic camera. I use a camera that impress the date on films, so every photo is a piece of fine-art, sometimes it’s disturbing and invadent.