The Cool Couple is an artist duo founded by artists Niccolo Benetton (1986, Italy) and Simone Santilli (1987, Italy).
Their practice situates them among the most innovative and exciting artists working today. Their work focuses on collective representations. Their work is simple, touching a large public, and complex at the same time.
The Cool Couple’s work has been exhibited at CCC Strozzina (Florence), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), Unseen Photography Fair (Amsterdam), Circulations Festival (Centquatre, Paris), Metronom Modena, MIA fair 2014 Milano. They won the Francesco Fabbri Award for contemporary photography and 98ma Collettiva Giovani Artisti, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa,Venice. They were shortlisted at Kassel Fotobook Festival. Their latest work “A Kind of Display” is exhibited at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, France (check our previous article out >)
Let’s start by your name, The Cool Couple. What does it mean? And why do you choose to work as a couple?
Everything started in 2011 at FORMA foundation in Milan (Italy) where we attended the MA in photography and visual design. There we learned to project in a collective way, sharing visions and ideas. After finishing the studies, we decided to create an artist duo sharing completely our personal researches. It was the end of 2012. The Cool Couple derives from our practice: we usually spend a lot of time analyzing collective imagery: we search its contradictions ranging from banal and everyday subjects, like gym exercises or hollywood movies, to philosophy. So our subjects derives from daily life items or news. We chose an artist duo’s name also because we don’t believe anymore in the importance of authorship. During the making of a project we find it easy to share everything and talk about each step of our work.
Can you present us ” A Kind of Display”, your latest work exhibited at Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles?
“A Kind of Display” is a work about beard, conceived as a sign denoting some of the inner contradictions of the multicultural and ahistorical world we live in. Everything started when we found some articles about beard transplants in Turkey: in Turkish collective imagery a man without moustache isn’t considered a real man. Then we found that the beard transplant phenomenon moved to London and New York, becoming a trans-cultural trend interesting also transgender categories. We found interesting studying a subject like the beard for its suggestions of different imageries ranging from wisdom to poor hygiene. For example, after 9/11 it was uncommon to see bearded men in Western Countries, especially in the USA. In that period many people were persecuted because of their long beard. Today beard appears again, it is the trend of the moment, even American politicians appeared with beard.
We analyzed historically and from different point of view this symbol, surely more complex than just a trend.
We installed the thinking about the deconstruction of a barber shop with a performance: at the entrance hall a barber offers free shaves to visitors.
In your work you use a variety of languages, ranging from video to sculpture. How language is important to you? The medium is or isn’t the message?
In our opinion, the concept is one of the most relevant aspect in a project. The expressive form you choose must fit to the core of the work.
Is video/photography a privileged tool to analyze the landscape of an area as you did in The third Chimpanzee video? Have you already chosen the next venues for The third Chimpanzee project?
We started The Third Chimpanzee video series during a landscape laboratory analysis. The first episode was conceived during this laboratory. The result was a nonsense geography that reflects our ideas: we can’t get objective description of a cultural landscape today. A good analysis of urban landscape is the investigation of Las Vegas by Robert Venturi in the late Sixties. We appreciate the fact he is not an artist but an architect who investigates the landscape by different points of views. The title The Third Chimpanzee refers to a book by anthropologist Jared Diamond. We agree with his point of view which explores the animal origins of human behavior. He rejects traditional hegemonic views like “superior” genetic stock arguing instead that we should consider human beings as an abnormal development of chimpanzee. Men came to dominate others because of advantages for their local environment which allowed them to develop larger populations, wider immunities to disease, and superior technologies for agriculture and warfare. Technological progress causes environmental degradation on a scale leading to extinction.
Do you think there is a link that connects all your works?
In our works we focus on collective imaginaries and the relationship between their production, distribution and consumption in our contemporary society
Some pictures of the installation “Indians” made in collaboration with the photographer Alberto Sinigaglia, are exhibited at the Fondazione Francesco Fabbri, house of the F4 festival until the 16th of august. Can you present us this work?
Last winter we were invited to participate in the F4 festival curated by Carlo Sala. We dedicated this project to the imaginary of Veneto, our region, its values and stereotypes. We read Francesco Majno’s book Cartongesso and then we met with Alberto. Talking with him we discovered that he was working on the idea of Far East, investigating the relationships between Veneto region and the USA. We decided to join his works and create “Indians”, an exploration of those American trends and values adopted in North Eastern Italy Maybe for someone this project is an unfair, exaggerated and extremist portrait of our region. But we believe that sometimes you have to stress phenomena in order to make them visible. For the festival we created a room where the visitor could find the basic features of a western movie: money, private property, hunting… Different media serve to the representation of such perspective: a wallpaper, that reminds a set of western movie, a box full of sand and sand mold (printed in 3d and conceived as industrial buildings) which visitors can play with. Finally there are some photographs printed on fluorescent paper (the same we can usually find in supermarkets or country parties). What interested us were some issues presents in our region like unlawful buildings and the artificiality of his landscape.