Jalal Sepehr


All images courtesy of Jalal Sepehr from the Knot (2011) and Water & Persian Rugs (2004) series.

Jalal Sepehr (b. 1968) is a Tehran based self-taught  photographer who has been doing photography since 1994. He is known as a fine art photographer locally and internationally. His photos has been featured in many prestigious publications. He has been founding member of  the Fanoos website whose aim was promoting contemporary Iranian photography (2003-2007). He is an active member of Virtual Arts of Iran Association and Advertising & Industrial Photography Association of Iran.


Found in Transition

Since 2017, spazioSERRA has been subverting the paradigms of art curation in Milan. The unique exhibition space occupies a formerly dismissed aedicula within the Milano Lancetti train station, a site of commuting, certainly not catered for the arts.

However, over the last five years, spazioSERRA has grown into one of the most distinguished curatorial realities of the city, adopting a grassroots and collaborative ethos that revolves around a multidisciplinary collective of young personalities. They are not afraid to challenge the artistic status quo and try to democratise arts, making it a daily experience for passersby.

Its curatorial practice speaks to the present, moving within sculpture, performance and mixed media, with the now not so utopian aim of sparking a discourse on arts, culture and beauty in a suburban setting that, traditionally, was only seen for its pragmatic and structural means. 

Defying labels and refusing the conformist definition of gallery, spazioSERRA is busy narrowing the gap between art and the public sphere, growing seamlessly with the local community.

We sat in conversation with the team behind spazioSERRA.

Lorenzo Ottone: spazioSERRA aims to promote contemporary art in a suburban context. Howimportant but also challenging it is, within that specific social context, to establish adialogue with such a broad community, made of both locals and commuters, whichmay not be necessarily exposed to nor interested in art and culture and who mayhappen to find themselves by the space for other purposes? 

spazioSERRA: spazioSERRA was established to specifically cater to this audience. Our unwavering mission revolves around fostering an authentic and meaningful dialogue with the community, rendering it a matter of great significance to us. Our ultimate aim is to democratise art, liberating it from constraints both literal and metaphorical, thereby fostering accessibility, openness, and transparency. 

The challenge lies in the undeniable reality that the passersby, intentionally or fortuitously interacting with our space, constitute an immensely diverse collective. Certain exhibitions possess the power to ignite the curiosity of specific visitors, while others engender intrigue in an entirely distinct set of observers. We aspire for the passersby, who traverse the Lancetti railway station on their daily commutes, to discover something within our space that can transcend their routine, infusing it with curiosity and a touch of liveliness. 

Furthermore, cultivating a dialogue with the community holds paramount importance. The irrefutable truth remains that spazioSERRA derives its essence and purpose from this very collective. As an integral part of a bustling urban ecosystem, nestled within a public space of a train station, it finds itself intricately interwoven with the broader social fabric. Failure to maintain this vital connection would invariably result in the gradual erosion of its significance and eventual obsolescence. 

Lorenzo Ottone: The exhibitions you promote range widely, from performances to sculpture and mixedmedia. Can you please guide us throughout your curatorial approach? Within an artworld that is quite multi-faceted and fragmented, what stimulates you the most rightnow? 

spazioSERRA: We actually acknowledge and embrace the diverse and expansive nature of artistic  expression in the present era and ever-evolving landscape. We try not to confine contemporary art into a singular definition or medium and instead we aim to promote art that addresses pertinent societal issues and provokes meaningful conversations. Works that challenge established norms, promote inclusivity, and shed light on underrepresented voices resonate strongly with us. We are committed to providing a platform for artists whose practices embody social consciousness, cultural diversity, and critical discourse. We recognize that different perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and social contexts influence artistic expression. It allows for the exploration of unconventional materials, interdisciplinary collaborations, boundary-pushing artistic experiments, and the fusion of traditional and contemporary techniques. 

Ultimately, our curatorial approach is driven by facilitating meaningful connections between artists, audiences, and the broader cultural landscape. Our curatorial collective is formed by multidisciplinary individuals with diverse backgrounds, expertise, and walks of life. So we try our best to curate exhibitions that both inspire and engage, inviting visitors to embark on a thought-provoking journey through the rich tapestry of contemporary art. Over the years, our curatorial approach has evolved significantly, and we anticipate that it will continue to evolve in the future. 

Lorenzo Ottone: At the moment we are noticing an increasing attention towards archive culture.Whereas a spazioSERRA is located in an environment that unfolds at the speed ofsound, dictated by the passing of time and trains. How can art capture the presentand the zeitgeist when there seems to be so much emphasis on the past? 

spazioSERRA: Art, with its innate versatility and capacity for interpretation, possesses the remarkable ability to bridge the gap between past, present, and future. While archive culture may be rooted in preserving and revisiting historical records, art can infuse the present moment with vitality, relevance, and contemporary resonance. Rather than being constrained by the weight of the past, art can engage with history as a source of inspiration and reflection. Artists can draw upon archival materials, cultural artifacts, and collective memory to create works that explore the contemporary human experience. By recontextualizing historical narratives, art can shed light on the enduring themes, struggles, and aspirations that shape our current reality. 

Moreover, art can serve as a catalyst for dialogue and critical examination of the present. It has the power to evoke emotions and provoke thoughtful contemplation. Artists can respond to the pressing issues, complexities, and transformations of the modern world, using their creative expression to capture the zeitgeist and stimulate collective consciousness. Moreover, the immediacy of art’s impact lies in its ability to engage with the viewer on an emotional and visceral level by creating moments of connection and reflection that go beyond the barriers of time. Through these dynamic and experiential approaches, art can vividly reflect the spirit of the present, surpassing the perceived emphasis on the past and artists can evoke a profound sense of connection to the ever-evolving world around us. In short, art’s capacity to transcend temporal boundaries and its potential to explore historical narratives in a contemporary context enable it to capture the present and embody the zeitgeist.

Lorenzo Ottone: You work with young, up and coming artists. Even your own definition of collective issomething that often hails from youth and underground culture. How is the collectiveand social dimension of spazioSERRA shaping your identity? 

spazioSERRA: The majority of the artists we have worked with are in fact relatively young and emerging; we also had the chance to work with artists who are well established and belong to a different generation. We do want to provide a platform for emerging artists to showcase their talent, share their perspectives, and gain exposure within a supportive community. It is truly needed in the current art world. 

By embracing the essence of youth and underground culture, we shape our identity. We also find our distinct character and purpose through our commitment to fostering a collective spirit and creating a vibrant social space. The social dimension of spazioSERRA is equally significant. Our space is designed as a gathering place, where diverse individuals can converge, engage, and experience art in an inclusive and dynamic environment. By facilitating interactions and dialogue between artists, visitors, and the community, we cultivate a sense of shared ownership and participation. Our identity is driven by the collaborative energy that permeates spazioSERRA while fostering a sense of belonging. We strive to remain receptive to emerging trends, societal changes, and the ever-changing landscape of contemporary art. By engaging in ongoing dialogues, we ensure that our identity remains relevant, vibrant, and in tune with the aspirations of our artists and audience. 

Lorenzo Ottone: Last year, your call for artists was titled “Un posto impossibile”, an impossible place,which is what a gallery within an underground railway station may look like at first sight.Have you found an answer to your question? How utopian is spazioSERRA’s visionnow, 5 years after its opening? 

spazioSERRA: It depends on the question to be answered. Our aim is not to necessarily provide answers but more so to create an environment that could potentially generate questions. Every visitor can have their own answer or simply reflect on the questions they personally perceive. spazioSERRA is a peculiar place situated in an underground train station but it is not really a gallery and this is why the expectations from a space like this can be somehow unusual but certainly not entirely impossible. We never set out to have a utopian nor a dystopian vision. While our vision continues to evolve, we find that spazioSERRA’s essence remains firmly rooted in serving the community. The journey of the past five years has allowed us to realize that the vision itself is an ongoing pursuit—a continual exploration of possibilities and a quest to defy limitations. By seamlessly integrating art into this dynamic urban environment, we seek to reduce the boundaries that traditionally separate art from the general public sphere. Yet, we acknowledge that the road to achieving our vision is ever-unfinished. As we navigate the complexities of operating within a train station and engaging with diverse audiences, we continuously adapt, learn, and refine our approach. We try to promote art as an integral part of people’s daily lives. Art has a transformative power. The diverse voices that have graced our space, and the connections forged between artists, visitors, and the broader community determine spazioSERRA’s impact as an exhibition space. The fulfillment of the vision also depends on its ability to sustain its operations over time. These factors can shape the overall vision and determine the extent to which it aligns with the initial starting point.

Shauna Summers

Secret Sunshine


Production · Shabatura
Photographer · Shauna Summers
Photographer assistant · Julia Lee Goodwin
Fashion stylist and art director · Camille Naomi Franke
Fashion assistant · Antonio Chiocca
Creative producer · Yelyzaveta Krysachenko
Production assistant · Samo Wong
Hair · Peggy Kurka using Oribe
Hair assistant · Fabienne Hoppe
Makeup stylist · Susanna Jonas
Models · Eline Bocxtaele via Ulla Models and Loni Landua via SMC management
Casting · Hien Le via Dillerglobal
Set designer · Matthew Bianchi
Nail · Oksana Zavora
Retoucher · Cristina Farrarons


Between ‘Altered Egos’ and Virtual Realities

In the neon-lit alleys of Berlin’s music scene, Shubostar is a name that resonates like a pulsating beat. From the pixelated realms of computer games to the rhythmic cadences of cosmic disco, her journey is a symphony of contrasts. But what’s the thread that ties her gaming roots to her musical prowess?

Dive deep into Shubostar’s past, and you’ll find a young game designer from South Korea, exploring the world accompanied by the sound of early computer games. With just one guitar, one kick, and one snare – oh, Cakewalk, you beautiful music crafting beast – she produced tunes that echoed the minimalistic charm of MS-DOS classics and latter. Her favorite games? Princess Maker and World of Warcraft. Fast forward, and while her music has evolved towards cosmic disco, that simplicity remains. It’s not about complex configurations; it’s about a melody that lingers. Shubostar’s journey from a game designer in South Korea to a Berlin-based music sensation is a tale of two worlds: reality and virtuality. At the heart of it lies the concept of the ‘altered ego’. Altering the ego to be with peers and friends; altering your self-perception when entering the virtual environment of a second life promising game or an experience-engaging rave; but never altering her minimalist street style in fashion, that she lately embraced with the newest fashion collab of A Better Mistake and Telekom Electronic Beats: Altered Ego. 

Marcus Boxler: I am very happy to talk to you again, Shubostar, after we met in Montenegro during the Summer of Joy” festival by Electronic Beats. Last time we did not have a chance to dive deeper into your roots: computer games. You graduated in computer game programming and created music for virtuality. How would you describe the music you produced back then? 

Shubostar: Ooof, that was already 20 years ago! Maybe you remember the first computer games, their design, the feeling. The music was only one simple melody. 

Marcus Boxler: Does this have an impact on your musical style today? 

Shubostar: Probably yes, now that you mention it. Even today, I am way more interested in creating a melody, rather than a complex configuration. Even for the sound. Nowadays, I use a pre-set, when I create music. But, I often change it, because I know how it works. So the roots in computer game programming left their mark, haha. 

Marcus Boxler: Do you still play video games?  

Shubostar: Nooo, I had to stop! It was too dangerous for me! I had been so into computer games, it became like a drug for me. I nearly dropped out of university, because I was missing some lectures. 

Marcus Boxler: Ok! We will talk about derivatives for being addicted a little bit later, but before I want to dig deeper into the connection between computer games and your approach to producing music today. 

Shubostar: When you’re gaming you’re alone in the physical world. Of course, there are multiplayer games and even gaming rooms or tournaments. But mostly, you are playing alone. You’re alone on your laptop, but you are not alone in the virtual world. You are connected to others. It’s like being in control of a different reality, where the connection to others surpasses the physical reality. That’s the idea I pursue with my music. To expand the connection between people on an unspoken level – virtually. 

Marcus Boxler: Did you know that the term ‘virtuality’ actually comes from theology? When Christians talked about virtuality, they meant a non-physical environment that you can only reach via preaching or meditation. 

Shubostar: I know this state! I sometimes go into this state shortly before I fall asleep. It’s like trance. 

Marcus Boxler: Blending the virtual with the real. Speaking of blending, your music combines italo disco and electronic synthesizer sound in a very unique way. For your inspiration you mentioned the likes of Daft Punk, Air but also Alexander Robotnick and Daniele Baldelli in earlier interviews. Tell us more about that.

Shubostar: I’ve always been intrigued by things that feel real but aren’t present. Like space. It’s there, but we don’t really feel it. The universe is expanding every second we exist, but we don’t feel any of it. At least, not in a way we can articulate, yet. It’s a reality, but it’s not tangible.

Marcus Boxler: And the Italo Disco influence? 

Shubostar: It comes with the synthesizer. It’s danceable, it’s uplifting. It came naturally…

Marcus Boxler: Speaking of things that come naturally: You are also the founder of a record label: uju records. Can you tell us the story of how you became a record label owner? 

Shubostar: Yes, I founded “uju Records.” It’s Korean and it means ‘cosmic’. However, the journey is way less impressive than you probably think. When I used to live in Mexico, I produced an abundance of music. Like, really a lot! The one percent of my favorite record labels that I reached out to and that – at least – replied, did not want any of the music. During that time I was living with my best friend who advised me to found my own record label and release the music myself. Easier, faster. He helped me with the logo and artworks and this is how the romantic story goes. 

Marcus Boxler: Is there a greater goal to the label? Do you want to sign other artists maybe? 

Shubostar: It’s all about me (laughs). The label was really just an entity to release my own music and not be dependent on another label. Also, I don’t want to put too many different artists into one shape, being the label. What I do consider, is to do a cosmic disco compilation. That would be with other artists as well. 

Marcus Boxler: Your style isn’t just limited to music. Your fashion sense is quite iconic. Last time we met, you were wearing a bandana top, wrapped around your body, combined with a – Id call it – mediterranean pearl look. What drives your style choices?

Shubostar: Yeees, I remember that look. It was a piece from the newest collection collab of A Better Mistake and Electronic Beats. It’s called: Altered Ego. I believe in expressing myself fully, whether it’s through music, art, or fashion. Usually, I love street style. But at the same time, I can say with a certainty of 100 percent: That I’m minimalist. 

Marcus Boxler: Really?!

Shubostar: Absolutely. I don’t like to buy many clothes. But whenever I choose something, I need it to be wearable for a week and not have it feel boring. That’s my measurement. It has to feel comfortable and I have to be able to wear it for a show or if I go to the supermarket. Wear it for ten years and exchange it, only if it’s ‘broken’.

Marcus Boxler: That is the core of Minimalism. I think we grasped a little bit of the real Shubostar”. Is there also an altered ego of yours, that you would like to share about? 

Shubostar: Altered me? I think every version of me is altered as soon as I leave the doorstep and interact with other people. No? 

Marcus Boxler: Indeed, but its the same you. Or, are you changing your behavior in the presence of other people? 

Shubostar: Freaking, yes! Don’t you? I mean I love to socialize with my peers and I love to bring an uplifting vibe and happy mode to the group. But sometimes, after a few days of interacting, I need some time alone. To recharge the battery. And then run the game again. 

Identity is representation, transforming communication into community. Picking up the phone with a colleague or with a friend sets a completely different tone, and therefore creates different narratives throughout all social entities. Though alone at her computer, Shubostar was always part of vast communities. Either online or on the dance floor. This duality of being physically alone but virtually connected influenced her style and sound. 

In essence, Shubostar’s music is where her real self meets her ‘altered ego’, creating tracks that resonate both in clubs and in the hearts of those who listen. 


Photography · Marvin Jockschat for Telekom Electronic Beats 
Shubostar is wearing Telekom Electronic Beats x  A Better Mistake 

Tak Sugita

Tokyo One Day


Photography · Tak Sugita
Styling · midori at W
Hair and Makeup · Katsuyoshi Kojima at Tron
Model · Kanon Hirata at Tomorrow Tokyo


  1. Full look MSGM
  2. Full look MSGM
  3. Full look KENZO
  5.  Dress and Sandals ACNE STUDIOS, necklace JUSTINE CLENQUET
  6.  Top and Skirt SPORTMAX, Sandals STELLA MCCARTNEY
  7.  Full look VALENTINO, ear-cuff ±BALANCE
  9.  Dress JENNY FAX, sandals ACNE STUDIOS and necklace JUSTINE CLENQUET
  10. Full look FERRAGAMO

Santiago Sierra

Santiago Sierra (b. Madrid, Spain, 1966) is a contemporary conceptual and performance Spanish artist whose oeuvre continues to be widely recognised and exhibited in major art institutions around the world. Known for his provocative and politically charged artwork that often addresses issues of social and economic inequality, labour exploitation, and human rights. Sierra’s work spans a variety of mediums, including installation, video, performance, and photography, and often involves the use of controversial materials such as blood, human hair, and excrement.

After graduating in Fine Arts at Madrid’s Complutense University, Sierra continued his artistic training in Hamburg. His artistic career began with exhibitions that marked a before and after in his work, such as the Minimal Art from the Panza Collection at the MNCARS in 1988 in Madrid and Zeitlos at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, curated by Harald Szeemann. There, Sierra found minimalism useful due to its syntactic character, which allowed him to incorporate reality into pure forms. In Mexico, Sierra’s work was influenced by the dense reality of the country, and their oeuvre began to weigh more heavily on reality than the history of art itself.

Sierra’s work serves as an outlet for critical thoughts surrounding the forms of violence imposed by the socio-political conditions of our time, engaging with marginalised groups, highlighting their struggles and drawing attention to their plight through his art. Sierra also often pushes the limits of what is considered acceptable, highlighting the presence of societal rules and limits.

He believes that dealing with those unpleasant themes surrounding hierarchies of power and classes and the exploitation of individuals is essential to defining society and the environment His connection with actors in that environment provides a necessary and engaging corridor for exploring these themes. 

Indeed, PAC (Contemporary Art Pavilion) in Milan presented in 2017, Santiago Sierra. Mea Culpa, the first extended Italian anthology dedicated to Sierra’s work. It became clear that there is no art without a call for action, an appeal for individual responsibility. The title of the exhibition ‘Mea Culpa’ reminds us of that indelible debt. There is no specific definite answer but various meanings and observations foster a conversation. The mea culpa serves as a conscious push towards not only understanding ‘on paper’ where it went wrong but assessing our responsibility in the way power structures engage with the marginalised. When asked about the future, Sierra expresses distrust of the proposed future, emphasising the importance of the present and the consequence of our actions.

Santiago, it is truly a great pleasure to interview you, thank you for taking the time to participate in this issue of NR. 

Could you tell us about your beginnings and your artistic training?

What was the catalyst element that prompted you into making art and diving deep into thematics such as nationalistic fanaticism, intolerance, war and racism?

What marked a before and after between my student exercises and my first works are exhibitions such as the one on the collection of Minimal Art in the Panza di Biumo collection at the MNCARS in 1988 in Madrid, the ‘Zeitlost’ at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, curated by Harald Szeemann (with whom years later I had the pleasure to work), or the ‘Anti-Forma Norteamericana’ in Madrid by José Luis Brea around the same time. That year I went to Hamburg where I spent two years. I found minimalism useful because of its syntactic character, and its lack of references to reality gave me something to do with its pure forms, which was to stain that minimalism with reality. So, for example, I placed a cube on the wall as Donald Judd would do, but the skin of that cube was an old and dirty truck tarpaulin taken from the port of Hamburg. Politically I was also clear about my side in the class struggle, but I would begin to develop that more in Mexico in 1995. In Mexico, it was like starting my artistic career again, but now taking into account a dense reality like the Mexican one, which begins to weigh more in my work than the history of art itself. This is why my work begins twice, first when it is linked to art history and then when the surrounding reality comes to the forefront. So my beginnings are linked to those two journeys, one to the north and the other to the south. We could place a third moment in my career at the beginning of the century when I started to work all over the world. From working in little alternative spaces with great difficulty, I then started to work a lot and with means in environments with a lot of visibility. 

“The catalyst is the environment. The work emerges from the environment where it is made and/or where it is exhibited. On the other hand, the work of art is produced in the spectator’s head, so it is the subject matter that the public brings from home that we play with or manipulate.”

It is not the same to exhibit a war veteran in the U.S. as it is to exhibit it in Germany. The audience ends up making sense of a work of art with what they bring in their heads. The environment and the connection with the actors in that environment would be that corridor that leads us to deal with the unpleasant themes that define our society.

You have spent considerable time in Mexico (1995-2006) and Italy (2006-2010). Why those two locations and how did those aliment your work? Is there anywhere else in the world you would like to settle in?

My years in Mexico began with artworks on the street or in alternative spaces. My mission was to develop an artistic work as powerful as the reality I intended to describe. What I came out with, looking back, is a dirty minimalism that some have described as third-world minimalism. The role of the worker in society, or the painful lives of the urban grey masses, took centre stage in my work. From those years come my paid series where the work is activated by the intervention of salaried personnel. Around those years I did a lot of works bordering on vandalism such as GALLERY BURNED WITH GASOLINE [Mexico, November 1997], or OBSTRUCTION OF A FREEWAY WITH A TRUCKS TRAILER [Mexico, November 1998] and other forms of mimesis between my work and the monstrous Mexico City. In Italy, I came more as an artist applying the methods acquired in Mexico to another context, but my work never became centred on the Italian reality alone as it was in Mexico. Italy was a base from which to attend to international projects and a respite after my last year in Mexico spent in Ciudad Juarez making the work SUBMISSION (formerly word of fire) [Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México, October 2006/ March 2007]. The violent reality of Ciudad Juarez made me long for the calm I would find in Tuscany. It was 2006 when I moved to Italy and that year I had also made 245M3 [Pulheim, Germany, March 2006] in the synagogue of Stommeln, Germany, a work that caused great controversy for the clarity of its statement, with which I was looking for in my place of residence. Also a place of rest and escape from a work whose density caused me considerable uneasiness because of the strong contestation caused by its exhibition. This polemic charge of my work was something that I never thought would be so strong, since at the end of the day, my work dialogues with the history of art as much as with the environment. My work arouses very passionate reactions and I attribute this to the change from alternative spaces where one works with little public and resources, but with great freedom to consecrated art spaces with great visibility and therefore subjected to the scrutiny of my detractors. At the end of the day, this was just the result of showing everyone what I used to show to a few friends and colleagues, and I got used to it. 

I could live elsewhere than in Madrid where I now live, and I may have to decide where in a hurry if the European sociopathic politicians do not lower the atomic testosterone they bring with their damned lucrative war. I am not sure where I would go if I left Madrid but I have always loved working in India where I did pieces like 146 WOMEN [Vrindaban, India, 2005], 21 ANTHROPOMETRIC MODULES MADE FROM HUMAN FAECES BY THE PEOPLE OF SULABH INTERNATIONAL, INDIA (India, 2005/2006, London 2007)] or THE THROUGH (PART 2) [Bikaner, India. September 2016]. It is a place I like to frequent.

You’ve mentioned in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist at the occasion of the opening of your exhibition ‘Dedicated to the Workers and Unemployed’, on show at Lisson Gallery in 2012, that one of your heroes and inspiration is Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, the pioneer of conceptual art in Spain. He’s said before “Art is a personal action that may serve as an example, but can never have an exemplary value”. For him, art only makes sense when it makes us aware of and responsible for our reality. Would you agree?

Do you have other artists or people in mind that have inspired you?

Isidoro has good phrases but the ones you mention seem to me to refer to a posture before the world, beyond art. We could change where it says ‘art’ and put ‘life’ and the phrase would work the same. Sometimes when we artists say art we mean the art we make. Evidently, art is an extensive phenomenon in the history of mankind and therefore it has been given an infinite number of uses. Leni Riefenstahl or any king painter from the Prado Museum is also art. Art also ignores reality as does minimalism for example. Art is diverse as is the human being through time. Perhaps the most obvious generalisation is that art will be owned by those who can pay for it. So the relationship between the work of art and its final owner determines its contents since the origin of human civilization, having been for millennia another instrument of the powerful. Isidoro is one of those people, and nothing links him to the final owner of his work because it is simply not sold as it lacks material existence and because the artist makes a living from something else.

It is easy to see the artists whose work I build mine off because I quote them constantly. For instance, the aforementioned work 245M3, in which long black pipes collected the smoke from car exhausts and introduced it into a disused synagogue, was a tribute to the German post-war artists who have influenced me the most. That work was built from a mixture of J. Beuys’ ‘Honey Bomb’ and Gustav Metzger’s Mobbile. The staging was reminiscent of Wolf Vostel’s decollages, the arrangement of the pipes inside the church was intended as a quotation to Eva Hesse, the documentary photos with pixelated pictures referred to G. Richter and so on. Not only contemporaries. Casta paintings (or mestizo paintings) were an artistic phenomenon that existed in New Spain and the Viceroyalty of Peru in the 18th century and inspired ECONOMICAL STUDY ON THE SKIN OF CARACANS [Caracas, Venezuela. September 2006] or Goya whom I frequently quote for example in THE WALL OF A GALLERY PULLED OUT, INCLINED 60 DEGREES FROM THE GROUND AND SUSTAINED BY 5 PEOPLE [Mexico City, Mexico. April 2000] is a version of an engraving by Goya in which the dead come out of their tombs. In general, I like to walk through places already travelled by others. In NO, GLOBAL TOUR [Various locations, 2009] for example, the NO belongs to everyone, I can’t keep it or attribute its authorship to myself and that’s why I use it because of its lack of originality and in spite of that, a singular work appears. I use asphalt or cement that people see every day, or cars that are ubiquitous icons, or I show people to other people. My work does not pretend originality because I do not believe in it, nor do I believe in creativity, which seems to me a monotheistic category, a quotation to the Creator. In reality, we all build our work on that of our predecessors by re-contextualising it and appropriating it to formulate something different.

Your work shines a light on the limitation of space for freedom. Occupation and definition are two functions in your work, mirroring our reality, juxtaposing freedom and constraint, individualism and community, nature and culture. Could you talk more about these elements and what they mean to you? As an artist, do you feel free to think? Have you ever felt limited?

On February 3 an exhibition of mine closes in Madrid. It has two floors. The exhibition on the ground floor is open to the general public and the one on the second floor is a private exhibition which is by invitation only. This is explained on the room sheet:

‘On the first floor of the gallery — where the exhibition entitled ‘?’ is on display — the right of admission is reserved exclusively to those who have received a personal invitation. The contents of this exhibition will remain hidden until it has ended by means of a non-disclosure agreement aiming to protect it from those who might be offended; gearing it solely to individuals known to be open-minded independent thinkers. In this way, we hope to avoid those who are outraged by anything that has not been curated for them by an algorithm.’

On that floor we exhibited SPANISH NATIONAL FLAG SUBMERGED IN BLOOD [Madrid, Spain, October 12th 2021] and SPANISH NATIONAL COAT OF ARMS STAMPED WITH BLOOD [Madrid, Spain, October 12th 2021], two works that if exhibited to the general public would not only run the risk of having to cancel the exhibition but could attract violent elements to the gallery, putting at risk the integrity of its workers so we proceeded preventively.

We all know that freedom is a word that defines something that does not exist. To be free is an aspiration, not a reality. I like that you ask if I feel free to think, not if I feel free but free when I think. There you hit the nail on the head because it is not so much the freedom of expression that is denied us but the freedom to think. Millions are spent every day to appropriate our thoughts by filling our minds with irrelevant content, garbage or fears and this makes it clear that it is freedom of thought that we should be concerned about. I don’t know if self-diagnosing myself in this regard would have any value, I imagine I have come a long way in my own emancipation and art has helped me in this but being a freethinker is also just an aspiration. We all bring a reactionary inside during the educational processes, during the consumerist leisure or through the mass media and we have to get it out.

I have always felt limited but this is not an anomaly, even in the freest and most egalitarian society it would be because from physical to human laws the world will always have rules and therefore limits. In my work, I often point to those limits by placing myself on the edge of what is acceptable.

I would like to talk about a performance work of yours: Line of 160 cm tattooed on 4 people, Salamanca, Spain, 2000 which saw four prostitutes addicted to heroin, consenting to be tattooed at the price of a dose. Two heroin addicts were shaved with a 10-inch line on their heads in exchange for one dose. I found it to be two very emotionally charged pieces, because to me it says a lot about the state of our society and how far the system has gone into surrendering people to accept certain things. I think it might have been easy at first for the audience to think you were exploiting these four prostitutes or these two heroin addicts, but the intention was to unmask the exploitation that exists outside. Why did you want to tackle these particular thematics?

Has there been a governmental action taken after the making of these artworks? Do you think the situation has evolved in these areas in which heroin was at the time heavily used? Do you think the audience was receptive to these series?

Is Picasso’s Guernica a painting that honours Nazi aviation for its success in the annihilation of the civilian population? No, it is not, even though during the recent NATO summit in Madrid, where we saw the Prado Museum used as a picnic area for murderers, we could also see a group pose in front of Guernica by the couples of the warlords. That the directors of the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia National Museum used Goya’s Disasters of War or Picasso’s Guernica as a photo call of neo-Nazis does not mean that Goya or Picasso was. The betrayal of these institutions with art and their intentions is very clear. I cite this case because it is well-known and easy to understand rather than to compare myself to these authors. I have never read in the press to ask the head of the Prado about the merendola of genocides or the Reina Sofia for this matter, or directly for having directed a Museum that bears the name of the Queen that Franco left us, the same one that went to the German aviation to raze Guernica to the ground. Guernica is like Montezuma’s plume; it is a spoil of war and it is exhibited so that it is not forgotten who defeated whom. I say this not to evade the answer but because here there’s no confusion and everything seems transparent while something as pristine as saying how much a model charges in the urban lumpen of Puerto Rico is an unacceptable act of exploitation and you don’t know how many times I have heard it. So amazing that we even have a book of interviews where I keep responding to that accusation from the most disparate angles. Almost every city has a school of fine arts with models posing. I was in one like that in Madrid. If you paint a picture in which you portray them you can call it a thousand things, but if you call it Young Romanian Girl Posing Nude and motionless for four hours a day at 9 euros an hour, you will be accused of being exploitative, just for saying how things are in your local fine arts school. Now step away from that school and tell us what you see, is the exploitation still there or is it gone? 

Being paid for being a worker is essential. For whom? For the worker. People are perplexed when they find out because we move among people who do not work. If you tell them how much they are paid, you will see what faces they make, like in a movie. And if it is because of drugs, it is funny that living in a narcotised society we have to remember that the junkie, the one that everyone looks down on, is a person. I don’t know if there is anyone left in our society who sees it that way with so many zombie movies. Now in the U.S., there is a plague of Fentanyl which is 60 times more potent than heroin. Maybe the gentlemen visiting NATO museums know more about this than I do.

Your use of skin or humanity as a canvas recurs in other works such as Line of 30 cm tattooed on a remunerated person, Regina Street # 51, Mexico City, May 1998, Line of 250 cm tattooed on 6 remunerated people, Espacio Aglutinador, La Habana, Cuba, 1999. Why was it necessary to disclaim that these people were paid?

It would be hiding the reason why it was done from the worker’s point of view. So it was very necessary to say it and to do it in the title. The person paid so much to do this other thing, because that’s how you sum up what it’s all about, clearly, without embellishment. The more money you put in, the longer the line you can tattoo. A few years ago I did a book in which the participants were long-term unemployed. I hired them to write over and over again as if it were a school punishment, a sentence that said: Work is a dictatorship. Obviously, for those who do not have to offer their body, their time or their intelligence on the market for the benefit of a third party and earn enough to replenish their energy and return to work, this is not a dictatorship. But for those who have to work, it is. Everything is a matter of perspective and the essential thing in perspective is the point of view.

Do you think that your work only gets completed with the audience’s active participation in it?

The work of art is produced in the head of the viewer. Sometimes actively and sometimes passively. In the end, this equates to art and demagogy, but it is so, art is a story and the human being is built with stories. We do not have hundreds of pages to explain ourselves, sometimes it is only an image that conveys everything, so the work must be a quick poison and a slow balm. Perhaps that is the reason for my interest in minimalism because, with a visual stroke, you understand the whole work with admirable effects of presence and evidence. There are pieces that also function as pure stories without anyone seeing them. For example, in 100 HIDDEN INDIVIDUALS [Calle Dr Fourquet, Madrid, Spain. November 2003] that nobody except the organisers saw. The public took that piece home and didn’t even see it, because the work of art is produced in the spectator’s head.

90 cm Bread Cube, Mexico, 2003 is a 90cm bread cube, specifically baked in the format indicated in the title and gifted as a charity in a shelter for homeless people in Mexico City. Could you talk about the installation, the message behind and its reception?

This work showed an outline of a work of charity. It was to feed the hungry. A large bucket of bread was made and delivered to a soup kitchen. The curiosity about the large edible object was at times very Kubrick in 2001. Charity is a form of social intercourse that especially bothers me because it is always a public relations operation in which the funder is seen as a good person. The bread didn’t pay for any service rendered, it wasn’t a salary, it was a given. Then it was about filming this and I asked Artur Żmijewski to do it, that’s why it is one of my few colour videos. When the action took place the participants were the audience as well. The general public only knew the video.

I have used food a lot as a generator of action. In the trilogy of PIGS DEVOURING PENINSULAS [Various locations, 2012/2013] or in CUBE  OF CARRION MEASURING 100 x 100 x 100 cm [Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, September 2015], where this time it was vultures satisfying their hunger. Hunger is something very basic, very primary, and it makes actions with food always very simple to organise, because the end is clear; they eat it. In these works, he spoke of the need and hunger as what attracted the homeless of central Mexico who came that afternoon to the social centre, in hunger and tiredness. Those were simple actions that justified the portrayal of that extreme world we can end up in if we are not careful. It is the social panic of zombie movies that were also shown in THE CORRIDOR OF THE HOUSE PEOPLE [Bucarest, Romania, October 2005].

Could you talk about your piece Teeth of the last gipsies of Ponticelli, Ponticelli, Naples 2008, a series of photographs of the teeth of the last two gypsy families of Ponticelli, Naples? A few days after, their houses were burned. What made you take those photographs?

In Naples and other parts of southern Europe, attacks on Gypsies have been occurring in a similar pattern; they are accused of stealing a child and the mob goes after them. During the work of approaching the Gypsy people, we came across a house burning and were able to film it. The gypsies that show my teeth in my piece were the last ones left in the area. I was curious to see up close how their famous gold teeth in many cases are painted with glitter. We took these photos with the gypsy people who had not yet fled and paid them for their services as models. There is a standard treatment towards the victims to generate tenderness, and it is not considered as a seed of hatred that is getting into society. An abused person is a person who is going to show you his teeth. And I liked that idea of not just showing them as a passive mass, but as people who show you their teeth. I love the effect because it’s an effect that has to do with the animalistic. An animal understands this piece. An animal that shows you its teeth knows perfectly well what you want to say. 

With these photos, we did a small campaign in Naples because we didn’t have much money [CAMPAIGN OF THE TEETH OF THE LAST GYPSIES OF PONTICELLI, (Naples, Italy. May 2009)]. And there we exhibited these teeth. The result is that the whole city seemed to have teeth. The windows became eyes. Using their teeth seems to me a very good method to portray cornered masses. It is a method that we have repeated, which in fact is the basis of the exhibition that we are closing right now at Galería Helga de Alvear (December 2022 to February 2023, Madrid). It is a collection, this time larger, of teeth taken at the borders of Tijuana. They are teeth from groups of migrants who cross in caravans of 1000 or 2000 people all together to avoid being assaulted. They arrive in Tijuana and stand there. I have a large collection of photos and also of the eyes of all these people, which was part of the exhibition “2068 Teeth”. This presentation of the Tijuana dentures included a sound piece. The sound on the first floor is CUMBIA REBAJADA LOWERED AND INVERTED [Madrid, November 2022]. Cumbia rebajada (lowered cumbia) is a very popular musical phenomenon that occurs in northern Mexico when DJs discover the success of playing cumbia from Colombia at lower revolutions per minute than the original recording, creating a new sound that is denser and sadder than the original. By manipulating this lowered cumbia again, lowering it even further and inverting it, we get the sound we hear on the ground floor.

The Penetrated, Terrassa, Spain, 2008 is a film that shows men and women of different skin colours performing the sexual act of penetration and being penetrated. As in the binary system, the partners change until they went through all combinations of sex (male and female) and skin colour (black and white). Could you talk about this work and its allegory not only to domination but as well to sexual exploitation?

“Que te den por culo” (Fuck you in the ass), is a phrase that is not used to describe a pleasant, consensual sexual relationship, but as a threat of rape. It synthesises the desire to get hurt, to have a bad time. So, sodomy comes in popular culture or in popular expressions, associated with doing harm. ‘Joder’ also in Spanish has a double meaning. To fuck can be to make love, to fuck, but it is also to be hurt. ‘Me jodieron’ means that they ‘hurt me’. Around this phrase and also taking into account the ‘unproductive’ sex, I brought in my head a phrase by Jorge Luis Borges who said that he hated copulations and mirrors because they reproduce people. That’s why the place where we shot LOS PENETRADOS [El Tórax, Terrassa, Spain. October 12, 2008] was all covered with mirrors. They were all copulas and mirrors, but without reproduction. Of course, he also spoke of the relations of domination, of the male/female relationship, of the black/white relationship. All these tensions that have to do with this so-called ‘melting pot’ we live in, which is nothing more than a constant class struggle, mirrored and reflected in a thousand ways: with reflections in sexuality, with reflections in the colour of our skin, with reflections in the way we talk. It is the pornographic work with the largest number of participants ever filmed in Spain. But nevertheless, it was all very orderly, all very repetitive. There was such order that it didn’t really call for excitement. It is a tremendously anticlimactic work in spite of everything. I was very struck by the amount of public that came to the show. There were lines of people every day. But I was even more surprised when we showed it in New York, at Team Gallery, because normally in New York we might have a percentage of the population of African origin that is maybe 30 or 40 percent of the total public. When we showed this piece in New York, there was about 60 percent of the public of African descent. And I think this was because of the ending. In all the series that were there, it started with the whites penetrating the blacks, but the last scene of the film was the blacks penetrating the whites. In the sequence of events, finally, they were the ones penetrating. Black men anally penetrating a white man. Suddenly it takes on a tone, if not emancipatory, at least of a certain revenge, of a certain aesthetic revenge, which I think attracted many people to see it.

We had difficulties shooting in Spain. Just when we were shooting, they had passed a law in Barcelona that criminalised the practice of prostitution in the street. This doesn’t sound strange apparently, but the problem is that the police see a black woman and think she is a prostitute. So they were fining black women just because they wanted to, because the policeman wanted to. So they were intimidating black women in Barcelona during that period. It was very difficult for us to get close to the black women of Barcelona and you can clearly see in the video that some of them are missing, and that we didn’t complete the series. I don’t like the pieces to come out exactly as I have planned them. I also like that everything that comes out is the result of taking a piece of the real world. In other words, it’s not Hollywood what I do, but it has to do with the reality of what I find and I want those mistakes to have importance in the work of art.

A few of your works were made in association with external organisations. For instance in 2012 with Artifariti for World’s largest graffiti, Smara Refugee Camp, Algeria; in 2001 for Person in a ditch measuring 300 x 500 x 30 cm, Space between Kiasma Museum and the Parliament building, Helsinki, Finland for which you made contact with an association for the homeless; in 2002 for 9 Forms of 100 x 100 x 600 cm each constructed to be supposed perpendicular to a wall, New York, United States, you required the services of local job centres to find the participants. Why was that important for you to involve external non-profit organisations in your work?

My studio is more like an office with people calling on the phone, looking to see how to solve things, but it is not a place of production. I have friends that produce their works as a man makes chairs in a carpentry shop. That’s not my case, I work with the outside world. So organisations and people of all kinds participate. Even to set prices, there are organisations that tell you what to pay and what not to pay. I also do a lot of work trying to link up with people who are doing a good job and include them in some way and relate to them. For example, now with this piece of the SPANISH NATIONAL FLAG SUBMERGED IN BLOOD [Madrid, Spain. October 12, 2021], it was a real parade of people, not only from the art world but people who had a social concern to which my work gave an answer. So yes, there is a lot of collaboration. But there are also a lot of people who really help you because they agree with you. And the clearest case is this one of the flag submerged in blood, where there was no payment, you can’t buy people’s blood, it’s not legal. So people gave it to me. And finally, it is a work that is not from the studio, it is from the outside world and therefore is linked to organisations, to people, to specific characters or even to the lumpen many times. But it is a work that begins when I close the studio door and go out into the street.

A strong visual presence can be noticed in your body of work, for instance in 50 kg of plaster in the street, Madrid, Spain, 1994 depicting each vehicle’s journey on the floor as a homage to the strong presence of the construction sector in Madrid. I really liked the contrast of the white plaster outlines with the asphalt. The same with 50 litres of gasoline in an abandoned field, Madrid, Spain, 1994, which left a large black stain on the ground and with Black posters, staged in various cities, 2008-2015, which saw the collage in a mass of black posters on buildings, cars, thus providing a visually striking counterpoint to the advertising messages in the public space. Or with Canvas measuring 1.000 x 500 cm suspended from the front of a building, New York, United States, 1997.

Was it important for you to have these kinds of messages be so visually direct, contrasting with the environment, in a graphic way?

I spend more time on the street than in museums. I see more art in the street than in museums. I see it constantly on stickers, on lampposts, and in writings on walls. The vandalism acts that the urban masses do on weekends have also interested me a lot. I think they are very much related to Jackson Pollock’s Action Painting, for example. And so my work refers a lot to that, to the street. I think I’d liked to do all-terrain work, but I think there’s an abundance of streets, that’s my place. In Dublin, during an England-Ireland soccer match – I don’t like soccer of course, it’s something I abhor, like all mass events – I had the city of Dublin all to myself. Everyone was watching the game. So, I spent my time lifting up all the car windshield wipers I came across during the soccer match without anyone saying anything to me, because everyone was watching the soccer game. The result is a beautiful, surprising work, with all these windshield wipers like little graphic stripes denying reality. Of course, it is something that I think about, the graphics of the image, everything that is graffiti I love, although I love it as a texture. I don’t read who wrote it or what name is being advertised to me, but the stains, the colours, the combinations. Working in the street is funny because it is completely the opposite of working in a museum where ‘authority’, in quotation marks, helps you. In the street, the authority chases you, you have to be careful. There is also a time for all that. I think I had much more fun doing this 20 or 30 years ago than I do now, but I always like the street, going back to it in one way or another.

NO projected above the pope, Madrid, Spain, 2011, realised in collaboration with Julius Von Bismarck, saw the projection of the word NO during a few of Pope Benedict XVI’s appearances in protest of his visit to Spain. This is one of many instances in your body of work, in which you take the subject of religion. How was this event staged?

Religion is the ancient method of social control that still retains some effectiveness although I believe it has been largely superseded by the mass media and by a law that goes into every minute detail of daily life. Social control right now does not need religion but it helps and it is there. Everything that is spread from religion, and especially from the Catholic religion, is the denial of our own body, the denial of our own freedom, the denial of our own intelligence, the submission to the criteria of some millionaire lords who simply make money with your candour. It is necessary to answer. When that work took place in 2011, months before the arrival of the Pope, there was a great concentration, one of the great demonstrations in Madrid that are still known as the 15M. A left-wing demonstration where people showed their weariness towards the structure of political parties and towards a politically delirious Spanish reality, with the entire political class stealing from the rest of the population by the bucketful. And this youth day in Madrid was planned with the presence of the Pope, of this Pope who has just died, who was ugly and bad, as a response to this 15M. They brought young people from all over Europe, young Catholics, and they filled Madrid. Normally in Madrid, the police are always on top of the youth with a repressive attitude. During this Catholic meeting the city was theirs like other times, only this time we were waiting for them. I knew the work of Julius von Bismarck, who by the way seems to me one of the most important people of his generation. He is a brilliant artist and a good person and colleague. And we collaborated in the production of this work, which was simply projecting a NO behind the Pope. It was part of my NO, GLOBAL TOUR [Various locations, 2009].

The device we used is a device invented by Julius von Bismarck called Fulgurator. It is a device that hacks analogically. That is, there is a camera that as soon as it detects a nearby camera emits a flash, then responds by very quickly emitting another flash. But this flash contains an image, a very brief image that is not captured by the human eye but is captured by the camera. In other words, what this device does is hack into other people’s photographs. Any photograph preceded by a flash activates the Fulgurator and it sends you an image. Julius had used it on multiple occasions and we used it to get these huge pictures of the Pope with a NO behind him. They are photos that we might think are Photoshop, but no, they are actual photographs of a real event that happened on a large scale. Suddenly we had thousands of people, we projected huge NOs and only the photographer saw it, the rest of the people did not. We also projected it on policemen, on pilgrims. Anyway, there is a long series on the subject.

I would like to delve now into your set design work for the Balenciaga Spring Summer 2023 show held in Paris. The Parc des Expositions de Villepinte convention centre on the outskirts of Paris was filled with 275 cubic metres of mud, creating a mud runway for the show. How did the collaboration unfold? Was this your first collaboration within the world of fashion and would you do it again?

Balenciaga was a commission, a very specific commission to make the scenography for its fashion show [LOS EMBARRADOS (THE MUD SHOW / BALENCIAGA) (Paris Nord Villepinte, Paris, October 2nd, 2022)]. I thought it was wonderful to do the opposite of what someone would expect from a fashion show, reaching a situation where we muddied the audience, we muddied the models, where it was difficult to walk. I liked it a lot. It was about getting the elites muddy, that was the concept, to mud the elites. The mud could be a synonym for reality or it could be a synonym for a Europe that is on the verge of being blown up by the stupidity of war. It brought back a lot of reminiscences, a lot of memories. It reminded me a lot of the phenomenon rasputitsa, which occurs in Russia, Ukraine, in Eastern European countries, where twice a year, during the autumn rain and during the spring, snow melts and you can’t get through because of the amount of mud. The evolution of the news day by day confirms to me how accurate the piece was. It is indeed a muddy elite but at the same time a muddy environment for everyone. I think that in this fashion show, we really managed to represent the reality in which we live in a very powerful way, through fashion.

Is there any particular performance of yours that has impacted you more than another?

Yes, there’s a work I often remember because of its intensity, THE CORRIDOR OF PEOPLE’S HOUSE [Bucarest, Romania. October 2005] by Minhea Micnan. For this piece, we built a black corridor (240 meters of longitude per 120 centimetres wide and 2 meters high) inside the house currently occupied by the National Museum of Contemporary Art. That area was previously devoted to the personal rooms of dictator N. Ceaușescu (1918/1989). The corridor crossed through the 2 stories assigned for exhibitions in the building, but it crossed in the shortest possible way: going from the entrance to the stairs and then to the exit. 396 adult women were invited to fill that space for two hours at midnight on the 14th day of the month. Placed on both sides of the corridor, the women were ordered to repeat the phrase ‘Give me money’, literally and in Romanian. For this work, each woman received 20 leis (about 6 euros) and they also kept the money earned through the beggar. The audience could only access it individually, one by one, passing through a weapon detector placed at the building’s entrance. The whole action was very uncomfortable for the visitors and workers due to various reasons such as the detector at the entrance, the time of the day in which it took place and the abundant rain. It had a lot to do with the social panic of zombie movies. 

Santiago, what is your idea of the future?

We dedicated a piece to the future in Valencia [BURNED WORD (El Cabanyal, Valencia, Spain. July, 2012)]. In Valencia, there is a very nice area because it is close to the sea, which is the Cabanyal, which are working-class neighbourhoods. A working-class neighbourhood with beaches, where Sorolla painted many of his paintings of boys on the beach bathing. And of course, being a working-class area on a beach, real estate greed fell on them. When I was there the whole neighbourhood was fighting to stay alive, not to be destroyed by the speculative vortex and lose their homes and be given to tourists who spend a week in Valencia and leave. And well, I got in touch. That was part of an exhibition called ‘Periferias’. My piece was to use a very common technique in Valencia, which is the ‘fallas’. The ‘fallas’ are sculptures that are made every year to be burned. I thought it was a fantastic idea to make a work specifically to be burned. So I worked with Manolo Martín, one of the most powerful ‘falleros’ there, with whom I would later work again. We made, with the typography that I usually use, the word FUTURO. Once we had it there, we set it on fire and watched the future burn. Evidently, the future is death. Our future. For that is what awaits us. Eons and eons of nothingness, of emptiness, of not existing, of not being here. Therefore the future does not seem to be something very interesting. And yet, it is something that from the institutional discourse or as a culture, as humanity, is all the time being put before and put on. Hold on, resist, because in the future this is going to be wonderful. Yes, now we are reforming this or there are works in the street, but in the future, this street is going to be wonderful. The future is at the same time, from an institutional point of view, like the heaven that is promised to us. In the future, our country is going to be at the head of I don’t know what. There is something religious about it. When in reality the future is death. There is a vindication on my part of the present. The present is the only thing that exists. We have to take into account that our actions in the present have consequences. But apart from that, the future is something to burn. What matters is the present. The future that is proposed to us is something I don’t want to go towards, not only because it is death, but also because it is an evolution of humanity that is more and more unstable, less and less reliable. It’s going to make us all uncomfortable to leave for those who stay here.


    Tejadillo Street. Havana, Cuba. November 2000
    302 Fortaleza Street. San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico. October 2000
    El Gallo Arte Contemporáneo. Salamanca, Spain. December 2000
    Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001
    Korea, 2000
    Los Focos. Madrid, Spain. December 1994
    Project Space, Kunsthalle Wien. Vienna, Austria. September 2002
    Arsenale. Venice, Italy. June 2001
    Plaza del Estudiante, 20, Mexico City. July 2003
    Naples, Italy. May 2009
    Instituto Made Assunta mixed shelter, Por los Derechos Humans de America mixed shelter, Casa del Migrate mixed shelter, Movimiento Juventud 2000 mixed shelter, Movimiento Juventud 2000 men’s shelter, Enclave Caracol social dining. Tijuana, Mexico. February 2019
    El Torax, Terrassa, Spain. October 12th, 2008
    Seventh Avenue and 29th Street. New York City, United States. September 1997
    Several locations. Ireland. October 2017
    Madrid. World Youth Day. August 2011
    Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, Germany. February 2005

    All works courtesy of Santiago Sierra

Sónar Lisboa 2023

For the second edition of Sónar Lisboa, a music and visual technology-driven art festival and sister event of Barcelona’s annual happening, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, I had the opportunity to interview Gustavo Pereira, the main curator of the Portuguese team. With years of experience in the music industry and as a well-known DJ and promoter in the city, Gustavo closed the festival with a b2b DJ set alongside the legendary Rui Vargas, delighting the dedicated dancers.

As the festival season opens in Europe, it is fitting that it begins in Lisbon, one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities of Europe, which is also undergoing the most dramatic gentrification on the continent. Festivals have the potential to shape the cultural and social landscape of a city, and in this interview, we explore their responsibility to consider their impact on the local community and create a more inclusive city. Together with Gustavo, we discuss how responsible and inclusive programming of influential cultural organisations and promoter groups can impact the development of cities, gentrification, and support for local artists.

In our conversation with Gustavo, I am curious about Sónar Lisboa’s mission to promote forward-thinking culture, technology, and lifestyle while shaping the authentic side of the Portuguese edition, preserving Lisbon’s diversity and tackling homogenization. We also discuss Sónar’s approach to featuring local talent and its role in supporting the local music industry in the face of gentrification challenges.

As an experienced raver yourself, what changes have you seen in the Portuguese scene in recent years? And what inspirations and influences from the other scenes and cultural spaces have become more prominent here? 

I’ve been going to parties and live shows ever since I was really young. First, I went to live shows with my parents, then around 13/14 years old, with my brother, and later on my own. When I started clubbing, I mostly went to clubs and raves around Portugal and Galicia in Spain. I’ve seen lots of live shows, clubs, and nightlife in different genres and settings. Nowadays, I feel we’re going through an identity crisis because of the massive amount of music available today. People get used to that and look for all kinds of music and events, which, of course, is not a bad thing. In a way, it was easier to identify who listened to what, and that’s not happening anymore. 

Portugal is a melting pot for diversity and influences from other countries and cultures, and that reflects in the number of amazing artists we have nowadays producing incredible and extraordinary music from what’s been heard before. There is also a lot of respect for the origins and the music foundations. Personally, I try to get a nice balance between the old school and the new school: experience and creativity. 

What direction and guidelines in the curation do you share with Sónar Barcelona? And what makes Sónar Lisboa unique and worth travelling to? 

We work together on the line-up, but it’s always very important to present a balanced line-up with local talent, live shows, advanced music, and a contemporary vision with a touch of the foundations. Just the fact Sónar Lisboa is happening in a different city makes it unique and gives it a different touch. The local talent flavour, the gastronomy, the venues, and the experience are different here. Barcelona is the sanctuary, of course, and you can’t compare both. Just assume our differences and make it also special.

Lisbon is going through heavy gentrification, people are being pushed outside of the city, and young local creatives can hardly afford to live in the city, which is, of course, a significant loss for the city’s cultural development. Is there a way for Lisbon’sLisbon’s music industry to have a say in this development and think together with the city about how to make this situation fairer for the locals (I noticed the festival had been supported by Turismo de Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, and Turismo de Lisboa, so I assumed such conversation might be a part of the discussion within your team)? 

There’s no interference in the work of those institutions from Sónar Lisboa. We have main concerns, and of course, we try to fight to promote the local culture and give everyone some voice and promotion as much as possible. It’s not an easy task, but the support from these institutions is also essential for our job here and shows their interest in it. At the moment, only the Lisboa city hall is supporting us, and we really appreciate it, but of course, the initial support from the other institutions was really important for our kick-off.

Due to its long history of immigration and colonisation, Lisbon is home to a diverse and vibrant mix of cultures, contributing to the city’s unique cultural identity. The city has been a port of entry for people from many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Gentrification can lead to a homogenization of the city’s culture, making it difficult for underground creatives to find audiences and venues for their works. How can Sónar, as an establishment for a forward-thinking culture, technology, and lifestyle, contribute to preserving the city’s diversity and tackle the problem of homogenization? 

Sónar Lisboa is part of the private cultural sector that helps promote and disseminate multicultural and diverse artistic talent. We have in our backbone the will and passion for exploring the heterogenization of national and international culture as much as possible, especially in the music and visual sector.

The Portuguese artists featured on this year’s Sónar line-up, such as DJ Nigga Fox, Rui Vargas and Gusta-vo, Violet and Photonz, and Sensible Soccers are significant to the local club scene and also made an essential impact on putting Portugal on the global map, and thus, of course, are essential to be a part of your booking. Yet, from some recent conversations with friends from the underground music scene in Lisbon, I learned that the smaller collectives feel underrepresented by the big festivals in Portugal, such as Sónar, that could potentially offer them financial support and opportunities to build international audiences and gain recognition. How do you, with your curatorial team, approach featuring the local talent in your program? 

We try to balance our work and actions as an organisation as well as possible. Of course, some of the names are already recognised but new and fresh names from smaller collectives as well. We keep our ears and eyes open but unfortunately don’t know all of them as we wish, and also, we don’t have slots for everyone all at once. We try not to repeat many artists from one year to another to give space to different artists to be part of Sónar Lisboa.

One of the central features of this year’s program of Sónar is the AI-generated image campaign. The fast-growing advances and use of AI technology have caused considerable anxiety in creative communities. There’s a growing sense of the digital and physical becoming blurred and reality becoming increasingly subjective. What role does the discussion on the AI influence in the music and visual art production play within your team and the scene you represent?

The discussion makes the intangible more tangible, and the conversation allows an ongoing dialogue within a community that can help regulate, find solutions, and even integrate responses to problems from our everyday life.

Sónar focuses not only on music but “Music, Creativity and Technology.” In your view, what trends and developments are driving the evolution of electronic music? 

Definitely machine learning is interacting with all forms of music and visual development in this industry. A lot is being done with new ways of processing these two separately and in an integrated way.

There’s been a growing competition among fast-emerging artists, many of whom are becoming popular over social media. Social media is also a result of technological advancement, but it often exploits its consumerist side more than its unlimited possibilities for creativity. Sometimes the artists who mostly invest time in developing their production and DJing skills find it hard to keep up with the artists who are more affine to social media and know how to keep their audiences entertained on Instagram or TikTok. Considering these developments, how can creativity be encouraged and nurtured more evenly in the electronic music industry today?

Social media occurs on and by the use of platforms, and they can allow us to show creativity to an amplified audience. You can see that on the best brands and pages you follow, so we should condemn the vehicle but the way we use it or not to showcase our creativity and talent. Of course, there’s social interaction at a bigger scale, but I believe that we can input social media with our best craftsmanship and use it in a good way. In a non-paid setting, it’s a recreational space for the electronic music scene.

How do you see Sónar Lisboa grow in the next few years? Are there any specific themes or new formats you want to explore, such as networking events, workshops, discussions, etc.?

I believe Sónar Lisboa’s growth and evolution will be dependent on the core of its context, and by that, I mean the team that makes it happen, Lisboa’s own evolution and growth, and the way the industry evolves we will mirror our own perception of this reality and try to keep things interesting for our audience.


  1. Luisa, Sonar Park, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  2. I hate Models, Sonar Club, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  3. Sofia Kourtesis, Sonar Club, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  4. Conference, Plaça de Barcelona, 2023. Courtesy of Neia
  5. Entangled Others, Clothilde, Sonar + D, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  6. MetaAV, Sonar + D, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  7. Peggy Gou, Sonar Club 2023. Courtesy of Neia

    For more information visit Sónar Lisboa
    Special thanks to Rosalie De Meyer

Lila Steinkampf

Lila Steinkampf’ jelly cakes form an edible sensual experience that becomes a part of one’s body

Jelly cakes as objects of desire prelude a sensual dessert experience that cake artist and food stylist Lila Steinkampf makes. She works with jelly as a temporary sculptural medium that can be consumed while infusing a pure sensual experience, swinging between the art of sweets and the pleasure they give. She tells NR that the fact is that jelly cakes can be eaten and therefore becomes a part of your body, making them an accessible artwork. “It makes you stop for a second, try to grasp what you have in front of you. It makes you talk about the future of food,” she says. The kinship her consumers have with her jelly cakes moves beyond the visible form of food. The slow slide of the knife’s hilt onto the gelatinous surface sends an electric buzz on the skin. A shiver follows as the lilac whip cream and glossy tapioca pearls drip gradually. A slice of Steinkmapf’s treat invites the consumer to take the plate to their room and ravish the dessert at a languid pace, alone.

Steinkampf trained as a communication designer and worked as a research-based graphic designer and visual journalist before shifting toward cake making and designing. Jelly comes through as her go-to medium since she believes it toys with her creativity and allows her to explore her visual storytelling. “I could not find this space in art institutions and in my practice before. I feel free to fully express myself now, even if it is commissioned work,” she says. She adds that she can get analytical in the way she prepares and designs her jelly cakes, and the symmetry and intentional decorations of her works testify to her statement. Metaphors and allegories bond with her edible sculptures through her use of flowers, pieces of jewelry, feathers, olives, fruit, and soft colors.

Each cake she designs takes several hours to produce. “I am working in steps, but the cooling process interrupts the design process. Before that, the development of the concept and flower selection takes place. Every piece is a custom design, a personal exploration of a new technique, or color research,” she says. The versatility of her material means she can reheat and cast it again in any shape and form. She molds the jelly and twists it to her benefit, unlike baked chiffon cakes that might not fold under her desired shape and outcome. Ingredients-wise, nothing becomes discarded as Steinkampdf repurposes the leftover materials from her previous cakes – such as the fruit and flowers – to design a new one, and shares them with the people close to her. 

When she says she wants to explore the depth of her visual storytelling, she means well. Two golden cherries top her two green, rounded jelly cakes for her commissioned work with Adidas. Petals of flowers scatter around the presentation, adding up to the soft and striking features of her creation. For another order, she sculpts a rose from a red-hued jelly, injects a real rose in the middle, and places everything inside a heart-shaped, transparent cake. When sliced, the cake displays a broken heart with uneven cut lines, jagged by the knife. Sometimes, she fills the inside with strands of blonde hair, and once, she planted a curvy phallus-like design in the center of a whipped-covered cake. Steinkampf needs no words to describe why she does what she does. A glimpse of her creations is enough to flirt with the viewer’s imagination. What follows next are the salivating mouths these cakes are poised to feed.

Since her works are also through collaborations and commissions, brands and clients give her the freedom to translate their briefs and requests, and Steinkampf oozes excitement as she brainstorms what visuals she can make out of the verbal and written words. “It pushes me to go out of my comfort zone and risk developing a new visual language. There are times I feel nervous about the end product and how it is going to be perceived by the client, but until now it always turned out in the best way I could have imagined. This is the best way I can think of working – there is a balance between my own approach in tryouts as well as freedom in commissioned work,” she says.

The surroundings of Steinkampf growing up influence the flowers present in her design oeuvre. Her grandmother grew her own flowers in her garden and would pluck the bloomed ones to decorate the community church every Saturday. Steinkampf would join to assist her grandmother, and they would prepare huge bouquets inside the church, especially the altar. “By doing this, she taught me a lot about color composition and set design with the altar as the stage,” she says. Turning to her parents, both are gardeners who fostered Steinkampf’s curiosity over gardening. The cake artist and stylist owes her green sensitivity to the spacious garden her family had while growing up. She learned to identify what they needed to grow in their garden and how to let them bloom, acting as her parents’ novice gardener. 

Today, Steinkampf is far from being called a novice in the floral department. Working with flowers so closely for her cakes has made the artist and stylist aware of the natural crevices, waves, and bents of the florals, allowing her to marvel at the detailed structures found in every bloom. “It never fails to amaze me every time I spend time with them. I started deconstructing the blooms to see how their expression changed. This is what defines the detailed look of my cakes today,” she says, who adds that living in an urban environment now and being dependent on flower shops changes and informs her approach. “The geographical trading routes of the cut flowers market are determined by exploitative working conditions which we should be aware of while working with flowers.”

When Steinkampf started making cakes for private birthdays, she soon realized it formed a bond between her, the person who commissioned the work, and the people who received her cakes as presents. An element that freely runs in her work ethic today lies in how she treats what she makes as a personal token to gift and share. At the same time, her desserts spring as a genre of deconstruction to which she eventually adds layers visually. “This is a beautiful image for me. The consistency of the jelly forces you to invent something new if you want to share. The basic elements connect you with the other people on the table, but every served dessert turns into its own world. Jelly gets this magical shine when it is cut, and the light finds its way through. Combined with flowers and fruits, it starts to tell its own story staged in a small bowl,” she says.

Opting out for a less-subdued, more-pronounced body of work, Steinkampf diverts the attention of her consumers from looking at cakes solely as sweet treats to fulfill their cravings. Her instinctive and technical details turn her jelly cakes into luxurious souvenirs that stimulate the senses through their color, texture, flavor, and sparkle. “These are exactly what I am working towards to,” she says. For every mouth-ready cake designs she makes, Lila Steinkampf motivates the consumers to slow down – maybe take a picture for social media – scrutinize the design, mentally and/or physically applaud the artist behind the creations, and dig in for pleasure without thinking twice. 


Photography · Adrian Escu
Cake artist and food stylist · Lila Steinkampf at Future Rep
Set Design Assistant · Tra Ma Nguyen

Shauna Summers

Inner World


Model · Robe at Tigers Management
Photography · Shauna Summers
Fashion · Elisa Schenke
Casting · White Casting
Hair and Makeup · Stefanie Mellin
Set Design · Carina Dewhurst
Post Production · RMJ Studio
Photography Assistant · Nick Piesk
Set Design Assistant · Michael Naughton


  1. Top SANDRO via ZALANDO, pants N21, shoes NEU_IN and sleeves 30 % 70
  2. Full look JIL SANDER
  4. Full look JIL SANDER
  5. Shirt and pants LGN LOUIS GABRIEL NOUCHI and shoes CAMPERLAB
  6. Top SANDRO via ZALANDO, pants N21, shoes NEU_IN and sleeves 30 % 70
  8. Sweater and pants LGN LOUIS GABRIEL NOUCHI, shoes CAMPERLAB and ring JULIA BARTSCH
  9. Shirt, pants and shoes NEU_IN and ring JULIA BARTSCH
  10. Shirt and pants T/SEHNE, coat and shoes DIOR MEN and necklace LIRONIE
  11. Top N21, pants OUR LEGACY and shoes CAMPERLAB

Filippo Scotti

Relieving trauma has Filippo Scotti revisit parts and memories of himself

Filippo Scotti wears a worried look as he fires off apologies for being five minutes late into the call. He was helping his friend with a project and lost track of time. He asked him to pedal fast when the two breezed through the street on his friend’s bike, hoping to catch the interview on time. After a bout of reassurance that he has nothing to worry about, he drinks from his 1.5 liters of water bottle to fight off the 38 degrees celsius heat crashing over Rome. Drinking tons of water forms part of his daily routine along with hours of physical training for his next project. NR tries to break through the secret project, but Filippo’s lips remain sealed. The only piece of information he gives is that “imagine wearing a t-shirt when it is 10 degrees out there. I have to prepare my body for that.” He assures us that he will not be doing jump stunts like Tom Cruise. Even if that were the project, Scotti would buckle down in a heartbeat to physically prepare for it.

On starting out

Scotti started out as a theater actor in Naples at the age of 16, and even before that, his mother had encouraged him to try his hand out at acting when he was 11. While on tour with his theater group for shows, an agency signed him, the gradual shift of the young actor from theater to cinema. His new lineup brimmed with auditions where he would prepare each day to spew out his memorized lines with depth to match his character’s emotions, almost melding with his own. Those moments culminated in Scotti earning the role of Fabietto Schisa in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God (2021). Now that he is thinking about it with NR, he admits he got lucky.

Working for the movie nudged Scotti to look at the cinema industry as a spider web where he always has to move, audition, secure roles, act, and go on press tours. The cycle repeats, and he admits it took him a while to get a hang of the rhythm. But his strike of luck keeps him in the spotlight, project after project. “I am also lucky that people whom I worked and work with trust and have taught me how to be and stay in character, to always be ready for what is coming. I am always learning and never stopping, and that is a double-edged sword for me. It scares me, but at the same time, it excites me. The whole experience is just wonderful,” he says.

On preparing for the shoot

From luck, the conversation flows to how mathematical he sees the process of being on set is. Everything seems to be planned – a miscalculation in schedule, equipment, script, and post-production means shooting delays. The viewers see the finished product flashed on the cinema screens, but it only scratches the surface of what happens behind the scenes (not the bloopers that seem to detract the attention from the hard work invested in producing and making a movie).

Scotti tells NR that often he wakes up early only to start shooting late in the afternoon or at night. The physical and mental preparation he undergoes also comes in handy when his first hours are spent idly waiting for his turn. Then, when he acts in a scene and the first take is not good enough, it might take two, three, four, five, or more takes before he can settle down. “During the shoot, I block out any thoughts so I can stay focused on my character. When I do more than five takes – even four because I always target a maximum of three takes – I start to hit this wall and fall into this repetition. It affects the way I act, so I strive to get it all done before the third take,” he says.

On relieving trauma

For The Hand of God, some takes took more than three times, and as the shooting went on, Scotti found himself in the shoes of Fabietto’s character, beyond the biopic he was portraying. He would think of ways to tap into Fabietto’s pain and tragic experiences, but would end up feeling obligated to play the role. Sorrentino noticed, sat with him, and told him that he should give his truth to the lines of his character. “If I am to say my lines, I should think of my truth – the painful events that happened in my life,” he says. Scotti followed the director’s advice and soon, he relieved his truth, even if it meant digging up the past he had already buried. “While I did not live the tragedy Fabietto lived, I felt the pain he felt as I remembered my past,” Scotti tells NR.

When asked about the experiences he went through, Scotti pauses. Seconds of silence have passed before he speaks. “I am only going to share one event that was strange for me,” he begins. When he was in high school, Scotti enjoyed the company of his friends, the topics his teachers delved into, and the theater classes he had in between. Yet the young actor felt as if he was in limbo, the weight of an unknown sensation seemed to be putting him in stagnation. He felt stuck and he could not pinpoint why. “Until now, I find it hard to describe the feeling,” he says. “I wanted to study, but I did not want to study. There was this push-and-pull feeling that tired me out.” Suddenly, Scotti was playing a role of a character who was stuck and wanted to find a way out, a real-life portrayal of a role he saw in movies. Like a coming-of-age movie, he figured out that he felt free after he pursued acting full-time. He still studies for pleasure from time to time, but he no longer has time to beat. His pace, his time.

Relieving his past traumas for his role in The Hand of God made Scotti realize how, at times, he has to take off his mask and acknowledge and understand his vulnerability. “To accept it is difficult sometimes,” he says. “But I feel lighter afterward, knowing that I have understood what it meant.”

On fame and recognition

Scotti has experienced being recognized on the street for his role as Fabietto. When asked if the gradual build-up of fame surrounding his career affects him, he says that he is more focused on the emotions and depth he dedicates to his roles rather than the recognition he receives from the public. It pleases him to know that he can influence viewers with his acting – he even receives direct messages on his social media, which he reads, double taps, and treasures – and Scotti reminds us that the Scotti who portrayed a role in his previous project differs from the Scotti today. “Am I the same person? Would I be able to do better in the next project? Responsibilities come and go. I love being the message people can relate to, and I hope to continue that.”

On moving beyond acting

During his press tours for The Hand of God, Scotti was asked at times if he wanted to be a director one day. He could not remember when he had said that, or if he had even said it at all, but somehow, it piqued the press’ curiosity over his next venture. For NR, he says he loves writing and the idea of crafting characters over directing a movie, but that above all, he would love to produce movies. “If I were to have the opportunity in the future, I would love to open my own production company,” he says. “It would be difficult but worth it at the same time. The idea is exciting, to be honest.” 

Scotti already has a name for his production company, but he says he will keep it to himself for now. As for the movies he will produce, he wants some gut-wrenching scripts based on reality. They do not have to be drama or tragedy. He envisions his movies as means to address topics that the general public might not be open or ready yet to talk about or reflect on. While he is unsure of specific themes, his statement circles back to how he dealt with his trauma, a potential overview of the visual narratives he wants the public to see.

On reflecting on his own

As a fan of words, Scotti used to bring a notepad in his pocket to jot down his thoughts. They were gone the moment they crossed his mind, and he wanted to keep track of these phrases, hoping they would make sense when he revisits them in the future. Touring and traveling means he stays far from home and finds himself on his own. In the times he is in his own space, Scotti ponders on life, love, movies, his career, his next path, his decisions, his regrets, and what he might have forgotten to say or do. “For example, I am living in Rome and my family is living in Naples. It feels far and close at the same time. I check in with myself on what I feel when I experience this. Then, I write down my thoughts,” he says. He has replaced his notepad with a ‘notes’ app on his phone. He reminds us that his thoughts are not poetry, but just jumbled words that made sense to him at the moment of writing, a set of word vomit he feels acquainted with.

Filippo Scotti appears hesitant to share one of his personal thoughts. He fumbles on his phone and stammers as he finds an excuse to refuse. We assure him it is fine if he does not want to share anything. He calls his typed-down thoughts shitty and bad. We disagree. He turns his phone to the camera and shows a long list of saved thoughts on his app. He clicks on one and purses his lips. “Last night, I dreamed of your pain. Up close, I can see the waves of the sea,” he reads. Earlier, he said he wants to base his acting on emotions for people to relate with, a mission he eyes to fulfill by playing a character. His delivery for NR can attest that while he still has mountains to climb, he is already on his way to reaching their peaks.


Talent · Filippo Scotti
Photography · Bobby Buddy at Kaptive
Fashion · Victoire Seveno at Kaptive
Hair and Grooming · Miwa Moroki
Set Design · Clara de Gobert and Nico Plinio Lanteri
Agents · Carole Congos and Amal Jefjef
Fashion Assistant · Flore de Sermet
Special thanks to Gianni Galli


  1. Full look PRADA
  2. Full look PRADA
  3. Full look PRADA
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  5. T-shirt RON DORFF, jacket, trouser and shoes BOTTEGA VENETA
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  7. Jacket ACNE STUDIOS and t-shirt RON DORFF

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