• Eleonora Brizi

Hackatao

In The Studio with Hackatao: Sergio Scalet and Nadia Squarci by Eleonora Brizi

A journey into the lifestyle, interests and creative inspiration of one of the most iconic crypto artist duo on the blockchain.

This trailer is a preview of a documentary film on the life of Hackatao, “Beyond Art” directed by Anna Fuga.


Eleonora:

IT’S AN EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON, IN FRIULI (ITALY), WHEN I BEGIN MY ADVENTURE THROUGH THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF THE HACKATAO STORY. HERE IN NEW YORK, IT IS SLIGHTLY EARLIER.

THE VIDEO CALL WITH NADIA AND SERGIO BEGINS:

HELLO HACKATAO .. WAIT, WHY HACKATAO?

S:

“Hack”, for our pleasure of going under the skin - as a serial killer – to discover what’s hidden inside and to show it to everyone through our art: the pure hacker spirit.

N:

“Tao”, because we are Yin and Yang and we exist in a creative dynamic balance.

NAMES.

Nadia Squarci, Sergio Scalet.

S:

I was born and raised in Trentino, on the Dolomiti mountains, but first, I come from the primordial soup that used to boil in volcanic puddles millions of years ago and that – replicating and mutating – brought me here. Where am I going? Where I feel good. It is my life rule: to do what I like and what feels nice, without effort. Doing things that I am very passionate about is very natural for me, even though sometimes they can be much more complicated: my first passion is my car, after coffee. But if I have to move a pen from here to there and I don’t want to, then it becomes an effort. I am going where I feel good and it is the same path that led me here.

N:

When we decided to move from Milan to Oltris, this little lost village, everything fit together like pieces of a puzzle: it was a flow. Although it was like moving – we bought a house and renovated it – everything went so smoothly, without any complications. I am the opposite of Sergio, we are truly two opposite and yet complementary souls. I am from Friuli and my parents are from Carnia. I wasn’t comfortable in Udine and I moved to Milan to cultivate my passion for graphic design and advertising. I don’t know where we want to go but I know that we want to do it together. We create our own world and we keep going.

Eleonora:

Speaking of this, I would like to tell you a story. One day, when I was living in China, I was having lunch with my artist friends, Song Dong and his wife Yin Xiuzhen, in their studio in Beijing. Everyone who knows me would tell you that it’s typical for me to drop a chopstick during almost every meal: and, obviously, it happened that day as well. I apologised and asked for a new pair, but Song Dong said that there was nothing to be sorry about. He pulled out a new pair of beautiful chopsticks and he gave them to me, as a gift, and asked me to open it. It was a creation of him and his wife, they were different colors and engraved. These two artists as well, besides being a couple in life, are also connected by their work and many of their art projects are made by them together. Song Dong explained that the chopsticks were very much like himself and Yin Xiuzhen, like two people in a couple: they are necessary to each other for eating, although they are two completely different entities. He said that this need of being separated from the other – that can manifest sometimes – is just normal and it is as a sign of independence.


HOW ABOUT YOUR CHOPSTICKS? ARE THEY TWO DIFFERENT COLORS? HOW DO YOU OPERATE?

N:

I like this image of the chopsticks, I love Chinese food and I will use this metaphor in the future… We do. Since it is just the way we work. In the first phase, we decide the theme and the idea of the artwork together. It is the most intense moment as well, sometimes we fight, and usually I win. When we later translate our idea onto canvas, our roles get divided. Sergio takes care of the drawings, like a tattoo on canvas. I define the borders, I “contain” him giving him some limits inside a shape.

S:

And these are fundamental limits for me. If there’s too much white, too much to get filled-in, I would get lost.

N:

We tried, for fun, to exchange our roles. It doesn’t work. Looking at our art pieces – and we are often told so – many people might think that his part takes longer, with all those miniature drawings. In reality, it takes me double the time because I’m a perfectionist.


PROFESSION?

Artists.


WHO IS “THE ARTIST”?

S:

For me, to be an artist means to have a certain kind of mind structured for creation. For Nadia as well. During those rare times that we go on a vacation, maybe the first day we are able to stay calm, the second one we are already sketching, gathering ideas; if we don’t have our tools, we pour out using something else. There is this pressing energy that cannot be stopped.

N:

We were on holiday once, visiting Sergio’s family in Trentino. We didn’t carry anything just to try to avoid it. But the following day we started to build a Podmork with our nephews made with wood we found in the forest. We continued for a week, every single day, and in the end the children gave up while me and Sergio carried on until it was finished.

S:

It’s like an addiction, if somebody or something were to block us we would probably get crazy. We are constantly bombarded by stimulus and we re-elaborate them through the artistic process in order to understand them, but also to free ourselves from their chaos. Therefore, the task for artists is to feed themselves within society and in the flow of the world, the becoming of the world’s stream – followed by the process of hacking reality – and to see some nuances that other people are most likely unable to catch. The same ones that are then given back to the world through the art piece.


BUT ABOVE ALL, WHAT IS ART? IS IT DEFINABLE?

S:

I think art is an unnecessary element that becomes necessary when all the primary needs are satisfied. From here comes the first of the secondary needs: to create, for some, and to enjoy the beauty of creation for others.

THAT WAS EXACTLY MY NEXT QUESTION: DO WE NEED ART?

S:

Obviously, for those like us who live off art, it is something very essential but, for the ecosystem of humanity, it is extremely unnecessary, and this is just indispensable to human beings themselves. Since the dawn of history – to which the first artistic expressions date, like Paleolithic Venuses or the hands on the vaults in the caverns, once man has satisfied everything else, there is a pressing energy that wants to come out, in abundance, yet unnecessary. From there comes the need to transform it into something beautiful and meaningful.

N:

Art makes us human.

S:

It’s true, although many humans are still prisoners of our primary needs: some because of evident reasons; some others, instead, follow the same scheme, but they are wealthy and this leads to the destruction of the planet. Art drags you out of the tribe, like a shaman or a child playing with stones by the river. To create figures, to trace lines on the sand: these are all unnecessary moments of deep and profound contemplation.


NADIA AND SERGIO: WHO ARE YOU? YOU ALREADY KNOW? AND WHO WILL YOU BECOME? (IN YOUR NEXT LIFE?)

S:

Our dear friend described me as a labyrinthic garden that you can only visit at night with a lantern. You will slowly discover who I really am; and if you just stop at the threshold, you will never be able to catch either the wonders or the monsters inside me. I don’t know who I will become, but I like to think of myself as a configuration of particles - therefore of energy – that manifested in a specific moment. The same ones that composed me and that will preserve the memory of what I used to be. Dissolving, I will enter in the melting pot of Universal memory … Okay I’ll stop, getting too mystical here.

N:

I am Jack Torrence from The Shining and you can find me in Sergio’s labyrinth. Kidding.


NADIA AND SERGIO AS HUMAN BEINGS AND NADIA AND SERGIO AS ARTISTS: WHERE IS THE BORDER? DOES IT EXIST?

N:

There is no difference between the two definitions, we are as one: in the end, it is the spirit at the core. It is that natural need for creating and that different gaze transferred into what we create. Therefore, no border exists and even more so because we both live this. It is our world. Our room is here, in the ground floor, with the studio.

S:

I think it is more about the separation between the artist and the artwork. Going back to the concept of “unnecessary”, it is something that we expelled, transmitted, and that is therefore unnecessary for ourselves. The artwork is a “leftover” of the artist, but it benefits from its own life and can assume different meanings from the original one.


WHO, OR WHAT, INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR ART AND IN YOUR LIFE?

N:

Everything really, we are omnivores. Inspiration can be found in the news, in a TV series… In a walk in the woods.

S:

And it can also be found in things that are very far from us. For instance, the Primenuum is a mathematical object that was born thanks to our friendship with Massimo Franceschet – pseudonym: HEX0x6C – and our daughter Shadi’s passion for mathematics. They allowed me to understand how creative this science is and I found myself spending two weeks buried in prime numbers. This culminated with my creation of Primenuum, that Massimo later re-elaborated on as an algorithm.

Later, I read that many of the great mathematicians either became crazy or died at a very young age… So I distanced myself. For now. Otherwise, I don’t have a specific landmark, maybe Andy Warhol. We were both born on August 6, we both lost our father during adolescence, we both used to work in advertising, we are both Pop Art. As he used to, I also owned a Commodore Amiga and in the same years we were both experimenting with digital art… Parallels, common points, that make me feel that he is close to me.


IF I SAY MILAN…

S:

Milan is certainly a fundamental transition, after all, it is also the place where we met. I moved there from Trentino, when I was around 18 or 19. It is the city where I studied and where I found stimulus and incentives. That place gave me a lot, up until a certain point anyway. Later, I understood those paradoxes, especially from the point of view of the environment, such as waste of resources and time. The superficial relationships…

N:

I love Milan, aesthetically even: it is beautiful, elegant and refined. It is very lively, even in colors and images. However, I love extremes: being here in the middle of nowhere as well as living in a big city. I like both situations for different reasons. Milan has been important to us, but when we had our first daughter, I understood that it is not a city for children and families. So we left, even though it is and will always be in my heart. Our project was born in 2007 and, if we haven’t met in this city, it probably would have never started. I, like Sergio, have also lived there for about 20 years and it was useful to understand how the art world works; the art fairs, the art shows, everything.

S:

We currently live in Oltris, a hamlet of Ampezzo, in Carnia, Friuli Venezia Giulia. Carnia is a mountain region in the north-east of Italy, on the border with Slovenia and Austria. It is not very well-known and it stays out of the tourist paths.

N:

We like it here because everything is stronger and more real.

S:

It has very wild nature. We have a bear hanging out around here…

Eleonora:

Picasso taught us how, before creating anything new, we should be able to copy the big masters, and only later, though, to unlearn. “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”.


YOUR ART HAS A UNIQUE STYLE, RECOGNISABLE. WHAT IS THE PROCESS THAT LEADS TO THIS FINAL RESULT, FOR BOTH CONTENT AND ARTISTIC TECHNIQUES? HAVE YOU EVER MET OBSTACLES OR LIMITS TO YOUR CREATIVITY, FOR WHICH IT WAS NECESSARY TO UNLEARN SOME RULES?

N:

I studied at the Institute of Art, but to graphic design, therefore I didn’t have to set myself free from pre-settings. I’ve always learned through testing myself. Our path was born for fun and we found ourselves together just because we like to experiment as well as to realise ideas, at the same time.

S:

When I was a kid, I used to draw a lot. It made me feel peaceful. Also, because my childhood was marked by grief in my family, drawing was a big help for me in this sense. During my adolescence, I stopped. The computer distracted me from my manual design, I moved to digital and to writing, so I started to work in Milan as a copywriter.

At the age of 25, something strange happened. At that time I had surgery, with general anesthesia; and it was like someone pressed the “reset” button. After convalescence, I started to draw again, this time guided by the necessity of doing it. After a few weeks, I defined my style. Initially, I was mixing drawings on paper to digital photography.

When I met Nadia, it was the birth of Podmork sculptures.

S:

First, she fell in love with these creatures, then she gave them a guise, she re-painted them and everything started. Although, since these sculptures were very small (just 4cm), we started to feel the need to create something else. Anyway, it was thanks to them that we were led into the art world. One day, we decided to take them to an art gallery, a design shop and a cartoon shop. The signal arrived: 15 minutes after we left, the gallery called us asking for more, the Podmorks were sold out. But, as I was saying, we wanted to go beyond: we moved to canvas. We made some experiments, very intriguing, again through the digital re-elaboration of the photos of the Podmorks.

At the time, Nadia also worked on interesting art pieces, starting from photography yet without printing: she would paint the digital file on canvas herself, following her typical flat style. At that point, though, I was missing. We tried then to combine both the styles in three art pieces, Podmork skulls, that we consider to be the “block 0”. We keep those three for us. That is exactly how Hackatao’ style was born: the union of my twisted narrative drawn in part with her flat style. It is beautiful because artists need their own cage, inside of which they find the right space to create. If we had the infinite, we would get lost, killed by an overdose of stimulus and experimentation.

N:

For creatives, to experiment is a wonderful path, as well as very dispersive. If we continued to experiment endlessly, without finding limits to play within, we would live in a highly anxious state as it could really be anything.

S:

It reminds me a bit of the movie The Legend of 1900. The main character never leaves the ship, thinking of how much he is already able to compose just using 88 keys and that he would probably become crazy if he goes out. Going back to education, I sometimes feel like the behavior of schools towards artists is what also happens in experiments with artificial intelligence.

The art school teaches certain styles and, once students graduate, they act like AI to which – for instance – 30,000 art pieces from the Renaissance were shown. What I think both AI and art schools miss is the variety, the capability of, yes, providing the whole Renaissance art pieces information, but at the same time suggesting you to go pooping in an outhouse of a slum in some cities in Africa. Creativity needs to stretch amongst elements that are very different from each other, it needs the combination of antipodes.


Still Picasso: “To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic”.


HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO MAINTAIN A STYLE TO BE UNIQUE, WITHOUT WALKING INTO THE TRAP OF STAGNATION AND REPETITION? HOW DID HACKATO’S ART EVOLVE AND HOW IT HAS BEEN EVOLVING?

S:

Having a container that limits the field of action is a creative necessity. Although, this cage can be moved. It is like a distorted lens through which we can focus everything without ever getting bored.

N:

Also, because all of the artworks are different from each other, they have their own spirit, strength, and their own world. They tell their own story.

S:

Moreover, when it comes to our pieces, it is not about sometimes doing a smudge of color on the right side and sometimes doing it on the left one. It is always a style space that gives us a huge amount of freedom.

N:

We like the idea that there is a uniform visual whole. If you can recognise our art for specific colors, it is nothing but a strength. I don’t see any repetition in there; in fact, there have been evolutions between the first creations and the recent ones.

S:

Yes, an evolutionary transition happened when we moved here to Oltris. Living closely with nature influenced some changes in colors, making them much more cheerful, more lively and stronger. Same thing for the introduction of black inks. Earlier, the borders where more mono-level and pale, while now they are more defined. This variation in style required months of research and experimentation, in order to find the right chemical that would avoid conflicts between the different materials and would guarantee duration in time.

N:

Another interesting moment dates back to last year: our first artwork with three-dimensional profundity and the respective introduction of perspective. The transit from physical to digital also deserves attention: we started to animate our pieces for our own fun. The first animated GIF was I’ve got the power. Later, blockchain and cryptoart arrived and led us to our first experiment.


BLOCKCHAIN, THIS MONSTER.

HACKATAO, A FEW YEARS AGO YOU BECOME VERY “RARE”. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

IN FACT, “WHAT” HAPPENED?!

S:

Winters in Carnia are long and cold, but it is also the time in which the mountaineers have finished their outdoor activities, as nature is resting, and use this time to enrich themselves, study and create. It was a quiet moment – we didn’t have any art shows scheduled or anything - when I stumbled upon an article in “the sciences”, one of my favorite magazines, extensively talking about the blockchain and its practical potential.

I thought this would be just perfect for art! So I googled “blockchain and art” and I arrived at Artnome, Jason Bailey’s blog. I read his articles about crypto art and I just felt electrified. Later, I reached out to him, in a very pure way, thanking him for opening these doors to a new world for me. He instantly answered, caught up with what we are doing and put me in contact with SuperRare, at the time still not operative. SuperRare folks liked our art and animations, so after a few days they launched the platform we tokenised our art for the first time: Girl next Door. There were other artists that we really liked, such as XCOPY and DrBeef (Robbie Barrat).

Cryptoart instilled energy and satisfaction in us. The creation of our art pieces is slow, the artistic process long, and it takes time to see the artwork finished. The level of depth and amount of research during this process are undoubtable, but we were missing that creative satisfaction of thinking about something and seeing it realised immediately after. Moreover, we had the chance of getting to know artists from all over the world and the debate with them is important, it brings new stimulus and new means through which to express and examine our art in depth. ZEITGEIST ART.

Art always speaks the language of the time, when it doesn’t it is because we are blind.


IS THE LANGUAGE OF OUR TIME DIGITAL? ARE YOU TAKING PART IN A CONTEMPORARY, PIONEER OR FUTURE PHENOMENA?

S:

Cryptoart is able to gather the expressive manner of our time, adding something more to it. It speaks the contemporary language, also allowing us - the artists - to create in digital attributing value. Coming from the world of advertising and communication, the use of programs like Adobe is our “bread and butter” and it is the natural way used by our generation to express themselves. It is not only digital, it is “also” digital. I don’t think we are living in a moment of transition from physical to digital. They are overlapping instead, and they are complementary. Blockchain arrives at the right moment, since it gives the digital artwork value and it makes it “rare”, unique: exactly what we were missing.

This is a time where it is, I don’t want to say necessary, but at least important to analyse what is happening with Cryptoart and to make it meaningful, telling people about it. It is difficult though, because we start from blockchain and its imperative “decentralise”, or rather, not to have mediators. And speaking of which, I believe that all the actors should gather together and discuss what's next, in order to avoid replicating the schemes of the traditional art world system. Instead, to find a different way, less rigid, a new ecosystem.

MoCDA manifests in the right moment, since we are still in the experimentation period. The museum part is useful to put things in order, to value the artworks and the artists, as well as to historicise this period, to legitimise it.


WHICH ARE THE DIFFICULTIES OF OPERATING IN THE DIGITAL ART WORLD, AS OPPOSED TO THE PHYSICAL ART ONE? WHAT ARE THE COMFORTS? TANGIBLY, TECHNICALLY, FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE ART MARKET…

S:

I could start with an endless list of obstacles we meet in the physical art world. First of all, indeed, the physical nature. Time and cost for the realisation of an art piece, its transportation, its exhibition in a gallery (if you have a gallery). The same piece that, when bought, will reach the wall of a collector where, maybe, will stay for 4 or 30 years, before going back on the market through an auction… Blockchain simply reduces timing and cost to few instants.

Although speed is one of its most interesting features, it is also one of its most dangerous one. In fact, this causes an overproduction that can result in an inflation of the artwork and their consequently decrease of value. A cryptoartist should aim for a balance in this process: if, as an artist, I produce an artwork a day I may act as a depreciating factor on my own art, on the crypto art market and on the collectors’ collection. In this case, an artwork will lose its meaning and become spam art with a decreased value. The goal is to find the right balance on this frequency.

N:

I personally like to know the whole journey of the artwork. We had several exhibitions where all the works in the catalogue were sold. I have no idea where they live now. Every now and then I get a picture or a post on social media through which I find out where the art is now located. Blockchain traces all the history, it’s all clear and accessible.

S:

Something that really struck me about blockchain art is the distinction between the old and the new generation of collectors. Once surpassed a certain age, it is extremely challenging to make collectors understand how to own and enjoy a digital artwork through a screen, a PC or a smartphone. Younger generations are digitally native and appreciate its impalpability.

N:

Moreover, we have created an animated GIF inspired by Ken Shiro, a Japanese comic myth from the childhood of the collector who commissioned this work. As often happens, we started from a drawing on paper which we then digitised, animated and eventually tokenised. After the collector acquired the digital artwork we wanted to gift him with the original drawing although he was happy enough with the digital artwork.


WHAT ARE THE GREATEST POTENTIALS VS. THE LACKS OF THE DIGITAL ART WORLD?

S:

The digital art world is lacking an adequate curation and appropriate exhibition format, in order to give the right meaning and value to the work of art. I see this as a challenge for the digital art curators who will need to find a new format to avoid falling into the traditional and well-established art world system. About the potentials, some are known, others are still unknown to us and yet to be understood entirely.


AT THIS POINT, AS A CURATOR, I SHOULD ASK YOU HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE CURATED?

S:

By taking on a journey together. As a collaboration, to let the cryptoart movement emerge to the audience as a change of paradigm. If the artists are the killers, the curators are the detectives: you must expose us and take us to court, at the history of art trial.

N:

I rather curators who have the ability and the willingness to see beyond and to capture all the artists that explore and push the boundaries. Curators who have a keen eye for details. Curators who have a point of view with no prejudice. Those who can observe with curiosity and foresee the potential of an artist.

S:

As mentioned before, there’s work to be done on the way digital art is exhibited. For our retrospective Fight Fear, at Tolomezzo, Italy in 2018, we created a dedicated area for the crypto art - one of the first ever exhibition of its kind - comprehensive of influential artists operating in this art movement. The exhibited artworks were crossed with a black X on the wall, to indicate the art was not the original creation. Instead, to access the real artwork, visitors had to browse it through an augmented reality app or a QR code, which redirect the user to the SuperRare and KnownOrigin platforms. Hosting exhibitions is definitely a way to educate the audience about blockchain technology although it would be good to extend the reach to people who are unfamiliar with cryptoart.


WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVOURITE ARTWORK OR THE WORK THAT REPRESENTS YOU THE MOST?

S:

FLOOD, the girl with green hair immersed in water and surrounded by icebergs. It’s our first prospective artwork. Moreover, it’s a work that sadly anticipated the hot topic of climate change which is very close to our hearts. When living in a big city, you can lose contact with nature and its course which makes it difficult to understand what really happens 365 days in a yearly cycle. Here, instead, we can really feel the impact of man on nature and its consequences. We live surrounded by nature and when a storm takes down trees and parts of the wood you can relate to the magnitude of the human impact on nature. It’s a topic that has been forgotten in times of economic crisis.

We don’t speak of ecology anymore - but with Greta - climate change it’s back on the agenda. Not sure whether there are other meanings to this movement (Extinction Rebellion), don’t really mind - what matters is that the focus is back on our future and the future of the planet.

N:

Ghost in the face b, the boy who takes a selfie with Death. And Death has the “F” of Facebook. I particularly like this work because it’s very relevant and also because it has an augmented reality that activates when you point at it with your camera, with music and animation. A curious fact about this work is that it has been acquired by a collector who has a company that works for Facebook. Apparently the work lives now in his office, to remind himself who he works for.


WHAT DOES HACKATAO HAVE THAT OTHERS DON’T?

S:

We are Hackatao and others are not.

N:

We’re a couple. Two different but complementary elements that create together, this bivalence - male and female - it’s our strength which gives us energy. We don’t get tired of creating art.


WHAT WOULD HACKATAO BE IF IT WAS A MOVIE, AN ARTWORK OR A PHILOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT?

N:

The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson, from an aesthetic and visionary point of view. It’s extremely linear, precise and clear. I am a fan of this movie but I also find similarities in the way it was directed: in that defined and clean geometry of the shapes, in that perfect balance, carefully thought in every detail and in the choice of the colour palette.

S:

Spider by Cronenberg. The protagonist fills a room with strings, all connected from one end to the other. It’s a dark character who suffered trauma at a young age who is in search of a resolution. I see myself in this character and I think this is also how others see me, lost in my spiderweb.

I also like Kubrick’s films, and I’d like to dare a parallelism with A Clockwork Orange. If we substitute violence with a creative force, you will watch a different version of the same movie, in which society wants to harness an artist but with no success. In the end, there’s violence in the movie, a creative input in our case. It’s an extreme comparison, but it represents that need to express that violent creativity that cannot be contained.

Mulholland Drive, is like when I draw, it merges together different layers of reality, leaving room for multiple interpretations which is what happens in our art. A child can see the playful and colourful side of the work. An experienced and older viewer will capture much more. It happened with the ambassador Vattani, curator of the Farnesina permanent collection and passionate about art, who invited us to exhibit in Rome last year. He saw our works for about half an hour before going on to talk about it for over an hour, touching on aspects we carefully encrypted in our art, or at least, I thought we hid them well…

N:

Through his knowledge, culture and feelings he was able to interpret the hidden side of our art. He hacked us!

S:

In Lynch’s film you can feel a similar dreamlike language. Moving on to philosophy: Taoism and relativism. Reality can change depending on who’s witnessing it, how and when.

Art: ours.


IN THE STUDIO:

WHAT’S YOUR TYPICAL DAY IN THE STUDIO?

N:

I’m the first to get up. I take a stroll in the woods with Kaliban, our dog. Sergio starts drawing very early in the morning. We wake up around 6/6.30am but our breakfasts are very long. Sergio draws until 10am roughly then he goes to teach our daughters, and that’s when I get in the studio. I stay there until I can hear them asking for food. We have lunch together and then we go back to our studio; this time we work together until we take our girls to their sport classes, swimming or gymnastics. Since we both have our areas of the artwork to contribute to, we are quite independent in the way we run our days. If the sun is out we take a stroll to the river, we follow the flux. There are moments when it’s impossible to concentrate and a change of scenario makes you feel much better.

S:

Our approach to art is totally different. Nadia works on the artwork tirelessly, like a Stakhanovite.

N:

I’m there in my own little world, with no distraction. I do my things and I feel good about it…

S:

I do a hundred things at the same time: reading, writing, watching a documentary, going to the orchard, going back to the studio to draw for half an hour, then I’m going out again to the kitchen garden, feeding the geese, I’m going back inside to my PC desk, researching the latest news in the crypto world… and so on. My attention span is quite short, although with time, it became my virtue, a creative spiral. That’s my creative mood, with a satisfying final result.

A SCULPTURE AND A DIGITAL ARTWORK: HOW DO YOU START?

S:

The Podmork sculpture was originally created by hand modelling a Super Sculpey dough, something like clay. When the mould is made, the sculpture gets reconstructed in 3D and the model gets sent to a studio in Milan where they obtain a prototype from a block, from which the final model gets created. The next step is the casting of the ceramic from which we attain a biscuit (or bisque), which is the first firing of the ceramic. It's as if this was a personalised canvas. It has the shape of the sculpture but it’s plain white.

Through the drawings and paintings we give it a soul, we bring it to life. Depending on the theme or the inspiration for the sculpture, we then create a mock up for the final design of the Podmork. Nadia draws the containment lines then I make a start and we finally fix the graphite. Nadia will then continue adding all layers of colours. We then photograph it and archive it. The same process happens with the canvases. For a while now we have been framing our own works, because we are very meticulous and we want the mounting to be done properly.

N:

We make our own supports. These are 5/6cm deep, to give them enough thickness.

S:

After this stage, the digital artwork is born. We photograph it and elaborate it digitally.

N:

The latest animations we have been working on were quite simple make. By studying the result we’d like to achieve before we start making the canvas, the digital animation is somehow already in our heads.


Hackatao show me the artwork they have in their studio - there are canvases from which they've created digital art


S:

We conceptually love the idea of creating a digital “doppelganger” from our physical artworks. Each work has its own life, its very own path. Nevertheless, our digital art is inseparable to its augmented reality. As if these were connected by an umbilical cord.

N:

They’re two, like us.

S:

We don’t start by creating at our PC. This is the peculiarity of our digital journey. We’re a wormhole between the two worlds.


DIGITAL OR PHYSICAL ART?

(ARE WE REALLY STILL TALKING ABOUT ART IN SILOS?)

S:

When I made my first digital art attempts, in the early 2000, I was solely drawing digitally. I then used to print my digital drawings and take them to galleries. I remember I used to describe my technique, although the art itself was frequently snubbed because it was computer made and for this reason not of particular value or interest. I do believe crypto art has turned things around. It acknowledges this ultra-contemporary language of art.

N:

It’s a whole, a set. I can’t see one without the other. Not a different way for it to be.

S:

I believe digital art will be more valuable than physical art in the future. We’re not that far… Since new generations will determine the value of what we are creating now. We should be farsighted. If we plant a seed today, this will grow: the first harvest will be scarce, the first years would probably be disappointing, but we’ll most certainly see a good crop soon enough.

HOW DO YOU ENVISION THE FUTURE OF HACKATAO AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY?

S:

Difficult to say. We’re on our path and we believe where it's taking us. So we carry on with all our efforts and energies. It’s easy to stay on, if we were going to chance path things will be far more complicated. Some say it's bad luck to predict the future… Better not!

Personally, even though I feel dark inside, I keep positive about things, I consider myself an optimist. The problem with being an optimist is that you could become in denial of the surrounding reality because you tend to be so close to your own vision. The good thing about being a pessimist is that you could capture things that get missed by the optimists. Finding a balance between these two visions would be preferable. In general, though, I think we should keep going, keeping our heads down, and if something turns out to be good then it’s great!

I see the future of humanity being post-apocalyptic punk, which I love! A future in which all values will be inverted, where you’ll have to survive with not much, reuse what was created before you: adapt to survive. Although it’s a future I don’t wish for anyone, too violent to be lived. Who knows whether humanity will be saved from its own auto destruction, maybe by artificial intelligence coming to show us the path to salvation... As for now, things are pretty messed up.

It’s sad to see we’ve forgotten our traditions; the wise peasants used to plant trees for their nephews because it takes time for a walnut tree to sprout, same goes for an olive tree and so on… Nowadays everything needs to be consumed fast.

N:

We tend to think “If I can’t eat the walnuts in my lifetime, why should I plant a walnut tree? Let’s have tomatoes instead, let’s enjoy some fresh summer salad”, then the winter comes and the tomato plants go rotten…

S:

That’s why I don’t like cities, they burn all energies. Life in the countryside or by the mountains is way more sustainable.

Eleonora Brizi and Sergio Scalet (Hackatao)

BUT FRANKLY HACKATAO, DID YOU ENJOY THIS INTERVIEW?

Very much so! It helped us shed some light on ourselves. You surprisingly made us talk a lot… We normally spare a few words.


THANK YOU, HACKATAO!



This interview was conducted by curator

Eleonora Brizi


 

© 2020 MoCDA Museum of Contemporary Digital Art 

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