Monday, June 10, 2013

An Interview With Chris Mottalini

An interview form We Don’t Owe You A Thing #1 a fanzine Tom Marquet and I did about hardcore and art.

Chris Mottalini grew up in Buffalo, NY. He has a B.S. in Journalism from University of Colorado, Boulder, and attended Uppsala University in Sweden. Chris' architecturally-themed photographs have been internationally exhibited and widely published. Despite his masterful use of color in his Rock of the Month Club, he is partially colorblind. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn.

So how is the chicken doing and can you get into how you came to own a chicken in Greenpoint Brooklyn?

As far as I know, the chicken, a.k.a. Frankenhen, is doing just fine.  Basically, we were watching the last game of the World Series at a bar in the neighborhood, the night before the hurricane.  We saw the chicken hanging around outside the bar (pretty sure it escaped from the slaughterhouse down the street) and, as it was still there when we were leaving the bar, my girlfriend just picked it up and we took it home to ride out the hurricane.  We set up a little makeshift coop for it in the kitchen and had a pretty good time with the little guy.  We thought it was a rooster at first, but once we started finding eggs, we realized we were obviously not too knowledgeable in the hen vs. rooster department. 

Through an article in Gothamist, the people at Farm Sanctuary (in the Finger Lakes) got in touch and drove down a few days later.  Now Frankenhen gets to live out her days with a bunch of other rescued farm animals and I still have people stop me on the street saying they saw me with the chicken in the New York Post. 

So you grew up going to shows up near Buffalo? Who would have been around up there at the time Envy? or was it just Snapcase all the time?

I got into Hardcore when I saw Snapcase for the first time….must have been around ’93 and that show basically changed my life.  There were a lot of bands in the Buffalo scene, though, and I was into pretty much all of them; Envy (amazing that you remember them), Zero Tolerance, Slugfest, Despair, No Joke, Fadeaway, Halfmast, Union, Pride, etc.  Still got all the demos in a shoebox somewhere.  Once I saw Snapcase and the Goo Goo Dolls play the same show….pretty funny.  Plus, bands from Cleveland, Erie, Rochester and Syracuse would all play there pretty regularly.  Some of the best shows in Buffalo were when Integrity came to town.  Despair’s last show was probably the best show I ever saw in Buffalo, though.

Being upstate was Buffalo all about the militant sXe or was that more confined to Syracuse?

First of all, my friend, Buffalo is located in Western New York.  Buffalo and Syracuse were totally different scenes, though.  Syracuse was a bigger scene, but kind of trendy and “angry”. I had some friends in Syracuse I will say the whole “militant” stereotype was definitely exaggerated, but shows in Buffalo were just more of a normal time, I guess.  The Buffalo scene was pretty blue collar and down to earth, just like the city itself.  You’d watch some bands, talk about the Bills or Sabres and that was about it.  None of that militant crap in Buffalo.

Most memorable impression of being a Hardcore kid?

That’s a hard one.  Made a lot of great friends through Hardcore.  It also prevented me from hanging out with girls as much as I probably would have liked, though.  Spending excessive amounts of time listening to pissed off music with a bunch of sweaty dudes will do that, I guess… so that was kind of a bummer.

Last Hardcore show you went to?

Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of it All, AF and Terror in NYC.  Does the Quicksand reunion sort of count?

Do you think Hardcore has helped prepared you for a life of making art?

I wouldn’t say it prepared me for being an artist, but I definitely credit Hardcore with putting me on the path to becoming a photographer.  If I didn’t start taking crappy pictures at shows with my parents’ point and shoot camera, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. 

How much does sculpture play into your practice with the Gray/Grey work and The Rock of the Month Club?

Honestly, not all that much (at least not consciously, anyway).  I think those projects are much more influenced by still life painting/photography.  I have done a lot of set design/prop styling work, as well, and that’s how I first became interested in incorporating the still life tradition into my work.  Those projects are still connected to the rest of my work (stylistically, subject matter, etc.) and more and more I’m finding still life photography really interesting/satisfying.  In a way, I even see many of the buildings/architecture I photograph to be still life-type subjects. 

Where does the interest in architecture come from?

Buffalo has a pretty fantastic architectural landscape and there’s a lot of buildings by some of architecture’s heavy hitters: Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Paul Rudolph, Richardson, Louis Sullivan, etc.  Growing up there, I became familiar with modern architecture from an early age and at some point I just started wanting to photograph it. 

Some how looking at After You Left and Concrete Island, I keep thinking if sculpting from large rocks was seeing the sculpture and then just chipping away what you don’t need, your photographs of buildings were the opposite of that, where you’re taking sculptural objects like modernist homes and by the process of looking at them with your camera making them into a new sculptural object, does that make any sense? I guess what I am getting at is your interest in architecture a more formal one or are you looking for a greater narrative and significance in the buildings?

That’s a pretty accurate description of my work/process.  A big reason for the overall feel of my photographs is that I approach and try to depict the homes, buildings, rooms and structures I photograph more as sculptural objects than anything.  Having no background in architecture, my interest is much less formal than most “architectural photographers”.  Nostalgia, narrative, history, impermanence, fragility, memory, etc. are all themes and aspects I’m trying to capture/explore.

Anything coming up photo wise too look out for?

My first book, After You Left / They Took It Apart (Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes) will be published by Columbia College Press/Center for American Places (Chicago) in May.  I recently finished a couple new projects and I’m in the process of shooting some more, including year two of The Rock of the Month Club, which I’m really excited about.  That project is probably the most fun I’ve had taking pictures and I hope that it will turn into my second book. 


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