(English translation of the interview on XL magazine)
Let’s start from the end: you had been thinking about the YHIWYH project for some time, but the Covid emergency paradoxically represented an accelerator because it canceled the booking work, allowing you to focus on this new idea. How is YHIWYH related to your other business?
“As often happens in these cases, everything we have always dealt with was born from a sense of lack, of dissatisfaction. In our city, alternative music concerts were scarce, so we started organizing them ourselves. From those first experiences we then created a booking agency for concerts and created two record labels, all to make our projects sustainable. Working closely with the musicians, we also realized that many of them were authors of the images used for the covers of their records. We immediately became passionate about that little-known creative side, but for years it was only a private interest, because finding the energy to develop something new seemed impossible to us. Then came the lockdown, no more concerts, no more tours. Like it and not, we found ourselves forced to slow down. That pause recharged us and rekindled all those impulses we had stifled for a long time. We literally let ourselves be overwhelmed by new stimuli: books, comics, films, magazines, records, all the stuff that was there in the house waiting for us and for which we had never found time. It was a moment of real rebirth, we felt ourselves exploding with new ideas and impulses, from which the project of the art platform for independent musicians finally emerged”.
The sustainability of your work was made possible thanks to the transfer to Germany, to Berlin, especially in a period like that of Covid. Why is it impossible in Italy to do this job with these specificities?
“Well, we could first of all say that, without the forms of subsidy presented by the local and national administration at the time of the Covid crisis, we would not be here talking about our project, but we believe that this support is only part of a larger issue. Berlin is, at the moment, the true cultural capital of Europe, the crossroads of all alternative musical and artistic scenes. A city becomes cultural capital when diversity is actively protected, supported and promoted in all its forms, with welcoming policies and support for the various socio-cultural niches. In this sense, a cultural capital is an occurrence, the result of constant effort. Unfortunately in Italy this type of entity is a “nonoccurrence” at the moment: in Rome there is no attention paid to niches, in Milan, on the other hand, culture has become an image, slogan, at the service of the market. Unfortunately this mutation is also happening here: when its free and plural soul has been transformed into the slogan Arm aber sexy, the city has become a product, devoured by large real estate groups ”.
In your Manifesto, among other things, you tackle the question of artistic and design independence that is the basis of the underground. Is this thought of life still present in the world around you? Is it still prosecutable? Is there an international community with which to share these ideals?
“We prefer to avoid using the term underground, as it appears somewhat ambiguous. In fact, it does not distinguish between the emerging – who aspire to the mainstream, the overground, economic and image success, without yet having achieved them – and those who instead programmatically oppose to submit their creativity to those impulses. Even at the cost of putting their financial stability at risk. It would perhaps be more appropriate to recover an effective term that has fallen into disuse: “alternative”, that is an alternative cultural system to the mainstream because the principle of success is not prevalent over other criteria such as research and musical innovation, the relevance of the contents or the performative genuineness. The disappearance of this concept from the vocabulary of critics and the music scene is not accidental. On the contrary, it seems the clearest sign of a paradigm shift: at a certain point something happened that dismantled the boundaries between mainstream and indie, the awareness of an alternative disappeared, and so did the alternative scene with it: “capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable” said Mark Fisher. The term ‘indie’ itself has been neutralized by the market, which has translated its meaning to indicate a frivolous youthful pop-rock. Your Home Is Where You’re Happy wants to be a space, a home for those artists where that alternative spirit is still alive and present in their works and lifestyles”.
‘Aesthetics’, ‘common sense of beauty’ and above all ‘technique’ are concepts that do not interest you in the YHIWYH project: on what basis do you choose the artists to collaborate with?
“What we are looking for is not art itself, but a spirit, an attitude that we think we can find in a particular type of work of art: we want to examine the characteristics of a lifestyle placed today on the margins, invisible to more, but within which we think we can find interesting elements for our struggle for independence, which is first of all our inner struggle. The independent artist constantly fights with the temptation to be guided by the paradigm of success, which in hindsight is an evolution of our innate principle of survival: s/he constantly struggles with the fear of not succeeding, of having to transform his/her own creative pulsion into ‘work’, in a means of livelihood or worse, of enhancement of his/her ego, of his/her public image. This does not mean that we are looking for the ‘losers’ of society or the ‘rejects’ of the market: creating with an independent spirit does not imply that an artistic work cannot have a mass success, but only that different motivations, from commercial ones, have moved the artist. These are our heroes, the heroes of indie”.
The years from 1992 to 1994 are those in which the mainstream has appropriated an important history of counterculture and independence, do you feel you are children of the years preceding those dates? What do you mean?
“The epic of indie rock (but we could say the same of hip hop and dance music) at the turn of the 80s and 90s certainly shaped our cultural vision: we learned that, despite the few means, the most great difficulties and the hardest ostracism, knowing how to organize oneself as a scene, as a network, as an autonomous structure, independent of the majority, taking advantage of the technologies and know-how of that system, can lead to unimaginable results. Unfortunately, this success seems to have favored the emergence of the current capitalism of precariousness, in which the worker is required to have the role and the burden of being an entrepreneur and an employee of himself. On the contrary, we claim our precariousness, which we consider a symbol of freedom and strength in a mature civilization that possesses the technological and cultural tools to no longer submit to rigid and subordinating forms of work and society. We are the most educated and aware generation in the history of humanity, we just have to stop being guided by the fear of failure that capitalism feeds on. In this sense, owning an artwork of the heroes of indie, the warriors of precariousness, can serve as a constant warning, as a reminder”.
The return of vinyl is a positive element, but it is not only the very low sales numbers that are relevant to undermine its usefulness, but also the bursting entry into the market for the sale of reissues and old material. Is there still hope for music on support?
“The physical medium, as a means, no longer has a reason to exist. Its task today is assumed, in a more efficient but also more sustainable way, by virtual products. Production of the new vinyl albums will run out shortly, simply because there is no need to think of music in album format, with that specific structure and length. The collectible vinyl market, on the other hand, will probably see immoderate growth in the next 15-20 years, with prices that make the Gronchi Rosa pale, only to begin its inevitable and definitive decline. However, having lost its technical function, the physical medium has remained its mere material presence, and this is the aspect that seems most interesting to us to analyze: what drives us to seek physical contact with music even though it is no longer necessary? We continue to buy vinyls without opening them so as not to ruin them, there is an inconceivable return of audio cassettes, and someone pushes themselves to produce VHS and minidiscs: this is because the old physical medium has become a pure art object, a technically non-functional entity, but which acts as a totem, as a connection ring with a wider reality than our daily life. The work of art is that famous silver key found by Lovecraft, the element of this world that opens up to the extra-ordinary world. In this sense, the physical object of art is more powerful than the virtual one, its objectivity breaks the real world, it is a black hole in everyday life. The purpose of our platform is to insert holes and gashes into the private world of the ego. What we propose are not works of art but weapons, weapons against our rigid mindset, our beliefs, our securities: YHIWYH does not want to be an art gallery, but an armory”.