Reminiscing About Muff Magazine
In 2013 Muff Magazine was a brand new worldwide publication focusing on the artistic, creative side of of LGBT community. This was the magazine's website.
Content is from the site's 2013 -2014 archived pages. The last posts on Muff's facebook page are from 2015.
The new owners of this domain wanted to keep the message and some of the original Muff content visible on the web for historical purposes.
We miss you.
muff is a groundbreaking arts and culture magazine that chronicles queer society, individuals who transform the world, and the visual and literary works inspiring a generation. It is distributed biannually by Pineapple Media, appearing on shelves across the world twice a year in major cities such as London, New York, Sydney, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Seattle, Toronto and Singapore.
Created by a small team with a keen eye for contemporary culture, the magazine offers insight into the forward thinkers and cultural forces that drive our world, inviting positive representation and the opportunity to redefine ‘lesbian’ beyond oppressive depictions for the very first time.
The first issue hit shelves in August 2013. Inside its folds, our carefully curated features and collaborations include breathtaking photographers, artists, film makers, poets, comedians, writers, designers, and some of the world’s most underlooked creative talents.
Everything you see is unique to muff and commissioned especially for us.
We are not defined by our sexuality. We’re simply curious about strong characters, their craft, and how they shape our culture.
We are muff.
Editor: Kate Bond
Creative director: Bukanova
Sub-editor: Gareth Perry
Publisher: Dominic Lewis
Distributor: Pineapple Media
"I was a regular reader of this wonderful periodical. I especially enjoyed the quirky articles focused on unusual lifestyles and remember one where an animal loving couple cared for a piglet that was rescued from an industrial farm. Loved the photographs that accompanied the story and remember the innovative hoops they had to jump through when caring for a non-traditional pet. The photos of the piglet sleeping on a round dog bed in the living room was especially charming. Apparently the dog bed was the favorite choice after many others were rejected. My wife was inspired by that article to find that exact round dog bed (the article mentioned the online store - Good Night Dog) and our dalmation loves it (even though he's a dog). Thank you muff for some wonderful reads - will miss you!" Red Fangen
From Russia with Love
December 1, 2013 at 4:38 PM
The increasingly volatile situation in Russia prompted photographer Anastasia Ivanova to pack her camera and travel to meet the gay women living under Putin’s controversial presidency. Here are their stories, in their own words.
Olgerta, 54 and Lisa, 48
When we fell in love we were both of a ‘respectable’ age. We each thought that
such a beautiful, romantic story would never happen to us, but after meeting at
Moscow’s Lesbian and Gay Archive in 2008 and exchanging letters every day, we soon realised that we couldn’t be apart.
We’ve been activists for almost fifteen years. A lot of the things that were achieved in Russia over the last century have been wiped out in the last two. And it’s not getting any better. A lot of LGBT people are fired from work. They’re arrested at protests, put in jail, beaten, murdered, and even afraid of losing their own children because of claims that seeing gay people will injure health and mental development.
Sometimes our gay friends in Germany, America or England talk about their
lives, and we feel as though it’s another world. No doubt they think the same about us, when we tell them of the situation in Russia.
Our future is simple. We must leave.
Irina, 27 and Antonina, 31
We have social networking, mutual friends and a little bit of good fortune to thank for our first encounter. After that, it took just a few days of talking over the internet and telephone before we decided to meet. Four years later, we’re still in love.
We are very modest in public. We’d never kiss passionately in front of
people, just the same as if we were a heterosexual couple. There’s something very personal about showing affection.
Gay people don’t have any legal rights in Russia. With the new law, our relationships are somewhere between legal and illegal. It’s all very sad.
In the future, all we want is to keep our little family together. Maybe if we’re lucky one day we’ll have a child.
Victoria, 24 and Dasha, 27
We were born and raised in the same city. It was only later that we came across one other, after being introduced by mutual friends in Saint Petersburg.
Outside, we always hold hands and kiss each other on the cheek. Sometimes you’ll catch a look and once we had a bad experience, when somebody threw a stone while we were walking through the park hand-in-hand.
Victoria works for an LGBT organisation, so she is very knowledgeable about the gay rights situation in Russia. Society here has quite an aggressive attitude towards homosexuality. It’s mostly because of the government, which is encouraging homophobia and making LGBT people very vulnerable. Their absurd law about ‘gay and transgender propaganda’ has essentially legalised discrimination.
Things could have been very different between us. Just two weeks before we met, Dasha was planning a move to the Czech Republic, but our meeting changed that.
Today, we love living in Saint Petersburg, but understand that people like us can’t have a quiet life here. Hopefully one day we’ll get a Jack Russell terrier. Right now, we just want simple human happiness.
Olga, 32 and Ulia, 28
We met through mutual friends, but not how you think. Ulia would often travel to Moscow on a business trip from Saint Petersburg and on one visit she lost her phone. Lonely in the hotel and without her contacts, she asked a friend to find her some company for the evening. The person who arrived was Olga.
At the beginning it was awkward because we didn’t know each other very well, but as the night went on our conversation grew deeper. Ulia left for Saint Petersburg in the morning but we kept in touch, and spent months travelling between the two cities. Recently, Ulia left her job and moved to Moscow.
Although we feel freer in the city, we only express affection when we’re certain that the people around us are tolerant. There are no gay rights in Russia. Fighting for them feels like being involved in a criminal cabaret show and we don’t want any part of it.
For now, we just want to live.
Kate, 29 and Nina, 32
Tragedy brought us together. Kate was celebrating her friend’s birthday on a boat when it collided with another. Nine of the 16 people on board were killed, but Kate survived, and Nina was among those who arrived on the scene. It took us five months to realise we were in love and wanted to be together.
Before we met, Nina was married. Now we’ve been together one and a half years. In public, we try not to hide our feelings, and are determined to hold hands and kiss each other freely, but the gay rights situation in Russia will end badly. The way we live makes us outlaws.
Right now our future is uncertain. Although we do not want war or revolution, we want to live openly. In Russia, it seems that is just not possible.
Tasha, 33 and Ksenia, 39
We met through friends and have been together for nearly a year and a half. In public, we are reasonable in expressing our affection. We’ve never had any negative reactions, but there are no gay rights here in Russia. Right now, we are looking for an ‘escape route’.
Katerina, 20 and Zhanna, 25
It’s been two years since we met. Our paths first crossed at a festival in Saint Petersburg, where Zhanna was volunteering. We chatted and exchanged numbers, before going on our first date where Zhanna said she’d never let go. She didn’t and we’re still happy together today.
People tend to look at us with a mixture of surprise and disapproval when we express affection public. Sometimes we can hear them saying about Zhanna: “Is it a boy?”
The human rights situation in Russia seems to be getting worse with time. We like to believe that one day the country will be free and happy, but in reality the policies our government is trying to implement do not seem to be ones that lead to a bright future.
Eventually, our plan is to leave the country and move to Europe. That way, we can live our lives to the fullest and stop hiding away.
Words by Kate Bond
Photography by Anastasia Ivanova
Molly Nilsson - I Hope You Die (10.02. AD 2013)
May 8, 2014 By Jonas Lindstrom
Tying down the evasive Swedish songwriter Molly Nilsson to a day wasn’t easy. But then, one morning, over coffee in a bustling Berlin cafe, Sophie Wohlgemuth finally tracked her down and the rest, as they say, is history. Here’s how it (eventually) happened.
You’ve published your own records since 2008. Nowadays everyone does it, but back then it probably wasn’t as popular. Or was it?
Molly: Well, I don’t know. My first release was just a CD that I burned on my computer, printing the covers in a copy shop. I didn’t think of it as such a big deal. I still don’t think it’s a big thing, you know. You don’t really need someone else to do it for you any more.
Self-publishing must give you much more freedom.
Molly: Yeah. It’s democratic. You have absolutely no product costs and you still have the possibility to reach the whole world. I’m really cynical about the music industry. That’s why I don’t want to be a part of it and why I decided to do everything myself. I like that sort of counter-culture where people just do it themselves, it’s this punk spirit I really like.
There is a certain immediacy about your songs. What’s your process?
Molly: I always make everything myself. I think I would be too shy to make music with other people. I feel like when you have an idea, before it becomes whatever it’s going to become, it’s very fragile. I wouldn’t be able to show it to someone else when it’s halfway done.
What’s first: Music or lyrics?
Molly: I think lyrics are the most important to me. When I start writing a song, I usually start with the music and then add the lyrics. That’s also because for me, music is really easy to make. Of course there are different levels of making music, but the music I want to make is quite simple. If I was making music without lyrics, I could make ten songs a day, but writing lyrics is more difficult because there’s more possibilities to them.
Did you always make music?
Molly: No, it’s really strange. My family’s extremely unmusical. I always listened to music, but I never made it until I was 21. Before that, I was doing a lot of drawings, and so I felt like the songs were – are – very visual for me. I think of them as drawings. It’s kind of the same thing. I’m really happy to make music because it’s something that came to me instead of being expected. Now I’m doing what I’m doing because I have to do it, because I think it’s fun, and it’s not so much a social thing for me. It’s a great anti-social thing.
Does that change when you’re on stage?
Molly: No, I think that’s the absolute anti-social thing – to be on stage. I’m trying to communicate with people and I’m singing to them, telling them stories and looking them in the eye, and I want it to be a communication but at the same time it’s a one-way communication, so it’s not very social. I’m a very shy person and I think it’s really funny that I’m doing what I’m doing.
You’re scared of people?
Molly: Yeah, I think it’s a lot worse to sit at a dinner table and talk with people than to stand in front of them and sing. For me, it’s just really easy to be on the stage. I didn’t know that before I started. I was terrified. I thought I was going to die, seriously. But then I did it.
So this interview must have been a lot of fun for you.
Molly: It’s ironic because I started making music as a way of expressing myself which I never felt like I was able to do, but then once you start making something people want to talk with you and have interviews, and I’m like “Don’t you see, this was what I’m trying to avoid?!”
Words by Sophie Wohlgemuth
Photography by Jonas Lindstroem
May 7, 2014
Seven years after the release of the superb ‘Paper Television’, Khaela Maricich is back with The Blow and this time she’s got new company.
May 7, 2014 at 12:06 PM
The Blow - True Affection
Seven years after the release of the superb ‘Paper Television’, Khaela Maricich is back with The Blow and this time she’s got new company.
It’s 5pm on a dreary London afternoon and I have a date. A date with The Blow, who, after seven years absence from the music scene, are finally back to follow up the critically-acclaimed ‘Paper Television’ with their eponymous LP ‘The Blow’.
We have arranged to video chat via Skype and I’m nervous. As I sit down at my kitchen table, with a trusty bottle of Pinot Grigio to steady my anxious hands, I fiddle with my hair. I have had a friendly upbeat email exchange with Khaela Maricich, front-woman, founder, and originally the only member of The Blow, and the recurring theme in this exchange has been the wonder of her band mate, and girlfriend, Melissa Dyne’s, massive, ridiculous, Seventies prog/eighties soft metal inspired perm.
Melissa Dyne and Khaela Maricich.
Incoming call! I accept, and am greeted with the dulcet tones of Khaela, but not her face. I enquire whether she’d be willing to video chat?
Khaela: Melissa nixed the video because her hair isn’t up to scratch she says.
I’m crestfallen. I’d coiffed my hair especially for the occasion. I was hoping my shoulder blade length turquoise locks might perhaps compete. I decide to ask, given that most of our correspondence has centered around this mythical perm atop her head, what in fact, is so spectacular about it.
Khaela: Her hair is pretty spectacular. It’s like this amazing catnip for gay men. Like, she’s always had a little special charm for the gay men, but now, boyfriends of our friends who wouldn’t usually give us the time of day, they look at her and are suddenly very interested in us, it’s like she really must be somebody. She’s got ‘somebody hair’.
One thing that is clear from the offset: Khaela is very fond of her girlfriend. Both renowned performance artists in their own right, they met in Portland in 2004, at which point Khaela was producing and performing as a duo with Jona Bechtolt, aka YACHT. When Jona decided to move on, because, according to Khaela “we both had realised that we wanted to be the person on stage that people were paying most attention to”, Melissa decided to step in and explore being the other 50 percent of The Blow. And so we begin.
As a little introduction for those who aren’t lucky enough to be familiar with The Blow, can you give us a little background? Where did it all begin?
Khaela: Way back when I lived in Olympia, Washington, it hadn’t really occurred to me to make music, as it wasn’t really something that was part of my life. I was in a couple of choirs in high school, but I couldn’t think what else to do. It never really occurred to me to make music, but that’s kind of what people did in Olympia as a form of creative conversation, so I tried writing a song once because I thought ‘yeah, no one expects this of me’, I’d always been more of a visual thinker. I’d always been the kid who could draw, but I ended up making some songs and realised it was a really good way to work with language and performance. So it just became this vehicle that seemed really successful, and for a while I called it ‘Get The Hell Out Of the Way Of The Volcano’. That seemed a little cumbersome, like it was drawing too much attention to the name, so I shortened it to The Blow, and then around 2004 I started collaborating with Jona Bechtolt from YACHT. Before then, I was making lo-fi, scrappy DIY pop songs which then became more fleshed out electronic pop songs. It was right when you could start to make music on a laptop, the early 2000′s, and he was really skilled at it so we made these songs that kind of took a totally different turn to what before was closet music and it turned into songs that people could share. It was also right at the start of people being able to pass music between themselves electronically, as that wasn’t possible till right around 2003, 2004, so it kind of hit the crest of that wave.
As a kid, I used to stand in front of the mirror pretending to be Mark Knopfler. Did you ever have any aspirations to be anything to do with music or did it just happen and you fell into it? Your cousin was in Beat Happening, which must have helped!
Khaela: Well, okay, I’m going to ask Melissa first. Melissa grew up playing cello, and then she worked for a guitar maker, building guitars, fixing them and taking them apart, so she actually had a stronger music background, but you never wanted to be a musician, did you?
Melissa: Yeah, for me, I grew up classically trained so it was really down to my family. Everyone played music, and more than one instrument, so it was just a part of our life.
So you were primed for musical fame?
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, I never thought I’d be in a band. To me, learning classically is a lot like building a guitar, it’s so technical that it turns into something else – there’s nothing really responsive about it so I never really thought ‘oh, you could play something original’. I think at one point I had a private teacher and I said ‘I want to play something else’ and she said, [gruffly] ‘there’s nothing else to play!’. Her name was Mrs. Work and she had an eagle eye. She used to slap my hand with the bow if I did the wrong thing.
Khaela: Did I ever personally ever think about being a rock star? The answer is absolutely not. I actually wanted to be a hairdresser, or a writer. I really loved children’s books and as a kid that’s what I wanted to be, a children’s author, or definitely something behind the scenes because I was truly awkward. I mean, anyone that knew me as a kid and still knows me is like, ‘Khaela, I never thought you’d be a performer, you were SO bashful’ – there was no way!
Initially, Khaela, it was you on your own and now you’re with your girlfriend touring. As a performance piece, is it more emotionally involved? And is it a lot more intense delivering it to an audience when you’ve got your girlfriend over the other side of the room working in synergy with you?
Khaela: Yeah, actually we’ve been performing together a long time. She first stepped in when Jona and I broke off, and slowly we’ve been incorporating more and more, conversing through the shows, and it’s become more of a conversation. Because we really do really see each other – it’s always like I’m exposed to her. It’s like a conversation where we’re listening to each other, and if people aren’t noticing that she’s at the back of the room playing the instruments, I’m seeing her so it’s like this private conversation happening. And that’s just built over time and I think it’s become more intimate for both of us and I feel like I’m more revealed.
Melissa: It’s like these songs came out of both of us so it’s really personal. I feel like we hug the audience. We’re calling and responding to each other, and we’re skydiving and catching each other and trying things, and because we know each other so well, it’s easy to know where each other is going without communicating. It’s like we’re sharing the audience a lot more now we’re playing music we made together.
Melissa takes over the sound and lighting elements of the show, as well as playing electronic instruments, so you both have control of every part of how you deliver to your audience. Due to that, is it a more spontaneous experience between you both, or more regimented, so you can deliver a very specific experience?
Khaela: No, there’s multiple reasons why it’s not the same every time. One is because when we come into a venue we really want to install into that space. I mean, you know how different sound is in every space that you go – like, you’ll hear the low end differently in one space than in another because of the architecture of the space or the sound system. It could be because of the temperature of the room. There are all these crazy factors. So we really want to address each space that we’re in and, especially because we come from more of an art background, it’s like a funny novelty every time that we’re in a music club. Like, every time we’re there we’re like, ‘Wow, they picked these strange orange curtains here, I wonder why they put those here,’ rather than imagining it just as a white cube and thinking of every element that’s placed there as an aesthetic decision against the landscape of what we have, and not just accepting things as ‘here’s another rock club’, we’re turning up and playing with it.
Has there ever been a venue that’s not been willing to comply with your needs or demands logistically, given the difference between a gallery and a music venues approach to smaller acts?
Khaela: [To Melissa] Are you thinking about Miami?
Melissa: Once in Miami – that was the only time.
Khaela: Generally, because Melissa is such a gifted installation artist, she gets what we want – she just makes it happen. Part of her skill is getting people to think it’s a good idea to do what she wants, like getting this museum in Portland to put this dangerous piece of glass in there, and getting Mexico city to drill into this plaza. It was the oldest plaza in the country, the point of conquest between the Spanish and Aztec people, so it’s, like, she’s GOOD at making things happen. I mean, there’s only been twice where we’ve been, like, ‘okay, THAT didn’t work’. Like, in Miami, at a show in South Beach, we were tired and I was sick, and we went on a little bit too late and by the time we went on the crowd had turned into vampires. Like, there was an opening act, and they were funky and rocky, and a little bit punk and cute, and by the time we got on, all they wanted to do was to drink and fuck and then go home. They got the DJ to shut us off. Our sound system was so shitty, and the DJ’s was awesome, they cut us off halfway through ‘True Affection’ and put on a Rihanna song.
You’ve said the new album is a sleeper in interviews, or a grower as we say over in the UK. Have you felt any pressure to repeat the success of ‘Parentheses’? Like, you had UK DJ Rory Philips remix that and it was a dance floor smash, have you felt the need to get anything amped up for the dance floors on this new record?
Khaela: Mostly we feel we made the record and it’s just we make what we make. We’re both artists that don’t think about it ahead of time and plan it and decide exact parameters. We give birth, and watch what comes out and just keep on going. It was a super crazy process, it was harrowing and intense and exciting and terrifying, and now it’s over and we have all these new tools from it. Now we have all these abilities and skills we’ve learnt from it and we have this album. So we’re just, like, cruising off into the future.
And what do you see for the future with The Blow, are you going to tour the album?
Khaela: Well, our US tour starts in two days. And we’re planning the UK tour, and we’re just going to keep recording because, like I said, we’ve invented all these elements, and the starting part is so difficult, and we’ve got all this stuff and it just keeps on growing. It’s alive, and the songs grow through the live shows. It’s like we’ve got all these plants surrounding us and they’re growing out of control, so we’re just going to record more of it and keep going with it.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to share with us before you go?
Khaela: Just that, England – we’re such big fans. We’re watching so much British stuff right now. We love Call the Midwife, so England, we’re like your biggest fans.
As our time together, via our laptops, draws to a close, Khaela and Melissa coo sympathetically at the story of my recent heartbreak, inviting me over to stay in Brooklyn, batting away my fear of flying with cries of cheap deals on the QE2, and chatter enthusiastically about coming to the UK to tour. I’m pretty sad to say goodbye to these two delightfully amiable women. If there is something I can take away from them, it’s this – not only are Khaela and Melissa the most enviably happy couple in music, they’ree also the nicest. They will only bring you happiness.
Their eponymous album, The Blow, is available to purchase now.
Words by Lydia Butler
Photography by Libby Gray
The Itinerant Poetry Librarian
May 7, 2014
On the road with the Itinerant Poetry Librarian and her unique creation.
We meet for the first time at 5th Base Gallery, just off Brick Lane. It’s a balmy Thursday one evening in September and I’ve sauntered down for a friend’s art exhibition so the last thing I expect is a rather serious looking librarian and an evaluation of my hairstyle. ‘Free poetry library, join before we travel on’ reads the sign. Curiosity piqued, I wander over to her table and leaf through some of the ‘forgotten’ poetry on display. For a short time, I’m not sure whether to laugh or run away. What is one to make of such a stern, stiff suited girl, her hair pulled back into a tight bun, with a stamping technique that echoes around the small white-washed gallery? Is it an act? Is it real? I’m not 100% sure, but the quality of her travelling library is certainly not in doubt – in fact, the reading material on offer is nothing short of extraordinary and I duly sign up as a Valued Patron of the Library (or VPL for short). The Itinerant Poetry Libraran herself, however, is infinitely more of a mystery so later, back at home, I decide to do some research.
Turns out Sara Wingate-Gray, as she’s known in the real world, is actually a very approachable writer and artist. Her alter-ego, the Librarian, was born in 2002 in Norwich as the overseer of a unique poetry library which at the time was static but has since operated in eleven different countries. In 2006, the closure of a series of local venues left Wingate-Gray questioning the future of her library. Later, on the phone, she tells me how the idea of taking it around the world came to her. “I guess I had the idea in bed one day. I suddenly woke up thinking that if people can’t come to the library, I’ll take the library to them. It was very simple. Kind of like an equation. Like, what’s the problem here? Library? Library’s not a problem. Building? Building’s always a problem. So throw away the building.”
With that, the library was unstoppable, travelling through countries like Germany, America, Holland, and Canada. “It was a bit of an experiment,” Wingate-Gray reflects, from her current base in Manor House. “An experiment with my life, an experiment in the concept of libraries, an experiment in terms of art, and an experiment in terms of humanity and how people interacted and helped.” Incredibly, the whole thing operates on a budget of approximately zero, with Wingate-Gray having given up most of her belongings in order to travel lightly. “I picked a random assortment of things which in the end were very important. A mini espresso maker. Plastic washing line. Goose feather stuffed booties. These were all quick judgements which later turned out to be very smart decisions.”
I wonder how on earth one person can survive on such odd items and art alone. “The washing line ended up being my wardrobe for three and a half years,” she explains. “The goose feather stuffed booties definitely saved me from getting frostbite at one point in Germany. And the espresso maker came in handy when I didn’t have any money to get food – I would just drink lots of coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes.”
Dumpster diving, couch-surfing and the genuine kindness of strangers are common themes in Wingate- Gray’s story as the Librarian. They also neatly mirror the core principles of the Library itself. “All of these elements, which you could argue were not part of the original idea, actually became really informative practice elements of what I was doing. So the idea of recycling, whether that be food or other consumer items, was not only how I had to live but also a metaphor for what I was doing. Libraries are laboratories of people sharing different types of information and goods, rather than having outright ownership. It’s this concept of lending rather than buying, and obviously the sharing of knowledge and how that goes around.” Not that running the library is always easy, due to the the often rather unusual nature of its location. “I’ve had interactions with the police in a number of different countries,” she admits. “In Paris, in Luxembourg Gardens, they don’t like you talking to people with books and offering them things for free. And in Boston, the security in the cemetery came to us and asked me what the fuck I was doing.”
I saw an incredible selection of books that night in Brick Lane and was sad not to be able to take a couple of them away, but perhaps that’s part of the library’s charm. I can only imagine the treasures Wingate-Gray has come across over the years. Any favourite acquisitions? “Difficult question,” she replies. “Obviously, we get lots of amazing things because of the collection policy, which is lost and forgotten poetry. I like the item I found on the floor of a San Francisco warehouse right outside my bedroom. It’s a tiny little booklet, given out by a guy in California. And it certainly didn’t come from any of the people around me there, so it was one of those insignificant significant things.”
As our conversation draws to a close, I ask how she feels about today’s attitude towards libraries and the reduced funding they’re receiving from governments, particularly in the UK and the current climate. Her answer, I think, is one worth listening closely to. “You can be a cynic and say that it’s awfully convenient that the things that are being cut are the things that enable people to have more knowledge and information and therefore make choices,” she says, thinking carefully. “There’s a great quote that I have on my wall and it’s very important. It says, ‘Choice is a very loaded word – choice depends a lot on what you know is possible’. I’d argue that the library and the public library in particular is a place for the imagination. Close down public libraries and you’re closing down the capacity for people’s imaginations to expand.”
Words by Kate Bond
Photography by Bukanova
May 7, 2014
Sicilian beauty Tea Falco tells us about life on both sides of the camera.
Tea Falco is literally out of this world. With her classic good looks and sizzling screen presence, she belongs more to a bygone era; of grainy black and white cinema, chain smoking flapper girls, Edith Piaf, and romantic self-expression, than today’s tech-dependent, multi- screen lifestyle. Bernardo Bertolucci, the famed Italian director behind films like Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers, has called Falco ‘a young Sicilian Marlene Dietrich’ and it’s hard to disagree. Never heard of Tea Falco? Let me introduce you.
Born in Catania, Sicily, in 1986, Falco grew up surrounded by the arts. Her mother was a great lover of poetry and under her guidance, the young Falco developed a passion for the spoken word, music and photography. “I grew up listening to Gino Paoli, Dalida, Adamo and Aznavour, and admiring the photography of Doisneau and Bresson,” she recalls, over the phone from her home in Rome. “Then I discovered cinema.”
Her film work, over the years, has included the award-winning Italian historical drama ‘I vicerè’ and Bertolucci’s ‘Io e te’, the latter of which screened at Cannes in 2012. Working with the renowned Bertolucci was an eye-opener for Falco. “Bertolucci is an extraordinary person,” she enthuses. “Every day, working with him, was a joy. Today, I saw a little child who reminded me of his expression. He’s a poet and I have remained quite attached to him.”
The movie is a masterful and stylish exercise in willed claustrophobia. The plot sees a teenage boy and his half-sister spend a week together in a cramped basement, as Falco’s character, Olivia, quits heroin cold- turkey.
“To study the role of Olivia I visited many rehabilitation centres for drug addicts and watched many movies about heroin use. The guys in rehab told me their stories,” she reveals. “What interested me was the psychological aspect, and why they were using. One uses drugs because there is a lack and one substitutes it with something else. Many of these people had lost brothers and parents.” Was there a little part of herself in the headstrong, free and brave Olivia? “A side that emerges in certain situations,” she considers. “Inside all of us there are so many properties. Many people know me as a timid person, others as a person who is not afraid of anything. It depends on how you are inside and what you are thinking in that moment.”
When asked what inspires her work, Falco doesn’t hesitate to answer. And what an answer. “I’m inspired by others. By life. By the books I read and the photographs I see, the movements of the body and words, the clouds and the synchronic magic of the unconscious.” These influences are perhaps most clear in her photography, which began with a Zenit on a green strap, gifted to the young Sicilian in childhood by her mother. “At the moment I am preparing a project named ‘I ricordi inconscinti’, a phrase I have invented which means the marriage of the conscious and unconscious. With it, I refer to the Jungian thought on synchronicity.” Her main aim is to explore the world using photography as a medium. Intrigued, we ask what conclusions she has come to so far. She pauses to think for a moment – considering her response. “That despite all the pain a human being experiences in their lifetime,” she eventually says, “the magic of life pushes you to live with even more passion.”
As if her impressive film career, the Basilio Cascella Prize, and exhibitions in Greece were not enough, Falco recently took her photography to Los Angeles. A city she says was unlike anything she had ever seen in Italy. “Everything is big. The streets, the parking lots, the restaurants – even the people are bigger. It’s fascinating. You can find anything – it’s the land of toys.”
And the future? Falco says she will continue to exhibit her work all over Italy and that further film and TV work is in the pipeline. “I am going to be in Carlo Verdone’s new movie,” she beams, referring to the upcoming comedy ‘Sotto una buona stella’ that translates as ‘Under a lucky star’ and documents the fall of a financial broker.
Anything else? “Ageing,” she says. “And I hope it happens very slowly.”
Words by Eva Palazzetti
Photography by Annette Schreyer