A conversation with Coco Capitán, the artist whose signature handwriting is featured on a lineup of ready-to-wear pieces and accessories from the Fall Winter 2017 collection.
#CocoCapitanWriting: how you get ideas, do you consider it your own sort of poetry?
I have been making writing all my life, it is an outgrowth of my creative process. As well as memorable phrases, I think words are very precious and if put together in the right order they can create a linguistic masterpiece that feels like your favourite painting. People call this poetry, but I prefer not to use that word, because poetry seems reduced to poets and language intellectuals. What truly fascinates me is the way in which people talk and how this feels so natural to them, the wording used in adverts, cheap slogans, the way children talk when they haven’t fully developed language and specially how people who are not fluent on a new language still manage to express very complex emotions in limited vocabularies and incorrect grammars.
Can you tell us the story about when you started, was there a particular event in your life which triggered your work?
It was really a natural evolution: I’ve been writing on my notebooks ever since I learnt to. I always had old-style hobbies, never video games, I preferred drawing and writing. The very first things I started with when I was a child were actually quite random: ‘El pollo mira la choza’ (which translates to ‘The chicken looks at the hut’) and also ‘el muñeco feo se peina’ (which translates to ‘the ugly doll brushes her hair’); I would keep writing these repeatedly and then I would illustrate them on the same notebook. Over time, when I became a teenager I started writing more, and more consciously, I wasn’t as ironic as I am now, the focus was more personal and poetic. Then, I decided I wanted to make my reflections more concise, not to waste other people’s time. When the internet era begun, especially with Instagram, I was recognized as a photographer more than anything else but I felt there was a lack of narrative to my work, therefore I decided to turn my writing into something visual. For me, the words that better define the philosophy of my writing are: ‘I paint with words’, being able to make someone picture an image without seeing it.
‘Common sense is not that common’ and ‘What are we going to do with all this future?’ both became part of the #GucciArtWall projects, one in Milan and the other in New York, what is the story behind these two phrases and how you thought of them?
There is always a story behind it, I’m never thinking to myself 'I should come up with something interesting', whenever I’m in a situation that is either stressful or paradoxical, these thoughts just come to my mind.
For instance, the phrase ‘I want to go back to beliving a story’, is about the disappointment of growing up and how when you are a child you believe in fantasy world where nothing bad can happen. Unfortunately, growing up I realized that actually anything can happen to anyone at any time, therefore ‘I want to go back to beliving a story’.
For ‘What are we going to do with all this future?’ I was actually in Costa Rica on holidays with my girlfriend, Frances, and since I always carry with me a notebook I thought I should write down something representative for the upcoming New Year. Something I find quite funny is that everyone feels so optimistic when thinking about what they’ll do with their life, but actually life just carries on and you can’t always decide your future, so I answered to my question with another question: ‘What is all this future going to do with us?’.
‘Common sense is not that common’ it’s more about the everyday desperation, there are things for me that are so obvious and that I wish they were obvious to other people but they’re not. If you think about it, it is a way of thinking that already exists in philosophy, some people might have said something similar before, what I really like is coming up with these conclusions and seeing that some many people agree with them.
What is it like working with Alessandro Michele, do you share the same creative point of view?
Alessandro is an amazing individual and I feel very privileged to have worked with him so much. We first started working together for the Cruise 2016 fashion show in New York, I photographed different perspectives of the city for Gucci Instagram. Alessandro supports my work whilst at the same time challenging me to develop it further, and suggesting new viewpoints I have not previously considered. We both learn and take a lot from each other and I am very glad for this.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your collaboration with A Mag Curated By Alessandro Michele?
I was given complete freedom, Alessandro Michele wanted for me to travel and explore Italian places that were important for him, my only job was to take photos from my own perspective. So together with Dan Thawley, Editor-in-Chief of A Magazine Curated By Alessandro Michele, they decided on an itinerary that I followed. They told me 'go and visit these places with your girlfriend, so you are relaxed'. Coming back from the trip I realized that I had been writing a lot, so we decided that to give more context to the photos and include the text as well.
What was it like exhibiting in Beijing, what sentiment do you have for the city?
It was really special and challenging at the same time, I had previously been travelling around Asia about four years ago, and the photography and notes I did on this trip I published into a book called ‘Middle Point Between My HOUSE and China’. There were a lot of similarities between the two projects, in both occasions I was traveling as a foreigner, just with my camera and my notebook. For this reason, the A Mag Curated By Exhibition felt like the ending to my Chinese episode.
How do you feel about the terminology “the female gaze” and being included in a group of young women photographers who are lensing fashion in a new way, can you define this aesthetic-are we ushering in a new point of view?
I am aware of this terminology and the aesthetic, but in my mind anything that makes photography more diverse, more accessible, and more interesting is worth doing.