Interview by Asia Lanzi

Invernomuto, formed in 2003 by Simone Bertuzzi and Simone Trabucchi, is a Milan-based artistic duo. Their diverse projects encompass moving images, sounds, performances, and publications, exploring subcultural universes and contemporary mythologies. Through a documentarist approach, they create imaginative and abstract representations of reality. In this interview, Invernomuto shares their artistic philosophy, delves into the inspiration behind their latest project Black Med, and discusses its upcoming presentation at the international music festival Terraforma in June, and much more.

To begin with, can you describe to us your artistic identity as Invernomuto? What is the meaning and inspiration of the name ‘Invernomuto’ and how does it relate to your artistic vision and practice?

Invernomuto was founded in 2003, which means that this year it’s been 20 years of working together. The name Invernomuto, derived from the English translation Wintermute or silent winter, actually originates from a novel written in the 90s called Neuromancer by William Gibson. Gibson is known as a pioneer of the cyberpunk movement within the science fiction genre. Simone and I were both reading this novel when we first met. The name Wintermute symbolizes the collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of our duo/collective, which encompasses visual arts, music, and various other formats and media. We decided to adopt this name, and it has stuck with us ever since.

Can you share with us the story of how you both met? How did the idea for Invernomuto come about and how was this artistic duo created? 

We met at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, where we’re still based. We were studying in the Department of Art and New Media. Actually, we were both from the same area—a small town called Vernasca in the province of Piacenza, close to Milan. Commuting together on the train everyday sparked the birth of Invernomuto. Our discussions naturally evolved into collaboration. Our initial venture was an editorial project—a printed magazine. From there, we delved into working with moving images, which remains our primary medium. However, our projects span across various formats, including performances, publishing, installations, sculpture, and more.

Many of your projects explore subcultural universes and vernacular language. What draws you to these subjects, and how do you approach documenting and representing them in your work?

Both of us have diverse musical backgrounds, not just as active participants in different music scenes, but also as music enthusiasts and researchers. The concept of observing the world through a subcultural lens has always come naturally to us, serving as our starting point and approach. Over the past two decades, the idea of subculture has undergone significant changes. Nowadays, our approach remains largely the same, but the communities have evolved. It’s become more decentralized and disconnected from specific physical locations like cities or neighbourhoods. Instead, it has spread across the internet. But we continue to navigate the world, finding inspiration and tools by immersing ourselves in subcultures. It’s a means for us to explore and understand the world.

Your work has been described as rhizomatic and open. Can you talk a bit about your philosophy or approach to making art, and how your approach to making art has changed and evolved over time?

We tend to approach our work as big projects, where each one is like a cycle or a saga. It’s not just a collection of independent artworks but more of a comprehensive research-based endeavor. From this research, various outputs are generated. Take, for example, our recent project, Black Med. It revolves around building an archive exploring the Mediterranean through music and sound. Over the course of almost four to five years, it has resulted in diverse outcomes. We’ve had listening sessions, performances, a book, a website, and a range of talks and radio shows. The idea behind this approach is to start with recognizable research and then transform it into different shapes and forms, embracing a rhizomatic concept of exploration.

What inspired you to choose Chapter 1 to present at Terraforma fetival, and how do you believe it aligns with its theme of artistic experimentation?

The listening sessions are a series of performances we created over the course of four to five years, each chapter focusing on a specific aspect of our research. The first chapter of Black Med is a more comprehensive representation of the project as a whole. Sometimes, we present multiple chapters to provide a broader understanding of our research. In this case, we chose to present this particular chapter because it includes a section dedicated to Morocco and northern Morocco. Within this section, we feature a track by the Master Musicians of Joujouka, who will also be performing at the festival this year. Collaborating with Ruggero Pietromarchi, the festival director, we saw an opportunity for this chapter to complement and enhance that part of the festival program. That’s why we decided to present it.

What was the inspiration behind creating an archive of music and sound objects from the wider Mediterranean region? What are your hopes for the impact of this project and the message conveyed to audiences/listeners?

The project originated from an invitation by Manifesta, an art biennial held in different cities every two years. For the Palermo edition in Sicily, the curators asked us to focus on Palermo and develop our contribution. We felt an urgency to address the Mediterranean, an area often debated in contemporary news due to humanitarian issues. The common perception from the northern shore is that the Mediterranean is predominantly European, but it is actually one-third European, one-third African, and one-third Asian. We wanted to challenge this perception and explore the Mediterranean as a historically interconnected region rather than a dividing border. Music and sound became our tools for narration, allowing us to examine the Mediterranean from diverse perspectives and address social issues through sonic exploration.

In what ways do you see Black Med, Chapter I as a response to the current political and social climate in the Mediterranean, particularly with regards to issues of migration and diaspora?

As artists, we use political tools such as poetry and music to observe the world. While it may not offer solutions to real-world issues, it provides a means to better understand the complexities of the Mediterranean context. In our project, geography is not a primary concern. Instead, we focus on selecting music and sound objects that already possess diverse trajectories. The project is also non-chronological, allowing the algorithm we designed to delve freely into the historical and geographical dimensions.

Can you walk us through your process for selecting and curating the sound objects in the Black Med archive?

Our project relies on a network of collaborators who we invited to collaborate and contribute to the archive. DJs, artists, and music selectors from various locations provide curated tracks, while anyone can upload new music to the web platform. As part of the research, we present performances that function as listening sessions, showcasing tracks from the archive. We also collaborate with artists and host a monthly radio show for Movement Radio, which is based in Athens, Greece. The project extends beyond music, as we published a book comprising essays and interviews that explore the theoretical inspirations behind Black Med. Collaboration and networking are at the core of our collective effort, ensuring the archive’s continuous growth and evolution.

Your work spans a variety of media, from sound and music to video and performance. How do you approach working across these different disciplines?

Our approach to art is natural, allowing the project’s content to determine the media we employ. For Black Med we envisioned it primarily as an online project, aiming to reach a wide audience and foster a collective archive where people could contribute. Online platforms offered the ideal space for broader accessibility. However, in other cases, such as film, we delve into more fictional realms, tailoring the medium to suit the specific project. Our projects often involve collaborations with diverse individuals, enabling us to function as a dynamic agency that engages developers and technicians to assist us in the process. 

Invernomuto, Black Med, 2021, courtesy of the artists

When starting a new project or developing an idea, what is your typical process, and how do you maintain inspiration throughout the creative process?

It’s been 20 years that we’ve worked together, and in practical terms, we naturally divide the work, with certain aspects being my forte and others Simone’s. However, when it comes to designing and working on ideas, it’s always a collaborative effort. We cannot imagine working independently, as collaboration provides an internal filter that helps us achieve better results. There isn’t a specific diagram or scheme that we follow every time, as each project is the result of a dialogue that has happened before exposing it to the world. Practical and technical considerations naturally follow, but we prioritize discussion and idea exchange as we embark on each new chapter or cycle.

Invernomuto has been creating art for over two decades, what would you say are the biggest takeaways from your artistic career? What have been the most challenging and rewarding experiences? How has your approach to making art changed over time?

We have a feeling that there’s still a lot of things to do. Integrating our practice into a wider community energizes us for each project. Currently, we’re starting a new cycle called Triton, succeeding Black Med. We’re approaching it through different steps, one being Una Boccata d’Arte this coming June, curated by Threes, the association behind Terraforma. Our contribution, VICTIMULA, is an AR app for gold digging in Vermogno, Piedmont. Using blockchain technology, collected virtual gold nuggets can be claimed for future project stages. We’re excited to experiment with these tools. Challenging ourselves is always important for us as we begin new projects.

Terraforma, the international music festival dedicated to artistic experimentation and environmental sustainability, is back with its 8th edition. Set to take place from June 9 to 11, 2023, the festival returns to its iconic location in the woodlands of Villa Arconati. Tickets to the festival are available for purchase here, so don’t miss out on this unique experience!