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INTERVIEW with Artist & Filmmaker MICHAEL SALERNO!

SamHel interview with artist Michael Salerno!

SATAN PRESS: So, starting off the questions… I’d wanna start with the basics, for those who may not know you, what’s your name? What do you do artistically? And where are you from?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I’m Michael Salerno. An Australian artist, filmmaker and publisher, living and working in Paris since 2009.

SATAN PRESS: What is Kiddiepunk to you, what is the goal of Kiddiepunk? How would you describe it to someone interested in viewing your work, without having an example on you to show them?

MICHAEL SALERNO: Kiddiepunk is the name of the small press that I run, just out of my apartment in Paris. It started as a zine, but then evolved into a proper press about 13 years ago. It’s a curated, aesthetically-unified collection of books and zines, by various artists and writers, with a strong thematic focus on childhood.

SATAN PRESS: I found your work/name scrolling through some book sites and out of the 20+ books that had their covers shown, yours stood out to me… even if some are pretty straightforward and minimalist. How much input do you give to have your vision be met?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I do all the cover artwork and design for Kiddiepunk releases and it’s important to me that everything we release feels like it’s part of the same world. I the press almost like one large, ongoing artwork, really. Every piece adds to the bigger whole of what I’m trying to express.

SATAN PRESS: When I first saw your work, I was… well, I’ll get to my point of view on your photo-books, after, but first let me ask this; What is the message you connect to your photo-books and collage work?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I don’t really think about the “message.” Honestly, I’m not sure there is one. I just try to make work that expresses something personal to me. My focus is more on emotion and mood, texture and sensation. I’m trying to evoke something and give visual form to certain things from my memory and experience.

SATAN PRESS: Now, when I first saw the images to your books, and the photos posted to your social media, it was quite bold and shocking, somewhat even unsettling. Today’s day and age everyone sees a segment of something and immediately wanna attach something inherently negative, and as much as I wanted to, as well… I felt like there was more here and I took a step back to do so. Do you get immediately negative comments/reactions to your photowork? If so, what are some negative type responses you’ve gotten?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I appreciate you taking that step back and giving the work some deeper thought. Because my work is very often focused on childhood, I occasionally get really dumb, knee-jerk reactions that seem to me to have very little to do with the work itself and more about the people viewing it and their projections and assumptions. Personally, I tend to think of my work as being “inner landscapes.” It’s all very personal and very much about myself and trying to articulate certain moods and sensations from my own childhood, trying to give form to things that are quite formless and abstract. It’s work that, to me, stimulates an emotional response, which is what I’m interested in. There’s a whole world of “transgressive” stuff out there that really has no relation at all to my work, as I see it, though I can also see why certain people can make the mistake of thinking that’s where I’m operating from, as there’s a few overlapping aesthetics. But I’m certainly not looking to shock. I’m after something else, something deeper.

SATAN PRESS: I see some early Larry Clark-inspired work, is there some type of influence from other creators you look towards for inspiration, when finding these images for collages? Where do you find images, mainly?

MICHAEL SALERNO: There’s many many artworks and artists that have been an inspiration over the years, but with my collages, I’m not really thinking about any of that when I make them. I’m just focused on trying to get as close as I can to the feelings I want to express. The images are all just found online, so I search around for what sparks the right feeling. I’m also super into extreme weather, like tornadoes, storms, weird cloud formations and so on, so I collect a lot of these kinds of images, which I use in my collages.

SATAN PRESS: The next thing I’ve seen from you were the trailers to your films (kinda wanted to do this interview after watching them, but I am a physical media person and shall wait for them) but more notably I’ve seen the trailers to; “Blue Whale” and “The Masturbator’s Heart” both have similar type vibes I feel when scrolling your site and photos, but the films seem more vibrant and colorful when I’d expect it shot on VHS in B&W or more chaotic. Are there similarities you see between your collage and maybe even written works vs final visual film works? Is there anything different you aim to keep, when separating film and other works?

MICHAEL SALERNO: The two films you’re referring to are shot on 16mm. Actually, it’s just one film – “Blue Whale” is a short version of my feature-length film “The Masturbator’s Heart.” But to answer your question, there’s not a huge difference. Whether something comes out as a film or a still image, it all comes from the same source. A film, like all art, is a device for holding and releasing emotions, moods, sensations and feelings. I see it like a container. And the way the contents of this container are displayed and released are the film. There’s art and skill necessary to make all of the elements function in the correct way, to deliver the emotions and sensations. But the film is not really a complete work. It only becomes complete when it interacts with the viewer’s heart and mind, hopefully sparking something that creates the TRUE film that you intended to make in the first place. The most important things are the ones that are intangible and can’t be easily put into words. This is what its true function is. It’s the same thing no matter what medium I’m working in, be it a film, still images, music, whatever. So yeah, I kind of view it all the same way, and it definitely comes from the same source.

SATAN PRESS: What are some of your favorite artists, that viewers should check out on your recommendation? Whether it’s to understand your inspiration or to find unique creators to support?

MICHAEL SALERNO: Oh, man. There’s so many artists I love. The past year or so, I’ve been really obsessed with the filmmaker Philippe Garrel. I saw his film “L’Enfant Secret” and it was so moving and mysterious to me that I’ve been trying to track down every film of his I can. Some of them are very difficult to find, which is making the process all the more fun.

SATAN PRESS: For me, as a filmmaker and creator, there were times where I felt I was creating things, not solely for money, but because there was an outside interest from supporters/buyers to make a certain type of film… rather than making what I wanted. With that being said; Is there as point in your creations, where you felt like things should be done in a complete different direction then how you were doing them? For instances, has there been a project you stopped, feeling like this isn’t a “Michael Salerno/Kiddiepunk type creation” or do you work on anything regardless of what viewers/supporters may think?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I just do what I want, to be honest. I’ve been making things since I was a child and it’s something that I do whether anyone pays attention or not. I’ve always had very strong impulse to make sure that I’m not reliant on my art to give me money to live. I have a job that I do for money, and my art has nothing to do with that.

SATAN PRESS: Are there any works you created that you deemed “ahh, people may get bothered by this.” And scrapped it?

MICHAEL SALERNO: Yeah, well, there’s definitely been things that I have chosen not to make public, but the reasons can vary. Sometimes it’s as simple as it feeling too personal or like it’s not the right time. Sometimes it’s just not very good, so it gets buried somewhere. But I have a lot of unreleased films that I’ve made over the years and these films have kind of become my friends in a weird way. I don’t want them finished because I want them to always be in this open, malleable state so that when I need them, I can open them up and go into that world. This is a nice thing, to me. Not everything has to be seen by the outside world. It’s enough that I see them and that they mean something to me.

SATAN PRESS: What was the most challenging creation you have made?

MICHAEL SALERNO: Oh, that’s a good question. Everything’s challenging in some way or has its own set of difficulties, but probably the thing I find most difficult is when I need to deal with people that are part of the established “system.” Working with film producers, something I’ve only done occasionally, can be a bit of struggle. I understand it, obviously, because whenever there’s money that’s coming from an official source that’s always going to open you up to a whole bunch of usually very boring interrogations. I’m very used to working alone and being my own boss, so I’m not huge on having to explain things and play the kinds of games that are necessary to work in that way. Also, I’m not a great talker, and often when I’m working on something, I’m not running it through my intellect, I’m in more of a feeling space. I like to feel like I’m reaching out into the darkness and just following my instincts. If I understood everything on a mind level, I’m pretty sure I’d have no interest in making that artwork anymore.

SATAN PRESS: In aspects of my own life and work, I’ve received a couple good questions and some I aim to ask others cause it seems sometimes rarely asked, but do you have major support in your works? Are family/friends eager to see what you made next? Or is this a “you” thing.

MICHAEL SALERNO: Definitely a “me” thing. I’ve been on a pretty solitary track with my art for most of my life. Of course, I get support and understanding from friends who are fellow artists, but I think with this kind of work, you’re ultimately just always wrestling with yourself.

SATAN PRESS: You seem may be close in age as me, me being (AGE REDACTED) and I have very particular instances of creations that have evolved over a short time frame and I feel like I’ve been doing art for a long time already, but have you seen major changes in your work, just as you grew as a person?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I’m older than you, and yeah, for sure, we change and grow all the time, but my work has been very consistent. I essentially do the same thing over and over again, but I hope that my ability to articulate myself visually grows and gets stronger and clearer, more accomplished. I just want to get as close as I can to this thing inside me. So, I hope I get better with time. I don’t know.

SATAN PRESS: Finally, I know I’m hyped for the films stated above, and I truly say that a lot of the work shown of your photo work, is probably some of the most unique, unsettling and with some nostalgic aspects and grabs my curiosity without having to have gore or violent elements, but what are some things you are working on and where can people find you?

MICHAEL SALERNO: I just finished a new film, which is a short piece called “Une promenade gachee” (“A Ruined Walk” in English) and I’m working on writing a new feature.

I want to give a thank you to Michael Salerno, for answering my questions and even agreeing to the interview, Im a bit all over the place with my questions and taking the time to answer is awesome! Michael's work is definitely unique, his own and you can find his work, amongst others at his site 

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