An Interview with Scandebergs: June's MAI + t Collaborators

By Marco Anelli and MAI's Billy Zhao
Introduction by Billy Zhao
When Scandebergs, a photography duo based in London, described to me their interest in capturing the interactions between bodies, I immediately thought of Marco Anelli’s collaboration with Marina Abramovic during "The Artist is Present" (2010). For the duration of her performance, Anelli photographed every single participant for a series called "Portraits In the Presence of Marina Abramovic." These photos capture the intense energy shared between the performer and participant. Subtle moments like this are what Scandebergs explore in their photographic examinations of art, fashion, architecture, and performance. By incorporating unconventional body forms into minimal spaces, Scandebergs reveal the delicate hidden in the mundane.

Over the course of June, 2014, they are curating a selection of images for MAI + t — a unique collaboration where one Tumblr blogger per month takes creative control over the MAI Tumblr — using the keywords repetition, immaterial, bodily interactions, natural materials and duration. In the spirit of MAI’s mission of encouraging discussions between emerging and established artists, I invited Marco Annelli to ask a few questions of the young photographers, in addition to my own.

MARCO ANELLI: Where did you grow up? How has this influenced your practice?

SCANDEBERGS: We come from two italian small towns in the countryside between Milan and Como Lake. The only remarkable thing is that, paradoxically, nothing happens here. This forces some people to project themselves outside the traditional structures. The need to explore contemporary art practices led to a spontaneous connection between us.

MARCO ANELLI: What are some benefits and difficulties of working together?

SCANDEBERGS: Collaboration is synergy. It is also about discussing your own individual points of view in order to create new ones. Herein lie both the benefits and difficulties of this process.

MARCO ANELLI: Where do you see yourself in the future, geographically or physically speaking?

SCANDEBERGS: We are extremely fascinated by what the philosopher Immanuel Kant says about the “Sublime”: the feeling of being overwhelmed by, for example, the vast energy of Nature; in order to convey this energy in our work, we must first experience it. For that reason, we imagine ourselves immersed for some time in an Icelandic landscape or in front of New Zealand Volcanoes. We’re now in London, but our home might be near MAI one day.

MARCO ANELLI: How autobiographical is your work?

SCANDEBERGS: We think that the autobiographical property of a work is an intrinsic factor of its creation; when you create something genuine, you put yourself and your experience in it.

BILLY ZHAO: What can you tell us about your blogging routine on Tumblr?

SCANDEBERGS: Tumblr is a great tool for understanding yourself. Since I (Stefano) started mine five years ago, my aesthetics and interests changed a lot. It’s impressive to go back and see the whole “history” in the archives. I post something almost every day but the process must be natural in order to see the progress. Tumblr is a great visual exercise. For our MAI + t collaboration, we become the creators/curators of a virtual museum selecting every week artworks related to a certain keyword.

BILLY ZHAO: What other forms of collaborations have you participated in?

SCANDEBERGS: Every photographic story we create is a collaboration. Photography is often about collaborating. We recently documented a performance based on “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and we are currently working on a series based on the interactions between the spectator and the artwork.

BILLY ZHAO: Have you participated in a long durational work? If so, what was your experience like?

SCANDEBERGS: One long durational work we strongly remember is Tino Sehgal's “These Associations” in 2012 at Tate Modern, London. We’re currently experiencing Marina’s "512 Hours" at Serpentine and we’re overwhelmed by her ability to manage the public’s energy in the space. It’s something we’ve never felt before.

BILLY ZHAO: Why were you interested in collaborating with us on the MAI + t project?

SCANDEBERGS: We believe in MAI. Since the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign, we felt the need to contribute to the creation of the Institute. Now, we are glad to put our energies into this collaboration. We are thrilled to keep this relationship alive.

BILLY ZHAO: How do you relate to the mission of MAI?

SCANDEBERGS: Immaterial and long durational works have always been source of inspiration for us and MAI has its roots in them. Like the Institute, we have a multidisciplinary approach as we’re currently exploring the boundaries of art and fashion through photography, focusing on ideas of repetition, interaction of bodies, and the role of context as a functional variable that influences any subject and object. We think there is a sort of performativity around our practice. There is always a need to manifest new ideas and the tools to do so will change constantly in the future. Photography is just one of these tools.

To visit the MAI + t Tumblr, click here.

Scandebergs is a collaborative duo formed by Stefano Colombini and Alberto Albanese. Both born in Italy in 1992, they started working together in 2012 in London and founded Scandebergs during summer 2013. Stefano is currently studying Creative Direction at LCF and he's Visual Researcher at Patternity; Alberto, with a Fine Art background, focused his studies in fashion photography and styling. At present they are exploring the boundaries and interconnections between Contemporary Art and Fashion through the photographic medium. They collaborated with diverse platforms and publications such as Arena Homme +,, Used Magazine, and Pop. Currently, they are studying Body Movements according to the "Movement Notation" System created by dance theorist Noa Eshkol. Their website can be found here, their Tumblr can be found here, and their Facebook can be found here. Follow their work on the MAI Tumblr until June 30th .
Marco Anelli was born in Rome in 1968. After specializing in black and white photography and its printing techniques in Paris, he developed what has become a signature aspect of his work: photographic projects that evolve over long periods of time, through an extended engagement with his subject. His publications include works on sculpture and architecture (‘Shadow and Light in St. Peter's’, Silvana Publisher 1999; ‘All’Ombra del Duomo’, Contrasto 2010) sport (‘Il Calcio’, Motta Publisher 2002; ‘Pallacorda’, Skira 2004) and classical music (‘La Musica Immaginata’, Motta Publisher 2004; ‘The Gestures of the Spirit’, Peliti Publisher 2011). In 2010 he took portraits of 1545 partecipants in Marina Abramović’s performance at the MoMA in New York (Portraits in the presence of Marina Abramović, Damiani Publisher 2010). He is currently working on two long term projects in New York, one exploring the artist's studio, and the other focusing on the emotional reactions of the public in soccer, football and baseball stadiums. He lives and works in New York. His website can be found here.