CONNECTING REALITIES interview with Gianluca Costantini
Work of Ravenna-based author Gianluca Costantini has recently been focused on exploring the everyday life and political situations in the Arab countries. While successfully walking the thin line between comics, illustration and graphic journalism, Gianluca has succeded in creating condensed and simple narratives that bring valuable information to the European comics audience.
RP: Can you tell us, when was your first time when you got in touch with the 'exotic' societies of the north-african Arab world, what were your first impressions and personal motives in that experience?
The Middle-eastern theme is a very important one. In 2004, I made a series entitled “24h on Yahoo! News”, when I used to draw for a day all the news that appeared on site. That day, Middle Eastern-themed news had been the absolute majority, with a particular focus on Palestine and Israel. From that day until now, my interest for those political themes has been a constant. Why do I do that? Because I think that what's happening in those countries could be a key to understand what is happening and and what could happen in mine. During these last years I've always followed news on what has been called the “Arab Spring”, that was the starting point for my explorations and insights into the north-african reality. Starting from the very first riots in Lebanon and Iran, to Lybia, Tunisia and obviously Egypt, I became interested also in events happening in southern African countries, such as Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria etc.
Working on these themes is also a personal matter, drawing these stories helps me to better understand countries, social and political environments that in Italy are very little known or ill-famed.
RP: As one can notice, you published large amount of materials online on your blog and other websites, under the label of Political Comics project. How long is this project going on and how does the process of creation look like?
The project was born in 2004, and it is still ongoing; I mainly posted drawings on my website, and starting from this, collaboration with other websites and paper publications has grown. You can check the full archive at www.politicalcomics.info. My creations stem from what I see and read online, or from some of my journeys. Drawings are posted almost daily; besides the website, using social networks is a basic strategic tool to improve drawings' diffusion among the net. When working for the sake of knowledge diffusion and awareness raising, an intelligent use of the web is paramount.
RP: Comparing to your previous works, which are more framed as regular comics, these artworks seem more redundant, like sketches or traveller's notes, which brings up a more dynamic atmosphere to the reader..was that a conscious choice or you just followed your intuition when you chose such format?
Before 2004, my work was exactly the opposite. It was like some kind of esoteric componing, following somehow dogmatic rules that couldn't be broken. The drawings resulted as perfectly shaped and decorative. To narrate other stories, I've extremely molested myself, betraying everything I believed in. I'm not a follower of a monolithic style anymore, but every story that I create shapes its own form. The tract modifies, sometimes creating what could be called a “badly done” drawing. A drawing method which is now enslaved to the message of each story. Now I feel more free in the creation process and in showing my ideals.
RP: Who is basically your audience in Italy and abroad? What kind of feedback you receive from the readers?
At the very beginning of the drawings-readers relationship, which was stronger with readers from abroad, almost everything was about the contents. Something new was starting up, for comic art and illustration, that is still developing today thanks to various production houses, such as Graphic Journalism. The official, mainstream comic world still has its difficulties in framing my artworks, as I do not make satire; I do politics, showing circumstances and events that can be both unpopular and/or uncomfortable; but ultimately, my works are understood and followed by a wide and multifaceted range of audiences. Several exhibitions have been made in Greece, Russia, and France. Some of my stories have been published also in the USA, on the World War III Illustrated periodical.
RP: In a way, the city of Ravenna is historically considered as a center, /or a source/, of Italian leftist movements..How much has that influenced your development as an author?
As for me, it almost didn't. It surely has been a leftist environment, but with very little remainings nowadays. This city has aligned itself to the rest of the Country. Drawings can be a-political and psychologically uncomfortable, but they have to offer portraits and narratives of our societies: being an anarchist doesn't mean to be alien to the world, probably exactly the contrary. Ravenna has been as anarchist as much as republican city overtime.
RP: Being experienced explorer of comics scenes abroad, can you recommend us some interesting names in the world of comics in the Arab world?
By drawings we are able to meet lots of artists and people, especially brothers that realize similar works. I may suggest Magy el Shafee and Ganzeer, from Egypt, Barrack Rima and Mazen Kerbay from Lebanon, and Carlos Latuff, from Brazil, that depicts the Middle Eastern situation in a very effective manner.
RP: Besides Political Comics, you are currently active in few more projects /for example GUIDA/, can you tell us a bit about their content, concept, and the way of your involvement?
Yes, among years I've realized the books “Julian Assange from hacker ethics to Wikileaks” and “Dinner with Gramsci” for the publisher BeccoGiallo. With Mirada Association, in 2009, we've established the GIUDA Publication House, to publish cutting-edge experimental works that common italian publication houses are hardly willing to accept.
Get to know more about the works and projects of Gianluca Costantini on following links:http://www.gianlucacostantini.com/giuda-geographical-institute-of-unconventional-drawing-arts/