ID magazine February 2003
“I believe in improvisation, change and the unseen,” says Padova-born photographer Manuel Vason who, having worked at Industria Superstudio before moving to London to assist Nick Knight in 1998, now specializes in the close collaborations with performance artists. “‘Collaboration’ is a key word for me ,” explains Vason: “that often means collaborating with artist that are very aware of their image. Their aim is to produce strong visual that will be memorized by the audience. As a photographer, you have to be conscious of it and respected it. Even changing the light of an image could imply changing meaning.”
Conscious that singling out and capturing one ‘moment’ of a performance is anathema to most of the artists, Vason works with each artist to set up specific scenes. In this way, his photos themselves become the performance, rather than a photographic record of what is essentially unrecordable. Vason uses 10 x 8 Polaroid, so each shoot is treated as unique and final. One of his most fruitful working relationship has been with the italian artist Franko B, who brings his tabloid-worring self-mutilation to the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in March as part of their Live Culture programme. Vason produced the book Oh Lover Boy with Franko B as well as Exposures (both Black Dog Publishing)- the latter a collaboration with 19 live performance artists. Vason notes the considerable support he and the artists have received from the Art Council of England – “Performance artists don’t have any sell,” Vason explain, ” because their art is themselves. In that way it’s very pure. So they need grants to survive.” Vason is also working on projects that mix different contents: fashion with theatre, sport with dance (include staging a performance on a tennis court); all of which aim to provoke the unwitting viewer. ” When it happens on the street, your reaction can be very different.” I daresay the tourists who wander into Franko B bleeding across a catwalk on their way to the Tate bookshop will have much the same reaction.