Naima Morelli

How to prepare three artist interviews in one single day

1

Extreme case: let’s say you are an art journalist doing a reportage in a remote third world country.
You do all the research, you use all the common sense and you even follow some “how to” on the internet.
Even then, you could find yourself in a difficult situation like: I fixed one month in advance an interview with artist Pinco tomorrow. But I just meet artist Pallino and I can interview him only tomorrow, because he leaves the day after tomorrow. A rapid check to your mailbox and… crap! The artist Pollaiolo wants to anticipate his interview…apparently he is free only tomorrow!
So, let’s make the point. We have three interviews to prepare in one single day.
And you wake up late today too!

Don’t cancel an interview. Don’t even think about it.
To cancel an interview is bad. It’s always bad.
I did that just two times and each time a dire calamity had struck me.
The first time my boyfriend threw me out of our house, the second time a crater suddenly opened in the ground devouring my beloved kitten.
So don’t do that. Seriously.

What you can do is forget about the tan today, ignore the heat and the shining sun and sit in front of your computer.
Now all your efforts will be concentrated on doing an accurate research and at the same time get all the work done as fast as possible.
I usually use the following method.

General overview of the artist work on Google images

That would give you a first general impression of the artist’s production. You might have no idea of what his work is about, so this is probably the fastest way to start the research process. Much better than read a long and complex review.

Create a folder and save the images

Save the most interesting pictures that you find in an apposite folder on your computer. This is your first selection. If you have the chance to have a look at it an hour before the actual interview, you are better off.

Go through the links and open a document

The most interesting images will probably have interesting links. Open all the pages and have a quick looks at the text that relates to your images. Save some of these links on a document.
If the artist have a personal website go for it. That would be very helpful for you because you will possibly find the list of the artworks in chronological order.

Words

Now it’s time for the words. Read the content of the links that you saved and skim through everything you get to find about the artist on the internet. Reviews, press release, other interview. Avoid the same questions that other people did in the previous interviews. Save some quotes and some extracts in your document.
From these quotes you can create a list of points to deepen or widen with your questions.
Read his biography and his CV. The life of the artist is often as important as his artworks. It is not unlikely that these two are deeply connected.

Questions

Write down the spontaneous questions that came to your mind looking at the artworks.
Then, it depends how is focus your research. If it’s a life-long interview you can probably follow the phases of his career from the beginning.
If you want to analyze the work of the artist in a particular context, you better start talking of his last exhibition or series of artworks.
In general, refer to at least three of the artist’s artworks, but don’t exaggerate asking her/him about each work of his production. Ask about his studies and his environment.
Probably the artist would be happy to talk about his process of making as well.
If you are doing a reportage focused on a specific art scene try to chat and even gossip with the artist about his colleagues, the galleries, the art environment. Gossip is often enlightening if well done.

Time

Your time can be limited, so don’t overdo with the questions. The ideal time for a thorough interview is 45 minutes. If the artist is very available and you get to do a good conversation, you can easily exceed an hour. Of course if you are interviewing an extra busy artist or a famous one who dislike interviews in general, you have to condense everything in 15 minutes.

Finish the interview

A good last question is to ask the artist about his future projects.
After you write that one down on the paper, you’re done with the first interview.
The sense of relief that you will probably experience is because the majority of the work for the day is already done.
Of course, you have two other interviews to write down. If you have internalized this structure though you will be probably faster. That doesn’t mean that you have to ask always the same questions to all the three artists. You have to customize your questions every time to be sure that they will fit the interviewer.

Take a break and start again

Take a break between the preparation of an interview and another. Have a tea or a coffee.
Walk a bit, but of course, don’t run away from your responsibility for go eating biscuits at your grandmother’s house.
Chat with the photographer that has followed you in this dishevelled adventure in the contemporary art world of that third world country.
Forget about the previous interview that you have just written. Make room for the research and the understanding of the next artist. At the end of the day print the interviews.
To memorize them it’s up to your memory, but remember to always bring your printed questions with you, just to be sure to not forget everything.
The morning after

The morning after I just wake up thinking of my three interview during one single day, but I never panic.
In that very same moment I thank the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome to have me get used to do three exams in one single morning.
What you can do is to think about just one artist at the time. Have a look at your questions and at the folder with the images shortly before the interview.
In the end what you have to do is just bring your recorder of trust along and try to have a nice conversation. Three nice conversations. That’s it.

2