We’re featuring what our Issue 15 guest editors have been up to since the issue was released at Paris Photo in November 2022. Each of our 50 guest editors on the issue selected an image by an artist from our international open call to feature in a spread next to an image of their own in Issue 15. To see their work in the issue order your copy. Our guest editor Pacifico Silano explores print culture, image circulation and questions of LGBT+ identity. His work is composed of repurposed fragments from gay pornographic magazines of the 1970s and 80s – an era connecting the progressive legacies of the sexual revolution with the advent of the devastating HIV/AIDS crisis. We’re catching up with him in the form of a Q&A about his book I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine.
Der Greif: Pacifico, in your book I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine we encounter an exploration of queer melancholy, longing, and joy in the pages of vintage erotica. What inspired your idea for this immersive publication?
Pacifico: I had spent about a decade exploring these themes of loss and longing in relation to the HIV/AIDS crisis. The book came about during a time when people were not able to see art due to the pandemic and many of us were feeling isolated from the world and each other. I wanted to create a publication that could also be an art object when expanded. The idea was to replicate the look, feel, and rhythm of my installations so that the viewer could have this mini-exhibition that expands within their own homes.
Der Greif: The issues around LGBTQ+ identity that your pictures raise are pressing as ever. Can you talk more about these issues and what you hope to spark in your audience?
Pacifico: I was born at the height of the AIDS crisis and lost my uncle due to complications of HIV. After his death, he was erased from my family.
Der Greif: Thank you again for being one of our wonderful 50 guest editors for Issue 15. In the print magazine, you included a photograph from your exhibition If You Gotta Hurt Somebody, Please Hurt Me, which was taking place in New York last summer. Apart from the fact that the image clearly speaks to the submitted work you selected from the Open Call on the theme “Collectivity” - can you elaborate on the parallels between your Issue 15 image spread and the series in I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine?
Pacifico: It’s all about the signifiers of masculinity which have always been present in the background of works like I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine. But now they’re at the forefront of my current work which is an exploration of American identity, desire, and power.
Der Greif: Since Der Greif was founded in 2008, we engage with artistic approaches to photographic archives. The mining of archives is an integral part of your artistic practice. Please let us know more about the beginnings and the development of your archival work.
Pacifico: My entry point into the archive as a medium came out of necessity. In grad school, I wanted to create a project around the death and erasure of my uncle but only had a polaroid of him. It challenged me to expand the ideas I had about loss, longing, and memory. I started to look elsewhere to magazine images of the same time period he was alive and I quickly realized it was a sort of blessing. It allowed me to create something more open-ended for a viewer to enter a world that was less personal and more universal.
Der Greif: Your artist book includes an interview with you by José Diaz, Chief Curator of The Andy Warhol Museum. In the interview, you express that you are really interested in creating different iterations and interpretations of work. Following that statement, how did you experience the selection process for Issue 15, for which you browsed through almost 6,000 submitted images to re-contextualize a single work by pairing it with your own?
Pacifico: It was very similar to the process of new iterations I create in my own art practice. Holding up another artist's work alongside my own was fun in that I was creating all of these alternative narratives from the one I had originally set out to tell. That’s the thing about appropriation. It’s so open-ended and allows an image to go in all these unexpected directions. The photograph is a living, breathing thing that never stops evolving.
Der Greif: Last but not least we like to ask our collaborating artists for advice to emerging photographers in our community. What do you think makes someone stand out?
Pacifico: Stick to a vision uniquely your own. Don’t pay attention to trends in the art world because they come and go and age horribly. As long as you are committed to your work and devote yourself to it you will find the right audience. It might take time, longer than you might like but it will happen! I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine by Pacifico Silano is published by Loose Joints.