Stefano Bessoni

Artists - The Life and Times

by Stefano Bessoni

I doodle, write, make movies. I wish I had a deep-sea diver licence and another to drive zeppelins and balloons. I would like to have a crocodile as a pet and would be pleased to give it my bath tub. I can’t drive the car, but I don’t care: there are trams, trains, bikes, and legs, above all.
As a child I dreamed about becoming an undertaker, but I didn’t make it, so after studying zoology and natural sciences for some years, I landed at the Fine Arts Academy and graduated there. Eventually I decided to make movies, since cinema is my favourite medium, even if drawing is still a fundamental part of my daily work.
I’m obsessed with death and I think that photography and cinema can be a way, however fleeting it may be, to overcome it. Stopping instants of our reality by capturing the images means freeze them forever. Besides, for me the camera is almost like a pencil, making me able to manipulate reality and create a new one of my own.
I fell in love with cinema when I saw a movie by Peter Greenaway: Drowning by Numbers. In the same period, I also saw Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders and I understood that my future would be making movies. I don’t see myself as an illustrator, but rather as a “doodler” and when I see the works of other people I often feel inferior. I draw to catch and fix ideas, I like sketching with the pencil, and sometimes also with watercolors, tempera, and acrylics. I always try to work quickly, since I don’t want to be overcome by the vain pursuit of aesthetic effects and by my unbelievable laziness.
What I do with images is somewhat like a Wunderkammer. I’ve always being gathering objects, dried animals, skulls, amazing and wonderful things to keep and display in my personal world museum. I feel attracted by the macabre, the uncanny, the decay, and anything else is sinister and lugubrious. All forms of art charm me and I look everywhere for inspiration. In literature, I love classics like Kafka, Borges, Poe, Schulz, Hoffmann; I adored Carnival Love by Catherine Dunn and The Book of Lies by Agota Kristof. I never get enough of reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pinocchio. I fell in love with the Galgenlieder (Gallows Songs) by Christian Morgenstern, and I’m working on making a movie and a picture book after them.
I like the illustrations by Dusan Kallay, Roland Topor, and Lisbeth Zwerger, as well as the macabre little theatres by Elizabeth McGrath. I’m crazy about the photos of Joel Peter Witkin. I adore the macabre ballads by Nick Cave, and I can spend hours entranced listening to the Balcanic punk of Gogol Bordello, the French folk of Têtes Raides, as well as to Mano Negra, Les Négresses Vertes…
Fairy tales and childhood are two essential elements of my poetics, along with science, and most of all human anatomy, zoology and all the “inaccurate sciences”, or “odd sciences”. I’m charmed by the unreal dimension of fairy tales, where dreams turn into nightmares, the small little man becomes an ogre and the sweet old lady transforms into a witch. I like to work on the initiatory potential of fairy tales: they are like a mirror image of reality, where dangers are told to warn unaware children preparing to face the world (and, why not, grown-ups too). I made many short movies, documentaries and TV shows, as well as some video-theatre, but the works I’m most proud of are the movies I did in the last years: Frammenti di scienze inesatte, Imago Mortis, and Krokodyle.
Krokodyle is my most personal work, since its realisation was totally free from any commercial obligation, so I could put into it all my ideas, drawings, dreams, fears, and obsessions. The title means “crocodiles” in Polish, and it is important to pronounce it as it is written, and not like an English world. Kaspar, the protagonist, is a Polish born film-maker, soaked with magical influences from Eastern Europe, a world dominated by the passion for graphics, images, and daily magic. Not without reason, the greatest cartoon makers and illustrators come from that part of the world: just think of the stop-motion movies by Jan Svankmajer, of the wonderful illustrations for Alice by Dusan Kallay, or the unconventional film posters by Wiktor Sadowski. I wanted to dedicate the title of the movie to crocodiles because since he was a child Kaspar, as well as me, has a deep admiration for these reptiles, which he considers as perfect beings, able to control the flow of time.
Kaspar is my alter ego. The story I tell in Krokodyle is nothing but my daily life, of course set in a fantastic dimension and filled with inventions and characters.