Traditional ideas about photography are continually being challenged with the incorporation of new tools and methods, including widespread uses of appropriation and performance, paving the way for radical changes in how we conceive of this art form. Christto & Andrew are part of an artistic movement bent on toppling long held stodgy structures. After receiving international acclaim through their inclusion in Foam Magazine, “Talent” Issue in 2014, Christto & Andrew have continued to evolve this vision. Their practice employs an evocative contemporary narrative that is fresh and exciting, with compositions that dabble in sarcasm and the fantastic presenting an alternative viewpoint on recent developments in the Gulf, defying any attempts by the mainstream to pigeonhole them, or their reflections on the region.
Giangiacomo Cirla: It’s almost the end of the year and it’s that time of the year to look back and draw conclusions, how was your year, passing through the New Discovery Award of Les Rencontres de la Photographie Festival in Arles and your ongoing exhibition at Metronom?
Christto & Andrew: This year been particularly good as mentioned we have had the opportunity to exhibit in Arles. Metronom Gallery made the proposition to apply with our new body of work. Our new body of work is a project that is still under development as we feel that the theme that we are working with needs deeper research and continues to bring up new ideas. Encrypted Purgatory which is currently on show in Modena, Italy, presents the project with a totally different presentation in terms of materials but keeping the same essence of our previous work.
GC: Your work offers a unique aesthetic, result of a continuous challenge process of traditional ideas about photography, a kind of work that requires constant research and an attitude to perceive contemporaneity. What influences your work and what are your main references?
C&A: It might seem a little cliche however we would like to think of influence as an integral part of our work and that this could be anything, including our current day fictions and realities and other contemporary situations of our generation.
Many times it’s not only outer influence that inspires our work but also perhaps doubts or questions we may have about the world we live in. Questioning and investigating historical moments also forms an important part of our working process. Our concerns then later form a concentrated approach to resolve these concerns by trying to construct narratives and aims at creating a portrait of our day to day experiences. This portrait, however, is in constant change so it inevitably leads us to the deconstruction and construction of time and we tend to relate to it.
We also try to define and redefine realities and what it means.
GC: You are part of that group of artists who are reasoning and experimenting on new strategies and possibilities offered by exhibition methodologies. What are your thoughts on that?
C&A: We, as artists, feel that experimentation is very important as it becomes a part of how you develop and create your own specific language and identity as an artist. We also think that it is vital to do so in order to challenge not only exhibition methodologies but also the adaptability of your work. We like to try out new exhibition methodologies as we feel that it can add so much more to your work than just the work itself. We also feel especially in the world of photography that these traditional methodologies need to be pushed and new ones created.
GC: Your Unique approach and aesthetics were already evident with your series The Politics of Sports (2016) and now, with your new series called “Encrypted Purgatory” we can find more details about your idea of Photography and visual communication. Can you tell me more about your new project?
C&A: The ‘Politics of Sport’ which was exhibited as part of the 2016 Unseen Photo Festival was a perfect opportunity to experiment with Photography and offered us a platform to exhibit our work in a totally non-traditional way. ‘Encrypted Purgatory’ forms our most complicated and perhaps hard to understand body of work to date, however, at the same time presents a cumulative proposal of who we are as artists. It proposes a complex set of themes and topics that are extracted and layered onto one another. In this project, we have carefully investigated numerous topics.
GC: The association between the aesthetics you propose and a futuristic temporal collocation increases my feeling of being in front of something new…
C&A: Through our work and research the idea of the future and technology has been increasing Maybe there is as encoded narrative. However, we want to try on each project a new way to think about our aesthetic and how to improve the work we have been doing. We are looking for challenges that put us in a different situation, as artists we have been working on photography but we don’t want to always stay there, we like to try different mediums and way.
Our previous work was in 2015 Glory of the artifice, after that we worked in the Unseen campaign for 2016 and The Politics Of Sport the same year, and other small projects but was a year that was really busy for us and a lot of challenges, sometimes you have to produce fast and sometimes you have things in mind that comes out in a different way, so in your next project you try to improve.
GC: Through the creation of this imaginary future you have been confronted with themes like extended physical life, immortality mutation and Transhumanism. The analysis of the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations lead us to the thought of posthuman future. What’s your opinion after working on Encrypted Purgatory?
C&A: Encrypted Purgatory it’s an exploration of different ideas but all of them have something in common such as the idea of being human and what life is. Each artwork presents a different scenario in an encrypted way, using ideas of science fiction. According to Yuval Harari, science fiction has become one of the most important references of our times, a potential way to predict our future. At the same time, it explores Ray Kurzweil’s ideas about singularity and predictions.
It’s difficult to have a clear opinion of something that could be good but at the same time will change the world as we know it. We think it’s exciting to see how things will change and stay open for what might come, there many things that have to change in the system we are living.
GC: Hows is your relationship with digital technologies?
C&A: It is a hate-love relationship. Inevitably it is what we use to create our work so we have to have respect for digital technologies. The impact on societies is rather what concerns us. Not in a negative way but we find it interesting to analyze these societal changes than their impact on us. This is very evident in the way we have been to entrust fictions. With the rise of crypto-societies, we see a sort of separation and the creation of a new relationship with digital technologies. In a way, it is the creation of something completely new and the destruction of society as we know it today.
GC: Another aspect of which I want to talk with you is your choice of colors and tones, where they came from and how much work is involved?
C&A: Color choice to us is very important not only in terms of meaning and psychology but it we think of colors way of adding meaning and coding within the construction of an image. The colours in our work often but not always contain messages and are in a way extracted by the various aspects that influence our work. It is also, of course, important to us from an aesthetics point of view in order to create a sense of balance a tone throughout the entire body of work we happen to be working on.
GC: You work in Doha with East Wing Gallery which offers a top-level exhibition program and a constant dialogue with the international system but, other than that, how is the artistic situation in Qatar and what role does photography play?
C&A: There is a big interest in photography here in Doha even though it is still something unusual as form of art but East Wing as a gallery has been trying to support and promote young artists from Doha as well internationally. Here in Doha when we started working there was not much for young artists but since 2015 it’s been changing and the general interest in art and photography has been growing rapidly. Qatar Museums as an institution it is playing a big role in the country trying to educate and develop the art scene.
GC: What’s it like working as a photography duo in a place of which you are not originally from?
C&A: The idea of a duo in photography is still very new or unusual here. There is a lot of people that does not understand how two artists can work together, there is always the question of who takes the images or who does what. For us it is a shared creative process where we both take decisions about the artwork. There are also challenges such as understanding the culture, and understanding that you will always be seen as an outsider here, but as a duo and expats, we are exploring our own experiences and circumstances here.
GC: And now, how it’s going in Italy, how is your collaboration with Metronom going?
C&A: We never expected our work to be received so well in Italy as it is doing at the moment. With our project being exhibited now in Modena we were quite surprised by the reaction, especially at the opening night. We started collaborating with Metronom when we exhibited at the Vogue Photo Festival and our collaboration has been growing since then, it has been an ongoing growing process. We were especially grateful for the collaboration during the Arles this year and we are also excited to see what may come of our collaborations in the future.
GC: In this regard, what projects do you have for the future?
At the moment our focus is to see how we can develop Encrypted Purgatory’ as we feel that as a body of work it is not complete. We are also planning to exhibit in some art fairs in the United States and we will be having a solo show with our Spanish Gallery Espai Tactel in Valencia. We will also be participating in ARCO 2019.
Christto & Andrew formed their artistic union in 2012. In that time, they have worked across photography, mixed media and film. Since the inception of their collaboration they have exhibited at Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, (2015) Unseen Photo Fair and Festival, Amsterdam (2016) NRW Forum, Düsseldorf (2016). Museu Nogueira da Silva, Braga – Portugal (2016) Museum Hilversum – Hilversum The Netherlands (2017)
The duo was commissioned to create the campaign image of Unseen Photo Fair (2016) and in 2017 they were part of the collaborative meme project #TFWGUCCI commissioned and curated by Alessandro Michele. Recently in 2018 they got shortlisted for the New Discovery Award of Les Rencontres de la Photographie Festival in Arles.
Christto Sanz ( Christian Manuel Sánchez Díaz 1985) and Andrew Weir ( Andrew Jay Weir 1987) are currently living and working between Doha, Qatar, and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Christto Sanz ( was born in San Juan Puerto Rico in 1985) received a BA from the Escuela De Artes Plásticas in San Juan Puerto Rico before completing his Master in Visual Communication and photography from Elisava, Barcelona Spain.
Andrew Weir (was born in Johannesburg South Africa 1987) holds a BBA from Universitat Ramon Llull, Spain and an MA in Museum & Gallery Practice from University College London – Qatar.