Duat: Zola x Saccenti x Cina. v01

Esoteric explorations through the nether world.

May 4, 2021 New SuperRare Artists

1 year ago

Esoteric explorations through the nether world.

In a plane of existence where time is absolute, the potential for anything sparks a deterministic chain of events where any possibility becomes a necessary reality. Under one glass roof is a paradise – under another, a void, as fragile as the frequency of air. Time is a direction and a space. The terrific darkness of this possible world explodes and reaches towards and through this vector, intertwining with the oldest and the newest of space in a thick fabric of black dimensions.Darkness surrounds and invades. Energy is consumed by wanderlust. Bouncing and reflecting off surfaces in the possible universe, a space created with the aesthetic of light.


Can you both give me a short intro to who you are and what you do. 

(Cina) I am an artist and designer located in Minneapolis, MN. I run a boutique agency, Cina Associates. We do branding, design, and custom typefaces for a lot of larger companies. I also have done music packaging, a typeface and design for Ghostly International for more creative work. I picked up painting again 13 years ago and that has been a wonderful journey and has developed into a separate career. A lot of my work revolves around color, texture, form, and scale and I believe each one to be an art form unto themselves. I strive to blur the lines of perception between macro and micro, as well as digital and physical. I enjoy the mystery that art provides and prefer to communicate in the language of abstraction. A large part of my career has been dedicated to experimentation, play and refinement.

(Saccenti) I’m a photographer and director based in New York City. I attempt to advance traditional photography into the modern era, both visually and technology wise. Music is a large inspiration and I am lucky enough to work with amazing contemporary artists, from Flying Lotus to Run the Jewels to Depeche Mode. The subjects skew towards evocative side, with a rich visual component to their work. A heavy focus of my work is the electronic, experimental music world and the boundary pushing ethos of that has been the DNA of my approach. To create these projects we have a production entity “Setta Studio”, with my partner Dina Chang. Setta has a heavy focus on collaborations with new media artists in our clan, mixing digital photography with 3d, design, 3d printing, generative art, analog distortion machines, etc. Our studio is a place where we explore techniques and theories, a “Street Sci-Fi” fashion tinged aesthetic. This collaboration with Mike and Zola is a great example of our creative process.

How did you know each other?

(Cina) I was a big fan of Tim’s work, we ran in similar circles and we had exchanged emails back and forth a few times. We finally met in person when I was showing work at the Art Directors Club in NYC. We have had similar careers. We both work in the commercial world but prefer working in, and for, the arts. I believe we both got into the music world around the same time. We always laugh about it bc it was a ghost town by then. Tim has photographed almost everyone since then. He’s the brightest spot in the “creative” photography world. 

When I was in NYC, I would hit him up. Tim’s always been a great guy, and through NFT’s, we have been talking a lot more. We totally understand each other. We are both Sicilian, we have that same drive for perfection and to develop our craft. In 2016 Tim hit me up to do a music packaging project. I had just done a solo show where I was manipulating photography and he had recently done some photography of Kelela and Zola Jesus. We talked about collaborating so Tim told me his ideas for this work. I took Tim’s photography and built a graphic world around them. 

(Saccenti) Mike and I knew of one another from our work for record labels Ghostly international and Warp, both being benchmarks of electronic experimental music and the visual artworks associated with them. Pre-social media this was quite a small world, and I think we were mutual admirers. Mike’s design work was always an inspiration, I even had framed posters of his work in our studio long before we met. Meeting a designer of this type of work, bold, graphic, serious art, can be intimidating, but we got along like a house on fire, both having a twisted sense of dry humour and obsession for obscure design and art. Of course I had always wanted to create something with him, and our worlds intertwined during a Ghostly International art show we were both presenting in at the Art Directors Clubs in NYC.

The work is very iconic. Tell me a little about the process. 

(Cina) When I starting working on this job, I knew I wanted to exaggerate the mythical aspect that Tim had created. I needed to keep the focus on Zola and also give her a powerful presence. I sketched out some ideas and started creating this world around her. From there I started doing physical paintings and creating elements to bring into the environment. I wanted it to feel raw and unpolished for whatever reason. It was a captivating journey and I got lost in making this work. In the end I think we had around 15 images and these are three of them. Maybe more will come in the future. 

It required a lot of humility and trust for Tim to give me his work to manipulate. It’s somewhat impossible to know each other’s expectations on a project like this. I feel like I did just the right amount on this so it kept Tim’s spirit but also elevated it to another level. We both share a love for boldness and restrained communication. I believe collaboration is a powerful tool among artists to create something larger than themselves. It’s something the fine arts community has not valued but I think it will thrive with NFT’s. It was truly amazing to work on something with him. 

(Tim) After our IRL experience at the Art Directors Club show we became focused on making something together. This, like almost all successful collaborations, was self-initiated and produced. Once Mike had returned home I fed him images I felt would work for the new style he was creating in, a kind of painterly, textured, nearly liquid light technique.. Being self assigned with no timeline was liberating, both of us accustomed to the extremely truncated music world deadlines. We began by incorporating some of my more futuristic portrait work with the various textural techniques Mike was developing at the time. A compelling direction formed, a stark contrast of his organic, loose style with my severe, stark imagery. With each set of images I passed to Mike, we would work out more evolved ways to shoot the base photography, each technique amplifying and developing with each exchange.

Zola Jesus is rare is a rare mix of an otherworldly artist with classical musician heritage, but with a dark twist. She seems transported from another dimension. We wanted to tap in her presence as a performer but world-build the landscape of her world of sound in an abstract manner. For this series, photographically, ZJ and I wanted to capture moments in time, frozen baroque studies of Nikka in cyclorama environment. Fusing a futuristic yet classic approach, we mixed avant-garde fashion with evocative poses in my New York photography studio. A near monochromatic study in minimalism and light, ZJs alabaster skin glowed in the darkness, emphasising shadow, shape and mystery. During the session we used music and movement to channel an emotional, seance like atmosphere. The chiaroscuro lighting and Renaissance painting influence was meant to evokes a neoclassical timelessness, but with contrast from the modern fashion and high technology digital capture. This contrast, and controlled palette, was designed to be symbiotic with Mikes transformational process. The simple lines and emphasis on the face and shape allow Mikes complex organic style add a depth and immersion to the image, but the composition is still firmly a portrait.

Mike Cina is the ultimate collaborator for someone like me. He has a near synesthesia-like approach to design, seeing the sound… using a truly evocative, textural language. When he transforms the photos it’s a kind of alchemical magic, I have no real idea where it will end up, and that is extremely compelling. With the dramatic and rich style I shoot in it’s a perfect elevation of each others vision.

Was this for for a client or how did it all come about?

(Tim) This project came about organically, as the best projects do. The key is starting, the hard part is knowing when it’s complete.

(Cina) Tim shot this on his own time and in the spirit of collaboration with Zola. Then it passed once more to me in that very spirit. Tim was very open to any ideas and directions but also laid out the vision. I feel like that is the best way to truly collaborate. I would love to work with him again on something. I think there is an opportunity for artists to work together and build small alliances where they can benefit each other, much like the corporate world does. NFT’s allow for this world to be built, we’ve only just begun.

Paintings by Michael Cina



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