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A Conversation with Francesco Jodice1

Muriel Adrien et Francesco Jodice

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Muriel Adrien remercie la Galerie du Château d’eau pour son aimable autorisation d’utiliser les images.

  • 1 This conversation was held in April 2023 in the context of Francesco Jodice’s exhibition entitled W (...)

1Francesco Jodice lives and works in Milan. His WEST project is part of a larger body of work exploring the impact of human activity on a region's landscape, and how that in turn affects communities. He has developed an anthropological approach to urban phenomena and he considers the practice of art as a civil poetics, making his work a form of a political activism.

2The WEST project was completed in 2022. It speaks to the rise and fall of what he calls the Western empire, a rise and fall which, according to him, spans the long 20th century, from the beginning of the gold rush (1874, Fig. 1) to the financial crisis of 2008 (Fig. 2). He focuses mainly on the visual culture that the United States has generated and disseminated throughout the world, and interrogates this visual culture, its prevalence and impact. He looks at how the forces of this empire have shaped the landscape, notably the American West, from the deserts to the Pacific coast, and consequently, the traces of the collapse of the American empire.

Fig. 1. Francesco Jodice, WEST, San Francisco, California, #008, 2014

Fig. 2. Francesco Jodice, WEST, New York, New York, #016, 2014

Muriel Adrien: How does this project fit into your background and personal projects? How did you come about it?

Francesco Jodice: I have always been obsessed, as an artist, by the question: “where are we now, anyway?” I have the compulsive need to understand the age I’m living, the need to be “contemporary.” Most of my projects are based on this obsession, they talk about the changes in the cultural environment which surrounds us. The WEST research and project is no stranger to this feeling and strategy. In 2008, when Lehman Brothers and the entire financial system collapsed, I felt the need to understand what was left and what was happening to the so-called Western culture and way of living. So, as always, I started my usual methodology which consists in reading anything and everything concerning the topic: fiction and non-fiction books, essays on historical, political, economic and sociological issues, and then movies, TV series, comic books, videogames and art works about the theme. When I think I have somehow “framed” the topics, then, and only then, I give the green light to my journeys in the territories.

On the difference between storytelling and a road trip

M.A.: How did you choose the territory you covered? Why did you choose the West and not the East for example?

F.J.: The West of the United States has always been a pretext, nothing more than an excuse. I wanted to tell a story about the rise and fall of the western culture, about our current condition and where it got us, how we are facing the reasons of our decline, and how beautiful and shining the “short century” was for all of us, whether Americans, Europeans or Australians! I thought that the Gold Rush was a good synecdoche of my story. In 1848 the first golden nugget is found in California, and within twenty years, hundreds of thousands of people move to the West, coming from everywhere: Europe, South and Central America, China, Russia and the Far East. They were all coming to the Far West in search of an immediate, and undeserved wealth, a wealth and richness beyond measure! Well, I thought this was a good story and a perfect metaphor of our contemporary condition and that is why I chose the American West as the place, and that is also why I chose the time comprised between the beginning of the Gold Rush and the collapse of the Lehman to tell the whole story.

M.A.: Can you describe your stays, as well as the difference between your trips—both in terms of what you wanted to find and what you actually found?

F.J.: The WEST project consists of three major trips that took place in 2014, 2017 and 2022 (plus a few early pictures dated 2000). Each trip lasted more or less two months. There’s no difference between them, except for geographical locations. Sara, my girlfriend, and I went “midway” in 2014, south in 2017 and north in 2022; it would have been nearly impossible to do otherwise due to the long distances and to the fact that I am quite slow in the way I work and take my photographs. We explored twelve states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas plus Mexican border locations here and there. There were very few discoveries or epiphanies during our journeys: I knew exactly where I wanted to be, what I wanted to feature, how and at what time of the day and what that picture would mean to me and to the project, and even where it was going to be placed in the whole narrative. I know it sounds dull and lacking mystery, but that is the way my projects, my work is made.

M.A.: Underlying your project is a whole narrative that you build when connecting the pictures. There is a narrative arc, with a beginning, golden times that reach their peak during a certain period that you may want to define, a decline and an end. Of course, it is subjective storytelling—even though it is based on real facts—it is writing one story among many other potential stories.

If I wanted to play the devil’s advocate, I could object many things.

First, the end is not near yet, the US still has power. Its influence is still leading the Western world to a certain extent.

Second, you could also say that even if there is a current downturn or slowdown, the United States has often risen from its ashes, as after the crash of 1920 and the Great Depression, where another Francesco Jodice might have then said: “Ok now, the US has run its course and now is the end of times.” And yet much better times were to come a couple of decades later. No to mention other potential narratives.

Third, the West means the Western world but is also a cardinal point: where is the West, where does it start and where does it end?

How do you respond to all that?

F.J.: Actually I have no good answer to all the topics you are pinpointing. And I guess you’re perfectly right. What I might suggest is that the WEST project is not about the decline of the western culture (I’m not an historian or a political scientist) but rather about our collective unwillingness to confront the reasons for the decline of the West. Also, as I said, it’s about when we started to confuse human and economic values, to overlap them and finally to definitely substitute the ancient Latin “valor” (which meant courage, honor) with the American “value,” it’s actually the same root but semantically there was a shift of significance somewhere in time. The other thing I could add is that WEST is also a ceremony, at the twilight of a great empire, there’s always a celebration, an elegy and maybe a fantastic orgy. Well, I wanted to celebrate all the beauty and the darkness of the Short Century, as it was named by Eric Hobsbawm.

M.A.: A road trip is often a picaresque journey, with a succession of anecdotal events, and is not often a clearly-shaped narrative. Yet the discourse behind your journeys is not paratactic, meaning it’s not just a mere juxtaposition of facts; as we said earlier on, the gist of your project is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. You hit the road to shape a narrative of the American story. Did you find it difficult to combine the very deliberate narrative you had in mind with the degree of unexpectedness that goes along with any road trip? And did you allow a certain amount of spontaneity and unpredictability? Furthermore, in your very premeditated pictures, isn't there a risk of reinforcing a confirmation bias?

F.J.: It’s not an easy question to answer. The project popped up in my mind in October 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed, it took me six years to start it and since then it has changed its title many, many times (i.e. At the end of the world; Sunset Boulevard; After the West; and finally WEST). Also, during the project I also made three films on the same topic and meanwhile I think I have been reading 100 or so books and essays. Which means I felt very confused and confident at the same time. Journeys are always unpredictable and between two “site specifics” which were clinically planned from home, things and events happened: things and events which were immediately investigated and eventually included in the project, but these were rare conditions, I knew what kind of story I was trying to tell; we could say that the whole process was more similar to a movie script rather than a documentary on the road.

  • 2 The precise quote reads: “This is a story about photography and the American West, a new medium and (...)

M.A.: In the exhibit, more so even than in the catalogue, the map is given pride of place. And the text is in English. Your trip is somewhat reminiscent of the survey undertaken by the historical cartographers of the American West, Lewis and Clark. Slightly after, photographs took on a documentary role for engineers and topographers, and they also chronicled ventures to the American West, shaping a whole set of myths around the Frontier and Native Americans, giving substance to a territory. You quote Martha Sandweiss: “photography and the West came of age together.”2 Is there a similar purpose behind the big size of the map, or another reason for it?

F.J.: Mapping has always been part of my artist practice. I graduated in architecture and urban planning so I’m used to rely on maps. Moreover, if you consider that the project spans twelve states and lasts for eight years, then you can understand that I needed a map that would allow me to supervise what I was doing. About Martha Sandweiss’s quote: when I first read this concept of her I truly felt comforted because, with lesser words, I had come to the same conclusion. The discovering and conquest of the American West through the theosophy of the Manifest Destiny happened exactly at the same time of the birth and technological evolution of photography. But what is even more interesting is that, despite the fact that, in the beginning, photography was thought of and used as a documentary device, in the American West it was used to build a fake mythology to be overlapped to the real history of the place in order to nurture the “Birth of a nation”, so to speak. I was fascinated by this use and abuse of the medium and I wanted to act accordingly, inserting myself, so to speak, into that groove and that tradition. That is why some of the photographs look like postcards of a mythological and ideological way to look at the American West (Fig. 3).

Fig.3. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Monument Valley, Colorado, #001, 2014

Anticipatory archival work

M.A.: Atlas is a privileged mythological figure for you: it is central to one of your videos associated to the project. And you like building atlases of the country on the other side of the Atlantic. Your pictures don’t exist isolatedly, they exist cumulatively, since your approach is a little bit one of anticipatory archival work. You anticipate people doing research on the time period you are covering, which you already see as times past, as relegated in some bygone era; and you want to give them material from this heritage, and accumulate future evidence from which to build their own narrative. You collect and compile the visual legacy of a time period, as testimony for future researchers. You salvage memories, and you record their loss as well. Am I right?

F.J.: I guess that is how my mind elaborates ideas. I have a constant need to try and understand cultural environments, whether they’re contemporary or past. In my methodology, I try to access to all the possible knowledge and then I build my own constellation of relations between these notions. I try to give an order to this dust of knowledge, a reason to this multitude of facts, legends, hypotheses, theories. In the end all this cultural debris tends to form a coherent mosaic in my mind, a complex image I could say. The photographs are nothing more or less than the transposition of this complex image. And yes, they are a-plenty. I don’t believe in single photographs, I find them rhetorical and somehow arrogant. I believe a multitude and sophisticated storytelling suits me better.

M.A. Let’s turn to some of your leitmotivs. Your pictures often have more or less direct references to astronauts or astronomy. Sometimes they are direct representations of astronauts, sometimes the references are more allusive, for instance, just parts of outfits — helmets that are reminiscent of astronomy. One example is the man looking for metal in the sand, surveying the land, probing its shallow depths. Is it because you have chosen to show America as some ex-virgin land or otherworldly planet?

F.J.: There is a geological relation between the very nature of the deserts of the American West and the mineral richness they have been hiding for ages. Gold, silver, copper and oil are there because of the geological history of the West. And that is why this amazing diaspora of prospectors came from everywhere to the West starting with the discovery of the first golden nugget in Sutter’s mill (California) in 1848. I have the impression that the recent renaissance of the space program and the future conquest of space can be read precisely from this perspective. A new form of exploitation of the land and of the hidden riches in the various planets of the solar system. And that is why you have both gold diggers and astronauts: the gold rush never ends, it simply stopped going west and began to go up.

Fig. 4. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Nelson, Nevada, #018, 2017

M.A. In the middle of a desert or vast expanse of land (often Nevada), your pictures frequently include an incongruous peculiar object — a machine or another man-made device that does not seem to belong and which has landed there (Fig. 4). This device is damaged, defective, out of service or obsolete, and clashes with its surroundings. Can you explain the reason here?

F.J.: If there is a place that justifies the expression "land of opportunity," this place is precisely the immense desert plateau of the American West. My impression is that the vast system of American deserts was also an ideal territory for attempting social, economic, religious experiments and if these experiments then failed (and they invariably failed!), then the desert was the natural place to abandon them. The American deserts are a wonderful open-air dump of the most amazing collection of cultural inventions of the second half of the twentieth century. This goes for the almost deserted ideal city of Arcosanti in Arizona, for the abandoned set of a Paramount film in the Nevada desert or for the first failed US nuclear reactor built in a desert in Idaho. We could say that these deserts hide and preserve the archeological memory of a failed alternative and dystopian history of our culture.

Fig.5. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Rushmore, South Dakota, #037, 2022

Pictures of pictures

M.A.: Here is another deliberately provocative question. You borrow vintage pictures, whether in some of your photographs (Mount Rushmore in South Dakota [Fig. 5] or Monument Valley…) or in your videos, for example in Rivoluzioni with the montage of black and white silent movies and of amateur family videos from the 70s as well as TV excerpts of the 70s with all the clichés of this time period (commercials for Barbie doll, for Wrigley’s chewing gum, etc.). What’s the purpose of replicating former pictures? Why overplay the clichés of the American dream that is sold to foreign powers? Isn't that playing their game?

F.J.: Visual cultures and the over production of images, still or moving, analog or digital, real or fake, has been a phenomenal event since the end of WWII. Since the birth of Life magazine until the recent diffusion of AI from the likes as Midjourney or Dalle E and through the rise of Instagram and Tik Tok, images are the only language which is practiced worldwide. In 2023, 4.7 billion images and photos are produced every single day. It’s scary and amazing at once. This also means that I, as a visual and conceptual artist, must be aware, that the images, all the conceivable images, already exist, somewhere in a book, a videogame, a TV Series or a Cloud. The image is there, there’s no need to take them anymore, we only need to bend the meaning to our purposes. And this even more true with historical photographs of American culture which were so often created to overlay and distort a “natural significance.” That’s what I do in WEST, I mix up and confuse photographs I took with images I borrowed, thus trying furthermore to implant a sense of doubt in the spectator. I always aim to make the viewer suspicious, I think the best thing a spectator might do watching my works is asking themselves: “what am I looking at?”

Fig. 6. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Picacho Butte, Arizona, #013, 2014

M.A.: Sometimes these pictures are of scenery within another scenery as backdrop (p. 54), pictures of landscapes on top of a background that either contrasts with it or that seems seamlessly related. The embedded picture looks as if it were wallpaper, some kind of make-believe cover-up (Fig. 6). What meaning do you want to convey in such pictures?

F.J.: Exactly what I just wrote, I want to instill doubts. I want the spectator not to trust the photographs, and more so: not to trust the surface of the “storytelling,” whatever way it’s told, whoever is speaking.

Fig. 7. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Los Angeles, California, #009, 2014

Pictures replete with text

M.A.: Your pictures are replete with text—signposts, information panels (pp. 10, 11, 22), graffiti on the wall (p. 50), the homeless with a sign “You want to give me a dollar” (Fig. 7, p. 81). In the B.&W. silent movies, the text is also obviously very present.

There is a discrepancy between, on the one hand, the huge map and your pictures filled with text (and at the end of your catalogue, old memorabilia, news clippings, books, a whole set of textual museum-like archival material) and on the other hand, in the exhibit, the absence of labels, of references to places and dates, of explanations, apart from at the very beginning of the room.

Do you want to comment on that choice and on the fact there is so much text in your work, which in itself is also a whole discourse?

F.J.: In most cases, the texts or writings that appear in the photographs contradict what we actually see. What I try to suggest as a visual artist is that if we can't trust the images, we can't trust the words either, or the relationships that these two languages mutually trigger. I think that photography, like all contemporary art, should be an unfinished discussion, an interrupted dialectic, photography is just another form of participatory art, and the role of the spectator is to complete the research and the meanings left open.

M.A.: Why are the texts in English in the exhibit, not in French? To stick to the American language in an exhibit on the American West? Or for practicality’s sake?

F.J.: I’d skip this or say: the exhibition is not meant for a French audience, it is meant for people. I will do the same when it comes to Italy.

Mixed feelings

M.A.: Your pictures exude mixed feelings. By the mere fact of having taken those pictures, the viewer can sense a certain fascination and nostalgia for the power and excess of the “Western empire.” Conversely, we can very much feel disgust and rejection both for the tackiness of the culture represented and for the fact it was so overbearing. One can easily wince and cringe at the scene taken because its enchantment is obviously delusory, and even dystopic. As in the atomic bombing in one of the videos, these beautiful flowery explosions are also nightmarish prospects.

Feelings of wonder and enthrallment transpire in your pictures, but mostly they are gruesome and dismal. Your work is an ode and a tribute… “an act of love and gratitude”, but also an “indictment of the pervasive violence of an American excessive (visual) power” (Jodice in Scotini 420).

Likewise, in your videos, there is a melancholic tone that oscillates between the nostalgic dimension of childhood memories and happy times gone by, and a more desperate note on the flight of time and the end of times: “It is not the end of the world but you can see it from here.”

What is the predominant feeling?

F.J.: I don't know what to add, you have perfectly expressed the complex of mixed feelings I feel towards American and Western culture in general. A sense of wonder and horror and nostalgia mixing and (un)balancing. WEST is a project that talks about the rise and fall of the Western century, investigating its nature in its lights and in its darkest folds. But if we are really in the vicinity of a passing of the baton towards another culture and civilization, then it is also time to experience a deep feeling of yearning nostalgia for all that the “Short Century” has represented. I don’t know if we’re close to this rite of passage but in this case, I think we should enjoy the sunset. A great dystopian videogame from 2001 claimed: “It is not the end of the world… But you can see it from here.”

M.A.: In one of your videos, there is also a quote about whether we are in a rental car or whether it is privately owned. Is it a reflection on whether we “own” our lives, in other words, are we living vicariously, are we under influence or are our choices really personal and genuine?

F.J.: This is the final sentence pronounced by David Byrne, the leader of the Talking Heads in his film Road to nowhere: “This is not a rental car, it is privately owned! / I really enjoyed forgetting.” I've always felt empathy for the protagonist's expressed desire to assume the right to state ownership rather than the community of goods. It seems to me a fantastic and terrible homage to liberalism. And I don't think I've ever heard such precise words as those uttered by David Byrne in definitive praise of all that we have represented people of the West: “I really enjoyed forgetting.”

The influence of being an Italian

M.A.: Could it be that, as an Italian, what brought you to want to depict the rise and fall of an Empire and its visual legacy is the memory— which is probably present in every Italian mind— of the Roman Empire, and its rise and fall? Is it fair to say so? Would you find parallels?

F.J.: Maybe. Bob Venturi said Las Vegas was the nostalgic remake of Ancient Rome (Fig 8). Toni Negri and Michael Hardt named their book on the U.S. new world order Imperium. And Tacitus wrote: “They make a desert and call it peace.”

Fig. 8. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Las Vegas, Nevada, #028, 2000

M.A.: Do you use silver or digital photography?

  • 3 A combination of various pictures to create, for example, a panorama.

F.J.: Both, the project started in 2014 (although a few photographs come from a much older trip made in 2000) in 4x5 film negative color sheets using a large format camera. The last journey was completed with a medium format digital camera using a “stitching” technique.3 I don’t care.

M.A.: Concretely, how did you go about the shooting?

FJ.: I think that the most relevant thing to say is that all the photographs were planned months in advance. They were “discovered" reading books or listening to podcast or some other way. They were later placed on a map that was the layout of the journey.

M.A.: Why did you choose such a large format, with a frontal, wide angle shot, an almost panoramic view (Fig. 9)? There seems to be a filmic dimension to your work.

F.J.: I belong to a middle generation. I grew up confusing the culture of great American topographical photography with the film history of the same period. I believe that most artists of my generation, that is, those who were formed in the late 1970s and early 1990s, are victims of this cultural mosaic. In my case, comic books, TV series and video games also had and have an immense influence.

Fig. 9. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Los Angeles, California, #002, 2014

M.A.: In your chromatic palette, there are many subtle shades of white or pale colors (Fig. 10). How do you do it and why are you so drawn to whites? Is it because they are desert-like? Or reminiscent of the blank screen/page/canvas?  Same question with the pink wooden frames.

Fig.10. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Death Valley, California, #026, 2000

F.J.: I make use of a rather basic technique: the color negative is slightly overexposed. This causes the photographs to appear luminescent and overexposed with different tones and shades in the so-called highlights. This is particularly easy for me because in my studio we follow the whole process up to the final print, which is made entirely by us. Overexposing the negative helps me to make figures and objects "float" in the landscape, instilling in the viewer a series of doubts about the credibility or relevance of the shapes included in the image

M.A.: You formerly studied architecture: how does it influence your pictures both in terms of the subjects that you choose and in terms of the way you compose and frame your pictures?

F.J.: My studies in architecture and urban planning helped me understand the nature of space and especially its historical and political significance. Later I read as much as I could in the fields of anthropology and urban sociology and tried to mix the two disciplines. In fact, I could say that I am not particularly interested in either the human landscape or the urban landscape, but rather in the system of relationships between the two and their mutual ability to influence each other. In the past I have been considered an artist working on the new large forms of megapolitanism, But I think it is more correct to say that I investigate the signs of anthropization in the places we choose to inhabit. The WEST project is no exception. 

M.A.: Despite the formal consistency, the balanced, symmetrical pictures, with a strict and clean lay-out and smooth lighting, the viewers are “thrust into disorientation” (your quote) and lose their bearings. Do you want to comment?

F.J.: Mine are two-dimensional, superficial, frontal photographs in the sense that the viewer is accompanied to the scene and put in front of it with an almost childlike formal clarity. But then I decide to leave the viewer in front of this limpid, simple and clear scene without conceding any further clues. My hope is that the audience will get lost in this illusory simplicity and feel stimulated to complete the search for the missing clues. This, too, for me is a way of making photography less static and more like a participatory art.

Fig. 11. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Tombstone, Arizona, #041, 2022

M.A.: There is something very rigid, still, motionless, fixed, stable, immobile in your pictures. Therefore, the narrative dimension almost seems absent from the pictures, despite the well-thought-out narrative of the whole. But taken isolatedly, the pictures seem static, even in the scene with the gunshot and the cowboy swinging backwards in an unsteady movement: there is no motion blur, and almost no dynamic twist (Fig. 11). The picture is so motionless the characters hardly seem alive, more so reified or objectified, frozen into relics of the past. Is that what you wanted to achieve?

F.J.: There is an immense and powerful tradition of reportage or street photography and France is probably the country that holds the richest history regarding this particular culture of photography. I think of authors such as Brassaï, Lartigue, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Depardon, Plossu and many others. I have never been comfortable with this part of the history of photography, I have always feared that it instilled a certain romantic idea of the medium, disqualifying its ability to weave more complex and less immediate plots. I think I am closer to a part of German, American, Japanese and Italian photography which has attempted to combine a dialectic that is partly scientific and partly poetic. I am not a flaneur, I do not believe in the power of an impromptu pilgrimage with a camera around my neck in search of an insight or a sudden epiphany. Rather, I believe that my photographs can more easily be likened to paintings or conceptual artworks or perhaps visual essays. 

M.A.: There are more pictures in the catalogue than in the exhibit and you planned showing even more initially. How did you pare down the whole thing?

F.J.: Oh, it was simply a nightmare! The project includes four different trips starting in 2000, in total about eight months of travel, 75,000 km traveled, at least 250 large metropolises and small villages visited. I knew it would be complex despite the excellent work done with curators Francesco Zanot and Matteo Balduzzi. The result is frustrating for me but we knew it would be so. I hope someday to publish a comprehensive volume that includes at least 70 photographs and that succeeds in giving evidence of the different areas of research that I investigated.

M.A.: On your map, the North-South axis seems shortened, while the East-West direction seems inflated or extended. Why is that?

FJ.: It is just a problem of representation in the exhibition and catalog spaces. But on the other hand, in my work, maps are always ideal and conceptual, so it matters little if they did not respect the planisphere.

M.A.: Who are your references? Do you consider your pictures to be indebted to or influenced by a certain photographic tradition?

F.J.: I think I have been influenced by the work of photographic artists such as Lewis Baltz, Andreas Gursky, Larry Sultan, Luigi Ghirri, William Eggleston, Naoyah Hatakeyama and others. But I think my most significant influences come from other areas such as the comic books of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the films of John Carpenter and Michael Mann or the novels of James Ellroy and Philip Roth, the theories of thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Paul Virilio, the work of artists such as Alfredo Jaar and Santiago Sierra, and finally the video games of Japanese author Hideo Kojima.

M.A.: Your pictures are quite politicized: they criticize capitalism. What do you believe is the artist’s role when it comes to politics?

F.J.: A work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci consists of a large neon sign that reads "All art has been Contemporary.” To this thought I believe two other statements should always be added: all art has been conceptual and all art has been political.

M.A.: Does your work feel familiar to younger generations? Do you think generation Z (or alpha as a matter of fact) can relate to it? Now there are other frontiers: AI, the cyberworlds, environmental concerns…

FJ.: I don't think so.

M.A.: Do you think your pictures are already outdated or already history?

F.J.: I think so.

M.A.: In other words, has the project of researching the past you are trying to salvage and preserve already begun?

F.J.: I don't want to save anything. Memory and archives are a mess anyway. I have no idea what should be done with my works in the near future. I don’t believe anymore in the capacity of art as a political subject, a tool capable to perform society.

M.A.: Have you exhibited in the States? Do you think Americans would see their country the same way? How do Americans respond to your pictures?

F.J.: No, this project is very recent and the one in Toulouse is its first exhibition. In any case, I don't think it can be exhibited or published in the United States because I have the impression that in general, the Americans are unaccustomed and unwilling towards the idea of inviting foreign artists to read and interpret their history. I think it is a tradition and a right of the great colonial empires: to impose their cultural model wherever possible and not to grant anyone the right or the rank of readers and judges of their history.

M.A.: What’s next for you?

F.J.: I want to take a photograph of the pyramids although I honestly cannot explain why yet.

M.A.: Maybe because it’s a man-made device out of use in the middle of a desert?

Fig. 12. Francesco Jodice, West, Buford, Wyoming, #043, 2022

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HARDT, Michael, and Antonio NEGRI. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

HOBSBAWM E. J. Age of Extremes. The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991. Michael Joseph: Viking Penguin, 1994.

JODICE, Francesco. After the West. Toulouse: Galerie du Château d’eau/lamaindonne, 2023.

SANDWEISS, Martha A. Print the Legend. Photography and the American West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

SCOTINI, Marco (dir.). Francesco Jodice: The Complete Works. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2022.

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1 This conversation was held in April 2023 in the context of Francesco Jodice’s exhibition entitled WEST, curated by Matteo Balduzzi, at the Galerie du Château d'eau in Toulouse (March 1-April 1, 2023): .

WEST was granted the support of the Italian Ministry of Culture and was selected as one of the laureates of the 10th edition of the Italian Council (2021), a program for the international promotion of Italian art of the Department for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture. The exhibition took place thanks to a partnership between the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Milan Cinisello (MUFOCO) and the Gallery Le Château d'eau, in collaboration with the architectural center Arc en rêve of Bordeaux.

A catalog was published on this occasion (Francesco Jodice, After the West. Toulouse, Galerie du Château d'eau, 2023). The page numbers mentioned in the interview are those of the catalog. Francesco Jodice's website can be found here. For more information, contact

2 The precise quote reads: “This is a story about photography and the American West, a new medium and a new place that came of age together in the nineteenth century.” (Sandweiss 2).

3 A combination of various pictures to create, for example, a panorama.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. Francesco Jodice, WEST, San Francisco, California, #008, 2014
Fichier image/jpeg, 292k
Légende Fig. 2. Francesco Jodice, WEST, New York, New York, #016, 2014
Fichier image/jpeg, 486k
Légende Fig.3. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Monument Valley, Colorado, #001, 2014
Fichier image/jpeg, 337k
Légende Fig. 4. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Nelson, Nevada, #018, 2017
Fichier image/jpeg, 362k
Légende Fig.5. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Rushmore, South Dakota, #037, 2022
Fichier image/jpeg, 750k
Légende Fig. 6. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Picacho Butte, Arizona, #013, 2014
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Légende Fig. 7. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Los Angeles, California, #009, 2014
Fichier image/jpeg, 368k
Légende Fig. 8. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Las Vegas, Nevada, #028, 2000
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Légende Fig. 9. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Los Angeles, California, #002, 2014
Fichier image/jpeg, 351k
Légende Fig.10. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Death Valley, California, #026, 2000
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Légende Fig. 11. Francesco Jodice, WEST, Tombstone, Arizona, #041, 2022
Fichier image/jpeg, 605k
Légende Fig. 12. Francesco Jodice, West, Buford, Wyoming, #043, 2022
Fichier image/jpeg, 274k
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Muriel Adrien et Francesco Jodice, « A Conversation with Francesco Jodice »Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2023, consulté le 26 septembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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