THE EPHEMERA SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA PRESENTS:
Mimmo Cozzolino- using Australian ephemera to build a career in art and design.
A profusely illustrated talk from his ephemera archive.
A ZOOM PRESENTATION 7 JUNE 2022, 6-7 PM (Eastern Standard time)
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Meeting ID: 861 1543 8155 Passcode: 146341 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdCvqMhwYv
Soon after graduating as a graphic designer Mimmo Cozzolino started his own design studio with friends, he had met at college. While at college he begun scouring op-shops, vintage bazaars and trash & treasure markets to collect vintage American magazine and anything else he could use as inspiration in his design work.
His first rented house provided an unexpected surprise: three boxes of Edwardian and World War I era postcards left behind in a cupboard by the previous 92-year-old occupant. The cards, and their elegantly calligraphed messages, transported him to another place and time. He was hooked on things ephemeral, even though at this stage he didn’t know the meaning of “ephemera”.
Eventually he joined the Australian Cartophilic Society, not so much as to become a postcard collector, but to understand the culture of collectors. He was bemused as to why no one in the Society was interested in contemporary postcards: just very old ones. He decided to keep an eye out for contemporary postcard, which he found just as relevant.
As well, he realized that postcards were a very economical medium to promote his design studio. In 1977 his studio created the Kevin Pappas Tear Out Postcard Book, a cultural product they sold to Penguin Books Australia. The 28 postcards became a bestseller with sales of over 22,000 books in 6 months. Off the back of this success, the studio was inundated with freelance work and the business thrived.
In 1980 Mimmo co-published, again with Penguin, a book he had been researching in his spare time since 1971. Symbols of Australia, the first visual history of Australian trademarks, was researched using ephemera sifted from public and private archives including from members of many collecting societies which were around well before the Ephemera Society of Australia was founded in 1987. The Victorian Beer Label Collectors Society and the Australian Match Cover Collectors Society were just two such societies. Mimmo realized that, as a generalist, he could never amass the knowledge and resources that members of specialist collecting clubs had accumulated over decades.
In 1987, when English ephemerist Honor Godfrey settled in Melbourne, she invited Mimmo to join an Australian Ephemera Society she was setting up. Mimmo was enthusiastic in his support and together with a core group of collectors ESA got off the ground. Membership growth was steady, and a broad range of collectors joined and were welcomed into sharing their collections on a regular (irregular) basis. The Society has been active for 45 years promoting the cultural value of ephemera even though the collecting landscape has had a seismic shift since the introduction of eBay and other social media channels.
Cozzolino has designed many of the Society’s publications especially since his retirement from full time work. He worked with Mandy Bede, Dr Annette Shiell and others to develop a high quality, colour journal for the Society. Seven issues have been published since 2015 and more are on the way. He says his main challenge as designer and photographer of the Journal is to do visual justice to the members’ collections. “Often they have dedicated decades building up their collections and I want to show it off to the highest standard possible”, he says.
In his fine art practice Mimmo also makes use of ephemeral material to create artwork. In 2003 he was awarded the coveted Leica/CCP Documentary Photography Award for work he created utilizing snapshots he had taken in his teenage years. From his contact with collectors early on in his career Mimmo realized the value of keeping material such as negatives, prints and other ephemera which could be repurposed and recontextualized.
In 2003 Mimmo also exhibited Flush, a series of scanned images of detritus that he pulled out of the River Yarra over a number of years– essentially creating art from rubbish. In 2006 the ABC Collectors program devoted a short segment to this work and in 2011 it was exhibited in The Changing Face of Victoria at the State Library of Victoria.
Currently Cozzolino is recontextualizing cheap, mass-produced painting bought for a few dollars from op-shops over the years. “Eventually this may lead to an exhibition and it’s another example of ephemera to the rescue”, he says. Viva EPHEMERA!