I brought no Italian with me to Rome. At the Brazilian Embassy, I tell the guard that I am to there to see visiting artist Vik Muniz. He speaks no English.
My best mime only warrants a raised eyebrow.
In desperation, I plead, “Parlez francais?” though I do not. A call is placed and I gather that I have been mistaken for a french journalist of great repute. “French” because everyone now speaks to me in french, though my only reply is my customary Gallic shrug. “Journalist of repute” because I was granted the sole private interview with the artist so they assume I must be somebody.
The red carpet is rolled out as a diplomat whisks me upstairs to Vik. Introductions are made, in french, to Vik as he looks at me, baffled, then points and exclaims. “It’s you!” We embrace as I explain how I have been chasing him, that I want to film an interview him for my project on artist’s careers, and how I connived to arrange this meeting. He looks at me as if I am insane. They give us an ornate room to talk in private. Vik helps me set up and, as I struggle with my equipment, he patiently teaches me how to use my tripod. Oh God, I repeat to myself nervously. The Ambassador drops in to say hello. Oh God. A white-gloved man in uniform silently serves us espresso. I am shaking with caffeinated nerves.
But he was the same Vik Muniz he has always been, generous, brilliant, hilarious, insightful, and gorgeous. And in the end, I got an amazing interview.
Crista Cloutier’s interview with Vik Muniz will appear with other artist interviews in a forthcoming compilation. We’ll keep you posted.