Michael Salu is a man of many talents. Writer, critic, artist, award winner and judge of this year’s 2017 Berlin Writing Prize in collaboration with The Reader Berlin and the Circus. Previously the creative director at Granta Publications in London, he is now firmly settled in Berlin and heads up SALU.io, a multi-disciplinary creative agency. Michael’s fiction, non-fiction, and art have appeared in a range of publications including Tales of Two Cities, Freeman’s Journal, and Catapult.co. He is currently working on a collection of stories and not one, but two film projects… during a brief moment of quiet, we caught up with Michael to ask him a few questions about his work and this year’s contest.
The Circus is offering the winner of the 2017 Berlin Writing Prize a one-month residency in one of our luxury apartments in the heart of the city. As a Berlin writer yourself, what do you feel Berlin has to offer the winner?
I think Berlin as a city offers an interesting intersection between progression and history. Its history can still be heard breathing through its walls and still governs the conduct of the individual. There as aspects of the 1920s that are still prevalent now. It’s also a city that gives one space, to move and to think and to be.
You recently completed a writing residency in Italy at the Lemon Tree House. How did you benefit from it?
It is actually the first residency I’ve been on. I’ve always tended to support my own artistic practice, but I immediately see how and why it is worthwhile. It can be difficult to pause and look at just one thing in our lives, be that writing or even just thinking. The residency gave me room to do this, and not wrapped up in a timed task, but I worked just on my book and nothing else and made a lot of progress as there wasn’t anything else I needed to sift through or respond to.
As someone who creates visual art as well as writes, do you have a favourite Berlin artist?
Probably better not to try and home in on one, but I guess I’m quite lucky to have really talented friends around me across the disciplines from the rarefied contemporary art spaces, right through to music, such as Laurel Halo, Marcel Weber, Ana Rajcevic and many more.
Writing is one of the many strings to your bow. What are the advantages and disadvantages to working in more than one creative discipline?
Right now is a very interesting if not challenging time for me, in that I’m bringing together the different strains to my work to form some cohesion. Even though the writing is a more recent part of my career (publishing work mostly over the last four years or so), the narrative itself has been a consistent spine throughout the various things I do. There’s primarily what I’d refer to as a theoretical framework I develop for myself. A thinking space that allows ideas to be shared across forms, knowing there is a unity. I’m fortunate to have developed a very broad practical skill set over the years as a designer and creative director and I’m also able to collaborate in different ways. Right now my book project (probably shouldn’t call it a novel as its fractured in form), is the core psychogeography for everything else. I’ve been developing the book, ideas have spun out that I’m trying within other forms, such as film/still image. The disadvantage, would also make the advantage, in that it’s difficult to categorise me, and as we well know the cultural sector, usually exists on that categorisation, so maybe I can be less visible. I wouldn’t advise everyone to operate this way but it mostly works for me. Allows me to be evasive and try out new things.
As a judge of this year’s competition, what will you be looking for? For you, what makes a piece of fiction or non-fiction stand out?
Voice is important. In that the voice will take you into that place, or tear, or smile, or feeling. Though voice is also what allows you to revere the form and tradition of both nonfiction and fiction, but to also defy that same tradition. I’d like to be excited by something I see in that respect.
We are really looking forward to the contest and hosting the winner here at the Circus. If this has left you feeling inspired, pick up your pen and start writing – it could be you. You have until July 31st to submit your entry. For more details click here