Video art for No Shade, 2020
Nilópolis, RJ, 1996
Gabriel Massan is a brazilian digital artist who lives in Berlin, Germany. Through digital sculpture, animation, video art and augmented reality, Massan seeks to build narratives that work the relationship of dependence between fictional existences and digital environments, signifying the representations of identity, color and time. Since 2017 they have been presenting their work in art galleries, fairs and festivals.
interview by Igor Furtado, published on 28/01/2021
A Forest, 3D AR Installation Commissioned for Azoomee in partnership with the City of Vienna // MANGUE, 3D sculptures for Open Sesame: A Photophobic Experiment
How was your childhood in Nilópolis and in what ways do the memories of that time dialogue with your work today?
From my first step until 18 I lived in the same house. In fact, it was almost Mesquita, another municipality in Baixada Fluminense. This region can also be called Chatuba de Mesquita. My paternal grandfather was part of the Navy, and he guaranteed a home and higher education for all his children, influenced by my grandmother. I recognize this setting as my structure. The street where I lived was taken by traffic. There were often shootings during military police operations. Within my house, my father's compulsive masculinity sought to interfere and project my personality. I grew up effeminate! At school, I was rejected. During the weekends, I had theater classes. I fantasized about living. At every breath opportunity I created stories and fantasies. I wanted to create everything from scratch. As a teenager, winning a used computer from my aunt made me spend afternoons looking for ways to produce everything that would give me space to say something. I imagined life in all capitals that I memorized the name from the World Map. There was no limit to that will. With each discovery I said goodbye to this invention of myself. In this story, the great engine was my mother, who reached out and propelled me. I believe that my artistic production arises from a conversation about and between these memories. I look at the world and I see it a lot in me. What part of my traumas and happiness is also the world. And how can I interfere and project it.
When did your relationship with softwares start? The limits of the physical world that made you immerse yourself in this virtual path?
My love story with the computer began when I met The Sims. I went almost every day to the lan house, to create a person, a house, a story. Then, when I had one at home, I dived. Within the game, I started to set up studios, record a soap opera, then series, clips, talk shows. Nothing was far away and the more impossible, the more time I dedicated myself to accomplish. By this time, I already mastered Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Premiere and After Effects. Which guaranteed me a video editor internship. With that, I became interested in video art and discovered that I could be an artist and work with technology. During this period, I traveled between Oi Kabum and Parque Lage. At the closing exhibition I presented my first 3D animation, a clip for No Porn. At that point in my life, I found myself as a black queer artist, dealing with leaving home and Matheusa's recent murder. I was very marked by violence and devalued by Rio de Janeiro. Too afraid to live and die. I realized that I, being who I am, have no time to play. Going digital was a haven. I needed to see, think about another time, other laws. Without humanity.
TORMENTA, Video art for “IN/OUT Festival”, 2020
How do you see the contrasts between virtuality, spirituality and nature in the context of acceleration that we experience today?
Spirituality, virtuality and nature are times. Ideas of image and life. My denied spiritual history, due to colonized reasoning inherited from me, meets with my relation of representation and deconstruction of signs in the research that I have been giving shape to. Through virtuality, I create rubble, spheres and social statuses that are marked by the desire to weave unconscious memories. I choose the free exercise of digital sculpture as a means. In other words, to create spaces of existence, revisiting traces of symbols in the memory, such as paintings on the body, on the walls, faces, images of deities, customs, sounds and language, which I can visualize sculpting, collecting. The acceleration, encouraged by the consumption system, shortens the life of my work by "like" or "share". Since the social network is the format by which digital art becomes a product of exchange, based on its quality of validation and viral dissemination.
Has living in Europe transformed your perception of Brasil? Do you feel another relationship with productivity and technological dependence there?
Yes. What is Brasil, really? I believe that I think more about my perception transition than about the territory and the market itself. When I was there, there were no ways to plan my next step. Everything I did was unheard of for me and those who accompanied me. I didn't open doors, I just created them. But this premeditated impossibility followed me like a ghost. In 2019, I had the opportunity to do a residency in Spain. I haven't come back yet. I'm wandering. I believe that here the small and medium markets are not as suppressed as in Brazil, there is investment. This causes new ideas, new ways of producing, to be embraced and addressed to specific niches. Precisely for exporting technology and knowledge. Be the center of the current hegemony. This advantage gives you more ground to explore. And it gives me back the right to think about what I want to be and what I want to do, even though I'm a black, queer and immigrant person.
3D Design for Electronic Beats “Life Forces” article series
What are the biggest challenges of dealing with the different demands of the advertising market and the visual arts? In what ways you still intend to expand your practice?
The time. One requires punctual deliveries, tight briefings and several corrections. The other consumes my thinking, my devotion and my intimacy with myself and my work. Lately they inhabit the same space at the same time, generating some crises. My discomfort is due to the language and the limitations of each system. And in both, the message is corrupted. In the last few months, I have been transposing the screen to other digital tools. My next projects are in augmented/virtual reality. I'm also curious in working with clay. I have already researched some 3D printers that work with this material. In the neighborhood where I live there are some ceramic centers. I believe that if I take this step, it will be into sculpture or painting spaces. Understanding the space as a piece.
Do you usually get inspired by the work of other artists? How have your recent collaborations transformed your perceptions and knowledge?
Yes, all the time. I really like to observe the technique and the execution time. I love to know about the processes and daily life of each artist that crosses me. Whenever that interest is mutual it sounds like a fantasy. Recently, I have been making invitations to people I admire and also noticing a great opening. I am interested in artists who have other practices besides 3D. I observe many illustrators, jewelers, writers, designers and video artists, all of whom present me with paths that influence the choices in my own work. Collaborating is listening to the other's interpretation and talking about our concerns and joys. I also understand the processes of great power, where we create not only habitats, but entire ecosystems.
How do you turn off from work? What do you like to do in those moments?
As 80% of my work routine is against a screen, I try to reduce my presence on social networks or in common digital environments. I disconnect. I usually look for friends to chat, new dishes to try. I dance a lot and listen to a lot of music. Much of my free time I also dedicate to movies and books. But on the whole, I prefer leisure, which makes me reflect and notice my own body.
What is your next exhibition?
At this moment, even though Berlin is in lockdown, the exhibition I am part of at Bärenzwinger is already under development. For "Open Sesame: A Photophobic Experiment" I present "Mangue" inside a cage, with a track signed by the Recife artist "Sanni Est". This work in video art and digital print art, narrates my representations of the Mangue scene, restructuring their ways of life and pollution. The space held bears in captivity until a few years ago. In February, I will be part of the online group exhibition "Pyramid Open Show 2021" by the organization "Pyramid" in the United Kingdom. In it I expose "Aferro" videoperformance that I recorded with the help of the cameraman "Daniel Santiso" in 2018 at Deodoro. In that same show, connected to the play, I present an unprecedented work also in video performance.
TENDAL, Video art for TNT, 2020