Interview: Manila Wall Art
Luca Curci talks with Manila Wall Art during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, third appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget… another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”, Arundathi Roy.
Manila Wall Art are Aida Vila and Manu Martin. Manu has been painting for more than 30 years, he started as a street artist, translating to the South of Madrid the initial steps of the graffiti movement that were taking place in the US over the eighties. After several years as a graffiti artist, he went to a period of an abstract painter, quite influenced by the Bauhaus culture and style, to end up as a realistic artist. Aida is a lawyer, specialized in human rights and organizational values. She has always been in touch with art, especially through interior design and photography, but never with a public approach until now. In this project of artistic co-creation, Manu and Aida reflect their vision of the world and give visibility to the causes they support. They advocate for a society that prioritizes social interaction forms based on cooperation, solidarity and respect to diversity and their ways of working are, in themselves, an example of it. In this project, Aida is responsible for the conceptual design and contents and Manu is in charge of its technical execution. Manila is nurtured by Aida’s idealism and critical views and Manu’s technical quality. Every project is a cooperative effort and requires to be open to each other’s views and skills to achieve a result that is unique and special and would never be available for any of them without the other.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Manila Wall Art – Manu, graphic artist at Manila Wall Art, is an autodidact artist, he started when he was very young, in the eighties, translating the first developments of the graffiti movement in the US to Madrid. His interest in the hip hop and rap movements brought him to create a rap band and act as a composer and producer in his late twenties/early thirties. So, his artworks at the time were, graphically, very much influenced by the old school American graffiti and, conceptually, by elements that are in the roots of these movements like the struggle for social change or anti-racism. Aida, conceptual creator and designer at Manila Wall Art, studied international law and human rights. She worked for many years in an international NGO and specialized in social and organizational culture and values-related issues. She is very much influenced by her background in the social movements, which has allowed her to be closely in touch with some of the main social fights of our time like environmentalism, feminism or anti-racism, for example. Her artistic side has always been active, in the private sphere, through photography and painting as she comes from a family closely related to several arts (painting, fashion, interior design). When we met, we realized that, despite the very different youth and background that we had, we understood life in a very similar way and had very similar values and beliefs that quickly became the core of Manila Wall Art’s work.
LC – What are you currently working on?
MWA – We are quite busy with wall art at the moment, preparing projects for several festivals taking place between September and October in Madrid and Girona (Spain). We are also working on art pieces commissioned by public institutions as a tribute to different personalities as part of the celebration of their anniversary of birth or death. Also, in the meanwhile, we are finalizing some pieces of the collection we have presented at the BORDERS ART FAIR, “En Pandemia”, and preparing the conceptual basis for a new collection of ‘XL pieces’ dedicated to the concept of ‘diversity’.
LC – What is your creative process like?
MWA – We are both very curious and we get inspired very quickly, that is why we have always many different projects on hand and some in the pipeline. Aida is the one normally kicking off with an idea and developing the conceptual framework and the artistic lines for it. This is, then, shared with Manu that contributes to the idea with his views and technical recommendations on how best to take it forward. After that, there is a ‘design phase’ in which we both work together to translate the idea into a concrete graphic design project that will be the basis for the ‘painting phase’.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
MWA – Yes, we are quite focused on elements related to social change and values. These are topics that have always been in the back of our minds and that still call our attention the most. We can get inspired watching the news, reading a book on these topics, or simply chatting about them or watching a simple social interaction take place in front of us in the street.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
MWA – We are of the belief that art is made to change the world, to make it evolve. It has been like this from an early age. The need to communicate with others has been channeled through art, many times, examples of it are the first wall paintings or tribal songs and dances. Then, the need to know more to be able to create better boosted anatomic or scientific studies, like in the Renaissance, and with them a huge change in the human perception of the world. Art has recorded wars and all sorts of disasters as a reminder for future generations not to fall into the same traps and has also pictured images of hope as a way to inspire a better future. Even when contemporary art is abstract it responds to a society, a system by showing the emotions that they generate in the creator, sometimes as an inspiration, some others as a provocation. To inspire and to provoke could be the two legs that sustain Manila Wall Art: we show what is wrong in the society as a way to boost reflection and social change, but we also like to paint about the good that is out there as a way to touch the heart of the public and inspire little changes that contribute to a better future for all.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
MWA – We relate very much to it. Our art is either about the borders that keep us in the current system or about the acts of rebellion that have broken them, giving birth to a new way of thinking, of doing, of creating… in brief: giving birth to the new world. We believe in these little rebellions as the most powerful tool to boost social change and we tried to shape our artistic project in a way that would be a change in itself, to bring to the world not only art but also a different way to approach to it and different energy. Collaboration, generosity, curiosity for what the people next to us think and feel, presence, empathy, patience… and also the humbleness to be able to say “I am sorry” or to learn from our mistakes. A co-creative process that aims to be healthy for those involved in it needs all these elements and our daily life is a continuous exercise to make them part of our ‘ways of working’. By doing that, we distance ourselves from the culture of big egos, individualism, lack of care and fill ourselves with another more positive energy, and by doing so we are already changing the world and its vibe.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
MWA – Our message to the world in “En Pandemia” is a message of hope, but also a warning. The collection reflects a truly exceptional situation, more suitable for a TV movie than for real life: a worldwide health emergency that puts lives at stake, confinements in many countries and the sudden decrease of activity worldwide. The human phase was reduced to a minimum in many countries and, with it, the ecological footprint. Nature started to bloom in unexpected places, wild animals got closer to civilized areas that are normally exclusive for humans and the greenhouse gases global emission rate significantly decreased. The connection with the festival is quite relevant as the global pandemic showed us, one one hand, the borders that humans were crossing in terms of disrespect to Mother Earth and to each other, through a culture of abuse and lack of care but, on the other hand, gave us a chance to break the ‘status quo’. It provided us with time and with a little example of how our lives and our world could look like if we would only have the courage to do what we all know it is needed. Those were days of blacks and whites, of love and hate, of hope and despair. They could have been the start of something new or just an illusion in which the images of the earth without us acted as a premonition of a future that is not so far away.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
MWA – We have felt very much supported by the organization all along this process, until the opening day. The exhibition is gracefully structured and the venue is a beautiful place for it. The opening was the perfect combination between elegance and ‘easiness’ and a very good opportunity not only to show our art but also to get to know fantastic artists and connect with many interesting people.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MWA – Yes, we think it is. It offers an international platform to show your art to the world as well as several opportunities to connect with people that can end up being relevant for your professional future.