Interview: Manuel Alvarez Diestro
Luca Curci talks with Manuel Alvarez Diestro during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Manuel Alvarez Diestro (Santander, 1972) is a visual artist working with photography and film. He grew up in Northern Spain and at an early age in 1990 he moved to Los Angeles to study and play tennis. After graduating in Art History at Boston University he decided to travel around the world and start a career as a photographer and combining with filmmaking. Since then, Manuel has lived in many countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. His main interest is to explore mankind’s place in the landscape and in the contemporary city with a strong focus on the construction of new cities. As a visual artist, he regularly publishes in international publications and exhibits regularly. As a filmmaker, many of his films have been screened throughout film festivals.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Manuel Alvarez Diestro – It is the expression of oneself when responding to the world we live in.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
MAD – It came in a natural way when at an early age I started traveling around the world. I took a flight from Madrid to Los Angeles when I was 18 years old with the plan to play tennis and study a degree in Art History. 30 years later I was still living abroad but this time in South Korea. In between those years, I mostly lived in the Middle East becoming an ideal platform to photograph countries at the time of social convulsion and an effervescent need to build new cities. This was the case for instance in Egypt and Iran and to a lesser degree in Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
MAD – I find my inspiration from the built environment without doubts. I can say that I have an obsession with the landscapes that we intervene in when building new cities.
LC – What is your creative process like?
MAD – I travel to a place and while walking, biking, or taking public transport I search for a visual narrative that I can create. Then, I build a photo series or plan a film. In a way, I take a cubist approach to the creative process and display a specific subject from its many possible angles with the camera. In films, for instance, I am more interested in the landscapes than the characters themselves. This was the case in my latest feature film “Trains Bound for the Sea” that I am currently presenting at the Molodist International Film Festival in Kiev where the cities of London, Seoul and Hong-Kong occupy a central role in the story. Nowadays, I am honored to work at “TAI Centro Universitario de Artes de Madrid” where I am in contact with leading artists and students. In this creative powerhouse, we share discussions about art practice that challenge my own development as an artist. Also, students and staff do help me with technical aspects and provide feedback on the conceptual aspects of my artwork.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
MAD – In my case, I believe we are living in extraordinary times where creativity connects more than ever with employment not only in art practice itself but also with other careers. More than ever creativity is required in many job profiles where creative minds with a strong connection to visual content are required. Also, I believe that being an artist requires working with others. I heavily support the idea of the ‘artists workshop’ as during the time of the Masters in the Renaissance and the synesthesia that derives when artists from different disciplines connect. This is the way we work in our university with what we call the TAI LABS. I feel very optimistic in general these days where one can express creatively through digital channels and art platforms such as ITSLIQUID and showcase the artwork to the world.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition?
MAD – My artwork shows an aerial view of concentration housing towers in Seoul during sunset. I thought that the dystopian angle of the Seoul metropolis connected very well with the cities of the future, particularly in Asia. I am from a Mediterranean country where architecture is a response to human scale. In many countries in Asia is not the case, and particularly in China where technocrats at a government level are the true shapers of the modern city and building super cities at a scale that truly bigs up the economic and demographic needs versus the individual.
LC – How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
MAD – I think it connects very well with the concept of ‘Future Landscapes’ as one of the themes in the festival. When I read the festival’s brief, I understood the artwork’s potentiality to generate a reflection on spaces that challenge the actual borders.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
MAD – I fully agree with the theme and I believe that it allows very ample space for interpretation and invites many artists to bring their different points of view.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MAD – Absolutely, there are no many platforms that allow such an opportunity with such a dynamic approach to showcase artist’s works. In my case has been exceptional since I already contributed to the magazine with a photo essay that was published and later the capability to exhibit in Venice. This interview for instance is a clear example that gives me the chance to connect to others.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
MAD – Yes, from the beginning. I only missed the opportunity to travel to Venice, since it was not possible due to current circumstances with the pandemic.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
MAD – I believe it is an ideal platform for artists to show their work at an international level and gain momentum as artists. Not only by showcasing the work in Venice but also through the magazine and partnerships. Also, it is a great opportunity to discover the work of talented artists and get visibility to the art world in general. In my case, I hope the collaboration continues in the future!