This is the debut of coboboblog in English: An interview with the Taiwan-based visual artist MICHAEL VINCENT MANALO – prior to his solo-show ´The Convergence of Realities´ at Ros Gallery in Roskilde – opening on Saturday 24/6.
(Please note that none of us speak English as our mother tongue)
Michael, 30, and I met in the Gallery to talk about his technique, his interest in human memories and universal, global emotions, and his personal search for enlightenment.
1. About the history and technique of Michaels photo-artwork: Back in 2009 he wanted an expensive digital camera, but had no money, meanwhile he started to use photoshop. When he got the camera, he realized that his photoshopping with his own photos was much more fun. Most of Michaels pictures are taken by himself – a real person or background, and then he starts making a lot of changes or sampling other pictures into his own. Photomanipulation is kind of being a DJ!
At the same time in 2008-9 the Art Market was beginning to show bigger interest in and accept of photo-artwork. His first big chance was in Manila at a big Art fair where his work was the only photo-manipulated pictures. This was a bit risky, because it was a new thing on the Asian market, still preferring paintings on canvas. But it was a success, and he decided to stop studying medicine ending up with a bachelor degree and start working fulltime with photo and installation-art.
AND he decided to live his life according to passion and not expectations and conform rules. Life is short, so why not live it according to own values. Michael thinks that the educational system constrains children´s minds with conform ideas, but he was occupied with free choice – alternative living, sustainability and individual lifestyle, instead of doctrines like: Earn money, get a wife, get a car etc. This life-philosophy is still important to him today.
2. About MEMORIES: Memories can seem familiar, and yet strange. Experienced memories can merge with imagined memories, and create a special kind of space inside of you.
“His work is inspired by the imagined memories of nostalgic and dream-like environments; his works documents their decline into post-apocalyptic, nightmarish creations”.
Our memories can be based on how we feel – in a special moment. If you´re sad, you will remember something more sad than on a happy day, remembering what you want to remember, with a specific emotional quality. And if your days are alike, you don´t create new memories – the memory of something will be an average of all these days. On the other side: If we experience a lot we will have lots of memories.
So you should try to make new memories every week he says!
Also, Michael is interested in these moments, when you become aware that this “now” will soon fade away into a memory – a sad and melancholic feeling.
Memory fascinates him – he also mentions deja-vu and predictions. What is a memory and what comes first? Memory is a kind of net – and the mind is very plastic when it comes to memories.
Finally, Michael points out that children can have memories or creepy dreams, that maybe origins from earlier lives – creating the frightening emotions we all know from our childhood. They may not know what they are saying when they tell us about their dreams, but it could be linked to their past – sewed together in the mind.
3. Michael´s work is showing the UNIVERSALITY of human emotions. Despite difference of culture we have the same basic feelings, everyone can relate to everyone. He likes to portrait people from behind, so that they resemble everyone and nobody in specific. It gives his characters a mysterious touch, that makes us able to identify ourselves, experience and feel like them. We can connect with these people, because they are remembering or dreaming and not turning towards us in any active, involving manner.
4. To Michael it´s a new thing to talk about spirituality in this interview – and on this subject Michael does not feel home-safe yet – but it´s a very important aspect in his life and work right now: For the last two years Michael has followed an enlightened master in Taiwan, because he started to think about ENLIGHTENMENT as a way of growing as a person. It´s in a Buddhist tradition, where your goal is to get rid of good and bad karma so that you don´t need be reincarnated again. To Michael this means a way of living, that enables him to live in peace with himself – kind of Zen of the spirit - and pay respect to other human beings. If you live here on earth you always have to deal with both happiness and hell – with meditation life gets smoother and less stressful and you can do something about bad things with your attitude. In Taiwan children are often taken to fortunetellers to get their names – so there´s a kind of destiny-thinking in many people´s lives. In his master´s teaching Michael finds a way to deal with life, to influence the direction of his destiny and choose his karma.
And to Michael enlightenment is very much about accepting everyone for who they are! You tolerate who they are – also the more annoying persons! And you don´t judge them. Michael tells me that he used to be a much more tempered, kind of easily frustrated person; he believes that the enlightenment teaching has brought him a new attitude towards life in general. It has affected his mind and the way he sees things and perceive people.
I ask Michael if he thinks life is hard. Partly because of his Buddhist conviction, but also because of his artistic work, that shows so much melancholy. Michael answers that it´s more like he chooses to make that kind of work because he enjoys that melancholic feeling, especially when he´s alone – it´s not because of depression. He enjoys that melancholic state of mind, it balances your Self and life itself.
But yes – life is hard work! It´s precious to be a human being. According to Buddhism just very few souls reincarnate as humans. We have a good and last chance to find enlightenment. Michael does not want to come back to life – it´s hard work, so many decisions… And the only thing that scares him about death is the possibility of not being fully enlightened so that he has to come back again!
5. Before an opening the artist is often a bit nervous and excited: Will anybody come? Do they like my work? It is such a vulnerable situation. How does Michael want people to react on Saturday at the opening?
He would like them to have a new feeling – want them to get awakened – think of something else or get disturbed in their normal way of thinking. Or think at least!
And he would like you very much to come!
Michael Vincent Manalo – The Convergence of Realities – solo exhibition Ros Gallery
Opening Saturday 24/6 2017 at 13-16.