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Mozambican artist Nuno Silas: "My ideas explore the timeless and different problems of the human condition"


Like many others, Mozambican artist Nuno Silas was surprised by the pandemic. In this interview, Silas, currently attending the University of Bayreuth, explains where the inspiration for his creative process came from and how he is coping with the current situation.

Nuno, tell us a little about your creative self. How did you discover your passion for art?

I am from Mozambique, and I am a visual artist. I did not grow up in a family of artists or anything like that, but I had an uncle named Jaimito Machatine who was a musician, and he definitely was the source of my inspiration. Ever since my early years, I had a strong interest in drawing and I loved to look into what was done abroad by other artists. I remember owning some Japanese Manga comic books. I loved copying their images and compositions, their simplistic stories represented in pictures with just little text. At that time, we did not have neither the means nor the opportunity to order or buy comic books. In 2008, I decided to study visual arts at the Visual Art School in Maputo, Mozambique. There, we learnt a variety of art technics. Some years later, I moved to Portugal, where I got my BA in Fine Arts at the Caldas da Rainha School of Arts and Design – Polytechnic of Leiria, Portugal.

I use photography not just to realize the final project but also as an artistic process. I also took part in some projects which focused on photography, and I had some exhibitions in the project. I usually use some of these pictures in my installation works, performance and paintings. Now I’m working with both performance art and installation art. I consider myself a conceptual artist; so to say I’m not interested in specific technics. There is constant interaction between feelings and representation in my art practice. I use different experimental artistic possibilities which enable me to represent any texture of the surrounding realities which configure our society. I see things, and I research, and then I try to find ways, in which my ideas can explore the timeless and different problems of the human condition.

For example, this set of photos, that I'm working on, is a project that I started in 2019. It comprises around 50 photographs. The idea is to arrange them as a big mural. The project began as an experimental self-portrait - taking the photo, I used a simple technique. I used my scanning printer, and I built a small box around the printer to darken the environment around the printer. The tricky thing was to get the lighting right and control the level of color, and I think it is very well done. These self-portraits show a kind of reconstruction, not just a representation of myself. Performing a self-portrait for me is a matter of presenting oneself out of time by rebuilding oneself, instead of a mere description of oneself. So I think these images are out of our time, and they can transport different experience of spaces and multiple dimensions of our consciousness. Curiously, the pictures are black and white and still there are colours in the same image. However, I think that these photos they no longer belong to me. It is not me there: they are a mirror of those who observe them.

How long have you been in Bayreuth and what is the purpose of your stay?

I have been in Bayreuth for almost a year and a half now. I’m attending the master program in arts, curatorial studies at the University of Bayreuth.

How are you feeling in the current situation? In what way is the crisis affecting your work?

The crisis in my case has affected my finances as well as my psychological and emotional situation. Also, some of my exhibitions have been cancelled, and the impossibility to change the moment is weighing heavily on my mind. Not being able to continue my studies, or find a work has often been making me feel nervous, anxious, depressed, and caused me to struggle sleeping and so forth. I spent the first weeks of lockdown in Berlin. It seemed that just days after I arrived in Berlin to meet friends, the world had changed. Facebook suddenly became a platform for death. I felt like the world had become schizophrenic. For a few days, I decided not to visit a single place, but it was difficult to run away from the reality I was living. After having been locked down for some days, I even started talking to myself.

I feel like we are experiencing this specific moment of our life in a type of global “fever”, without the right to exist as human beings in freedom. COVID-19 is similar to a nuclear weapon; it quickly destroys our freedom to breathe, threatening humanity by asphyxia without hierarchy. Furthermore, the situation made me contemplate: What would I like for a better future?

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a performance art exhibition project at Iwalewahaus, in two solo exhibitions and the research for my master thesis.

Have you made plans for life after lockdown?

I have different projects such as exhibition project developing in Bayreuth, Portugal (Lisbon) and Mozambique (Maputo). After the lockdown  it is likely that the vaccine will take longer than we expect. We need to be healthy and work together in this situation, and I will take the opportunity to continue to work on my project and research. (sg)

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