There's no denying that technology is changing at an unprecedented rate, effecting our lives in ways that we could have never imagined. Born in Mexico and currently living in Australia, artist Jorge Mansilla has seen this change result in the rise of our cyber world and identities. His art strives to gives the intangible a tactile presence. In the interview Jorge talks about consumerism, his travels and incorporating technology in his work.
Could you tell us a bit more about your series of sculptures titled “Wake up and smell the plastic”?
Firstly, I called them sculptures only because I have not found a better category or term for them, when I think of all the sculptors out there, a lot of them seem to have in common this spatial approach to the medium, a focus on the positive and the negative space and its relation to the object.
I wanted to create figures, characters, representations of people. I wanted to explore and try to make collages that were not bi-dimensional. Unfortunately "3D collages" sounds like a product from a novelty shop, so I came to terms with the idea that they were sculptures.
In the beginning, I was folding and moulding paper. I also tried to apply the building principles of piñatas but was not convinced with the results. Then in one of those days that the state of the world is crushing you, and its problems just seem infinite and unsolvable, it hit me - this whole idea was a new territory, so it needed a new material, and if it there was something that was everywhere it was plastic, from that day I started accumulating discarded homeware, tools and toys and started learning how to manipulate these discarded plastics - the result was that series of sculptures.
Do you think that technology and our obsession with the internet are changing us as a species on a fundamental level?
I think so. It has changed forever how we exist and how others perceive us, and it has changed our concepts of intimacy forever and being present. This year would mark ten years since the release of the first iPhone. It is crazy to think that 10 years ago our lives were so different and while texting was already taking over calling, ourselves were still very much based offline, some people had a MySpace profile or a Webpage full of animated GIFS, but it was still something to look at while your landline was not being used.
I think now is when it will start to get interesting, already you can see how some of the young people are more careful with what they share or do with the internet, they are fully aware of the Forever Copy/Paste aspect of it, yes they do love the InstaFame, Snapchat, and Facetime but also dread the Hackers and/or Trolls. So it is clear that we have experimented and been scarred enough by it, we are aware of how amazing it is but also how horrific it can be. We also are beginning to understand how lonely it can feel to be everywhere, yet nowhere, for example.
Who knows where will we end, I still find it bizarre how we are now accustomed to that strange dynamic of some people to have 2 minutes of real conversation and then 2 minutes of scrolling on their devices in silence in front of each other, again everywhere and nowhere, beside each other, only partially engaged, barely present.
We believe you are currently based in Australia? What brought you there?
From 2006 I started working in Art Direction for Music Videos, Films and TV ads, it was a busy time of my life, I wanted to take a Masters in the field and return to Mexico to continue on this path, so interesting Masters options were in Canada, the USA or Australia. Since they were all high level, super interesting and in an English speaking country, I had to start considering other factors to make my decision, being pragmatic. For me, being raised 20 minutes away from the desert it was hard to imagine my life in the snow, so Canada was out of the equation. Also I had already been to so many cities in the US that the sense of excitement was gone, Australia, on the other hand, was wild and remote, at the same time I had a wave of Australian-ness happening: like the artist Stelark came to my hometown for a conference, and that was amazing; the contemporary art museum exhibited Ron Mueck's sculptures; and The Presets played for free in some downtown nightclub. I started to notice that a lot of the music I had been listening to was from Australia, this made me intrigued on what was happening down there, so I enrolled at the University of Technology Sydney, and eight years later I am a permanent resident.
Do you go back to your home country of Mexico often?
Yes, not as often as I would like to, but yes every 1 - 2 years roughly, I'm going back this year to spend time learning from some amazing artisans in the South of Mexico, I cannot wait!
What are your three best sources of inspiration?
Hmm the best ones eh?, I would say nature, the streets and music.
In your series of collages titled “Before the collapse” you tackle the over stimulation of the consumerism era that we live in, Surely there has to be a breaking point?
Of course! We are only mammals, only insecure primates on a pedestal with advanced technology. We obviously were not going to be able to keep up with the speed at which the internet grew, so more than a breaking point, I think it is much like a choking point, we stopped processing things, and therefore a majority of the media and content became homogenised; easy to digest, hollow.
I believe this Homogenisation is dangerous, because if we are interested and only sharing the same things, where are the new ideas and different points of view will come from? More importantly, there is so much meaningless nonsense content out there, that allows mediocrity to become the norm and that for me it is so damaging.
Out of all the places in the world that you have lived in which has been the most memorable?
Spain is intense, funny and beautiful. I had an incredible time in my 20's living in Barcelona, but then again I never let myself forget that Mexico is where the meteorite hit the Earth, that place has something, underneath the Tacos and the piñatas, away from the Sombrero and Zarape outfits that Westerners wear to act "crazy and fun", and way past the Coronas and the Cocaine, there is an ancient sense that something big lives there. I would not be surprised if, in fact, the Olmecs and Maya had been in contact with Aliens.
We believe you are working on incorporating robotics into your sculptures? When can we see them?
Last year I made two sculptures with plastic and robotic skeletons, Mother Nature and Father Nature, I can get you pics, but of course, they are better on a video because they do a little dance. Unfortunately, I have not had the time to shoot proper videos of them, but will soon.
What does Mr Mansilla do to relax?
Watch cartoons hahaha. I went and rewatched the whole 1990's X-Men animated series, that was such a thrill, now I am rewinding the Challenge of the Super Friends and a 90s series of animated folktales from Japan. Obviously, I am only one of the many people who is anxiously and desperately waiting for the new Rick and Morty season to be finished and released.
Also recently I was given an iPad and if I have 20 minutes to spare I play games there, my favourite right now (this is embarrassing because it's a kids' game) it's called "Where's my water", and you have to move around water so Swampy the crocodile can get a shower hahaha. How old am I? I am 37 years young!