We interviewed Diego Miguel, 2016 artist-in-residence at SomoS, to discover more about his artistic practice, his life, and his choices as a politically engaged artist.
Interview by Charlotte Griffon
SomoS: Could you briefly introduce yourself, and tell us something about your background.
Diego Miguel: I’m Diego Miguel, originally from Brazil, but I have been living abroad for almost six years. These past few years I was in NYC working as an art director and producing some of my paintings on the side.
S: You define yourself as a “nomad visual artist.” Could you define this term for us and how it is related to your artistic practice?
DM: Since I left NY I had this approach, not just with my art practice, but for my life. I was engaged in building my home wherever I went. But honestly, after some time I realized that moving place to place you can’t actually build a solid home. You end up with a resemblance of what you want to believe is your safe place. With this nomad experience, I have discovered that creating that place takes a really solid time and dedication. Long story short, I believe my nomad visual artist persona ended up being a life experience. One which so far I haven’t had the opportunity to actually use or even deeply understand. It will be necessary to be outside this situation for a while to understand that. Hopefully, I will have gained something from this experience. There’s always something.
S: Your work is engaged in pressing or timely social issues, such as power, media, dissent, and social uprising. What triggers your need to take a stand?
DM: My engagement with social issues began early in life. During my college days, I was always politically engaged. It was a very important time to shape myself, even if today I see most of my Ideals at that time as immature or with a lack of perspective.
However my desire to understand relations of power in our society came way earlier. During my childhood I studied in many different schools, ranging from very poor public schools to a religious and a military one. During my period in a military school, a big internal rage and disgust with power grew in me. Before finally being expelled from that school, I lived through three years of daily abuse, from teachers and most of the times from classmates, the level of bullying raised to levels of sexual abuse and violence.
The specific project I am currently working on came along a bit later. Five to six years ago when I left Brazil, I started to observe all that social uprising around the world. Mostly in Brazil, but I started to get really interested to see populations gathering against power and looking for emancipation from these modern forms of control. For me, it was a boost of faith that it was possible to fight against oppression. An endless fight I believe. But a necessary one. And as an artist I wanna help to keep the conversation alive.
S: One could say that painting is an old fashion kind of art when today many artists are exploring new mediums, especially related to technology. How did you come to painting?
DM: Interesting you saying that. To be honest I never even thought about it. Why did I choose to paint? I think it was a natural process to someone who’s spent a whole life drawing and coloring things. Look, right now I’m not looking to create a new form of art, instead I just want to document my perception with whatever I have at hand. But yes, this questions makes me think twice. In the end I think I just love the challenge of painting. It’s so rewarding to see things coming from nothing and start to be rendered in front of your eyes, very slowly, day by day, with lots of uncontrollable mistakes that end up looking great.
I try to avoid technology. I worked many years in front of a computer, and the last thing I want is my art practice to happen anywhere around there, at least for now. I’m not the most tech savvy human being anyways.
But of course, in the end, I don’t want to limit myself to be a painter. I think it suffices right now for what I’m looking for. Not just the subject, but the challenge of improving my skills in bringing imaginary and subjective things to life. It’s almost like printing my dreams, fears, obsessions, etc..
S: For the last 6 months you have been traveling in many countries across the world. Now you have settled down in Berlin until the end of December. Was there a specific reason for you to choose to come to this city?
DM: Well, most of the places I’ve been during this time, I spent almost the same time as I’ll be here in Berlin. So I could say that I’ve settled in many places already. After Ukraine, I was looking for a place to actually dedicate myself 100% to my work. I had in mind some other places like Senegal or Greece. But as that time I was going through some really rough personal issues. I decided to go to a place that I wouldn’t be that isolated. And Berlin was the right place for me. I knew some people here and also I knew I would be surrounded by art everywhere. And these two things were everything that I needed to go through these months.
S: What do you expect of this two months residency at SomoS?
DM: I’m starting now my second month. First one worked pretty well. Especially the last two weeks, where I’ve been very dedicated to production. Sleeping and waking up surrounded by your work can be very overwhelming but keeps you on the track and fully immerses you in it. My main goals during this residence are to finally express this year of research and start to nail it down. And the fact that 80% of my waking time I spend re-examining my subject and putting it out in form of writing, drawing or painting, those things are very exciting.
S: Is it the end of the journey? A break ? A new beginning? What is coming next?
DM: Well I became that kind of person that lots of people say they met one day. The one that got lost. Honestly it’s always super romantic to talk about it. But living that period of having been lost is scary as S**T. So this is a very hard question. I have a one-way ticket to Brazil and this is my only plan. I’m not sure about work, where I’m gonna live, or how. But I know that I’ll figure it out something. And I’m hoping that in a year or more I’ll look back and be happy that I jumped into this unknown. And this decision brought me to a new better place. Right now I’m a bit skeptical about it. But you know, “Fingers Crossed!”
To find out more about Diego, visit his artist page on our website.
More information on the SomoS Residency Program.