We are living actually in a social and historical moment full with great revolutions and technological innovations, and in the world of artistic production we have the opportunity to observe unprecedented scenarios that often take us to discover how the dual concept creativity-experimentation is leading us to consider new aesthetic horizons, and in the main time to contemplate highly topical themes. In this ongoing world, in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, among scientific researches, new technologies, physical artworks, new digital and phygital creative projects, all telling us about a great creative experimentation, it is also interesting to discover how the young artists – the true digital natives – read and represent our reality, and what they come up with and want to submit to the general public. Here we are to meet Manuel Macadamia, a Milanese visual artist who is currently working on an art project – “Sunset” – which deserves our attention.
I first met Manuel Macadamia at the Master Digital Curator held at the MEET Digital Culture Center in Milan – and successively I met him several times to explore together his works which range from digital art to performances – from traditional short movies up to his latest project also realized with Artificial Intelligence, and together with a specialized team. What I mostly appreciated about Manuel is his lucid artistic vision, the themes he brings forward in his works, and his desire to experiment. His work “Sunset” is an artistic project that I appreciate on one side for the proposal which is structured in episodes (might a remind of his studies at the Academy of Dramatic Art) and is rich with messages and reflections so much needed nowadays, and on the other side for the ability to experiment new technologies and combine different styles with a conscious use, and with a most interesting result. Info at the link: https://www.manuelmacadamia.com/portfolio-item/sunset/. I invite you here to read his interview.
Interview with Manuel Macadamia
RP: A young and talented artist who is ready to experiment with different mediums, from frame-by-frame animated short films to new technologies, from live performances to visual art. How important do you think experimentation is for an artist today?
MM: I believe experimenting and carrying out research is necessary in any field, not only in the arts. When I was a student at drama school, my course director always used to say: ‘1+1 always equals at least 3’. I thought it a foolish sentence until I realised its true meaning, which is that experimenting gives you the opportunity to get to a new combination from the initial elements – your creation is never going to be a simple result of the sum of these elements but a whole new something that was not there before. Oniro project is the first professional project I worked on and since then at the very core of all my creations there was always the same question: ‘What if …?’ I can’t do otherwise but approach things this way. As hard as the process can be, it is the only one that I can make sense of, especially in a context like the present one where the evolution of technology keeps opening up new horizons.
RP: You are finalising an anthological art project called Sunset, can you talk to us about it?
MM: Sunset is an anthological art project developed in collaboration with Artificial Intelligence. It is set in a potentially near future; one where mankind has failed to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a virtual space where we will publish a series of 12 episodes – 9 chapters of a digital graphic novel and a miniseries of 3 short films. Each episode will be set in a different year in the future and will focus on one of the many challenges that humanity will have to face.
RP: In your presentation for ‘Sunset’ you’re telling us that the exchange of information between the team and AI works as a continuous cycle, from the original artistic idea to the AI, then back to the team for the creation of the final content after the A.I. gave its input. Let’s talk about the original artistic idea, where does the inspiration for Sunset come from?
MM: The inspiration comes from my childhood when I started to get passionate about science fiction. Sci-fi culture can be really fascinating for a 6-year-old kid, a real invite to use their imagination and create alternative worlds with no pre-set rules. Over time I started observing my surroundings and writing down all my ideas on my notebook. In 2020 when the pandemic broke out, I had the time to put together all my notes, sketches, drafts of the stories I had collected up until that moment. I realised I had already ‘put on paper’ an imaginary world – a mirror of reality – and I wanted to give it more of a structured shape.
The first step was to write the script for one of the short films that I wanted to make in collaboration with a group of Estonian actors I have already worked with. Then Pasquale Pacile’ -the A.I. producer for the project- made me discover Stable Diffusion and this revolutionized my approach to the work. I tried to use the material collected in my notebooks as a prompt. Seeing something that was originally only meant to be on paper materialise itself on screen was just incredible. That’s when I asked myself: ‘What if I created my imaginary world collaborating with A.I.?’ I was unaware at the time that my horizons were being challenged and broadened, and this is when the idea of the anthological art series was born.
RP: Behind this art project there is an international team: can you give us more details?
MM: One of the reasons I’m so proud of Sunset is the team. I could not have thought of such an ambitious and detailed project without the contribution of professional artists working on it with me. To create and mold to the artistic content, besides Pasquale Pacile’ -whom I mentioned before- I initially worked with the Estonian actors Marion Tammet, Luisa Lohmus and Karmel Naudre, whom I met working at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. The sound designers Niccolò Maccagnano, Kylome and Nicolò Bianco became part of the team afterwards; the Israelian visual artist Tavor Nakash; the V.R. and A.I. Chinese artist Yue Zhao; and the director Ilaria Braccialini. Other than the strictly creative side of things, there is also the project development side which the digital curators Chiara Mancini and Mariaelna Maieron are responsible for; finally, the associations Oltrecielo.com AVPA and Cineventuri are in charge of production.
RP: The short films are one of the common threads of your production, as well as constituting an important reflection on social themes of great relevance today. From DOORBELL to SUNSET, from classical animation to the one made with the help of A.I., your stories are always conveying a message. Art always carries strong messages within. Is there a specific audience you are trying to reach with your work?
MM: I believe the goal for an artist is to reach as many people as possible, which does not mean we need to flatten or reduce the artistic content. On the contrary, the challenge would be to build something with more than one level of interpretation so that the project can have a meaning for everyone, from a kid to an art critic. This is the most important lesson I learnt from 14 years of acting experience.
I do not believe I have the final answer to the topics I am addressing, as I do feel an artist should not impose their own vision of the world but create new perspectives to look at things differently, a point of view that focuses on human affairs and the characters’ feelings. Sunset particularly is a collection of stories that, one day, could be our stories. For better or worse. The goal is that anyone can project themselves into the world we are creating and therefore reflect on the future developments of our reality.
RP: Virtual space and multiverse: how do you think they will develop in the next years?
MM: This is a question I am not able to answer, especially because everything is changing at incredible speed. I can only say what I hope, and that is that these virtual spaces will be used to their full potential: I’m not talking about improving the technologies enabling their existence, but mostly the content they can be filled with.
I have the impression we are focusing a lot on the infrastructure of these virtual worlds and while this is obviously necessary, we seem to have forgotten the deep meaning, the reasons why people could actually be interested in the experiences which are offered within these spaces. I personally live this as a transitional period, the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It will be up to us to choose how to exploit this incredible potential that technology has to offer today.
RP: What are your next projects?
Sunset is the most ambitious and complex project I have ever come up with, so I want to dedicate myself entirely to it. Throughout the next months I will be working with the whole team to the finalisation of the episodes and at the same time we will be looking for partners who want to support us and give us visibility. There is also a key aspect that cannot be ignored and that will require continuous updates, which is the evolution of the technological tools which we use for the development of our project. I’m excited for what we have done so far, but the most interesting part is starting now.
Who’s Who: Manuel Macadamia
Manuel Macadamia is a Milanese visual artist. Graduated as an actor at the Nico Pepe Civic Academy of Dramatic Art, since 2015 he has been realizing multidisciplinary artistic projects in collaboration with cultural and corporate realities. At the same time he carried out his personal research obtaining recognitions both in Italy and abroad. He has created performances such as “L U X”, in collaboration with the sound designer Kylome, the graphic designer Sofia Cambiaggio and the fashion brand Album di Famiglia, and “REQUIEM FOR A HERO” – both in 2020. Always with a great attention to social issues and current affairs, he conceived and created “Doorbell”, an animated short film that deals with the theme of domestic violence – presented at the 2022 edition of the Modena Philosophy Festival. Manuel Macadamia made the short film “Slave” in 2022 recounting the alternative realities of life – and the video performance “Breath” in 2021 – focusing on the role of physical contact at the time of the pandemic. At the same time he has produced some series of digital artworks, often on commission, which show his attention to the dimension of the feminine. Since 2022, after attending the master’s degree in Digital Curation at the MEET Digital Culture Center in Milan, he is now the artistic director of the Sunset project. info: https://www.manuelmacadamia.com