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The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.

Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.

With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.

GABRIEL MASSAN, WHAT MAKES US BEINGS?, 2021

My name is Gabriel Massan and I'm a 24 years old digital and video artist born in Rio de Janeiro that currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

My work involves researching the establishment of digital environments that house dependent fictional existences, and proposes the distortion of relationships between race, color, identity and time of the current hegemony. I experiment with the creation of these tales through digital sculpture, animation, virtual and augmented reality, and I’m influenced by images of artifacts from the native peoples of Brazil, biomes of Latin America and Southern Africa, video games and Japanese animations from the 90s.

The piece I'm applying for "Class of 2021" is entitled "What Makes Us Beings?", a gathering of the sculptures I built during the first semester of this year. It presents sequences of 3D objects integrated or highlighted in different compositions painted with the mouse.

Creatures with humanoid traits share the space with statues that resemble plants, rocks and insects. All objects are projected with the same animation technique, seeking to create a virtual ecosystem that develops together. It exudes a certain anthropology of communities in harmony, which responds to the theme of this edition, as it finds in the intention of transmitting life, the tone of uncertainty of its organic presences existing digitally, making a common question throughout all the narratives registered in the work.

The sculptures, like individuals, are the environments and also the performances of life, they deform and form structures that, as a whole, continues to generate images and other representations.

How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
I grew up in Nilópolis, a small town in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, very close to the capital. My childhood was affected by inaccessibility, visiting museums and galleries was only possible on school trips. My surroundings were also marked by violence and the war on drug trafficking. I sought at every moment to create escape routes from my reality. And that is how the need to develop new worlds came up.

Since I got my first computer, a used PC donated by my aunt, I started editing videos and photos, but becoming an artist wasn’t an obvious option in my reality. My dreams were limited to professions with common career plans, which would help me overcome statistics and ensure survival. I chose to study “Social Communication” in college and after a few periods, working and studying to pay, I found myself stuck in the reproduction of everyday life. I couldn’t migrate to other work environments because I kept getting rejected in the interviews.

During this time, I enrolled in a school of “Urban Interventions”, a place where I understood that I could experiment with my techniques in video editing and illustration, which made me feel entitled to be an artist.
From that, I got a scholarship to an elite art school to study Video Art and Video Installation, but all the course cutouts and references were of white artists, who had little to do with my narrative. I suffered a violent police approach in my first exhibition in this institution, and little by little I saw myself less and less belonging. In the search to detach the image of myself from my artistic production, I decided to create my own system, under my expectations, dismembering my body from my mind. I started to create 3D animations with digital sculptures, where I propose scenes based on organic and dependent relationships between beings and environnements. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro as a black person who doesn’t respond to gender conformities, encourages me to imagine digital and physical realities of free movement.

I increasingly correlate my desire to externalize figures to the fact that I’m not exactly aware of what my cultural heritage is. In my genealogical tree I could only access my grandparents. This is because when Brazil was colonized most of the indigenous tribes were decimated, and their knowledge, often only transmitted by speech, was erased. With slavery, African immigrants from different tribes were mixed and their heritages were lost along with their freedoms. The inequalities inherited from this history weren’t fought, reflecting until today, 500 years later, in my existence. In which I’m incapable of creating a relationship of belonging because of my forced mestizaje.

This restlessness leads me to create faces, forms, situations that perhaps carry these erased memories. But in bodies that are not hierarchized by race, class, identity or gender relations. An archaeological and unconscious study of a time that is slipping away from me.

What inspires you to make your work?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
I usually nourish myself from observation in daily life. Before I started my research in 3D, I used to register the mountains of garbage that spread through my city and its surroundings. In it I found pieces of mechanics, drawings, computer remains, paintings, and the composition of these discards crossed me in a very specific way. Everything that translates a reorganization of society and life as it is into a state of decentralization of the human figure fascinates me.

Today my biggest inspirations are the words and works of artists and thinkers from my community, their footsteps also add character to the environments and circumstances I draw.

In a more specific collection, I’m fascinated by insects and flowers from the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest, as well as advertisements for robots and toy shops.

Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
I believe that these influences of people on my research can be divided into two moments. The first is determined by the beginning of my artistic life in Brazil, where my youth was affected. I saw myself surrounded by young people from backgrounds similar to mine, who were breaking down doors every day to create opportunities in the creative industry. All part of the first generation of black and trans people to enter university or exercise leadership positions. The second, defined by my time in Europe, where I keep moving with some of the people who came with me and meet new ones who also went through the immigration process during the pandemic. The creativity when externalized depends on the technique, which in turn uses the tool, defined by the technology. Developing countries are categorized by industries that are in transition, that dominate little technology. Creatives in global peripheries are marked by the marginalisation and scrapping of their own work, making it impossible to acknowledge and develop their research and talents. With the internet, and the instantaneous access to information, these individuals, even though limited by the current system, unbalance the bubbles designed by the global hegemony and subvert such narratives, questioning the absolute truths of these circumstances. And it is in this movement that the influence on my artistic work continues to build.

Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
Yes. Access to technology defined by the global order extends to all fields of society and how it develops. To be a queer, black, immigrant digital artist means to have escaped all these barriers, in order to master a tool inaccessible to where I come from. All oppressions marked by phobia against a category of society, start from a denial of the humanity of these groups. And what defines the human being is intelligence and reasoning. Therefore it is still considered that these minorities are endowed with less or no intelligence, therefore less or no humanity. Every step or advance made by me within an industry that excludes or considers a public like mine as unprofitable, is a possible path for a young person who has his unlimited potential restricted by this system. I create means to make dreams visible with unheard words. And every way of life that I externalize in my work, I prove the possibility of existing in liberty.

How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 20:21 theme of ‘Communion’?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
The piece I’m applying for “Class of 2021” is entitled “What Makes Us Beings?”, a gathering of the sculptures I built during the first semester of this year. It presents sequences of 3D objects integrated or highlighted in different compositions sculpted and painted with the mouse.

Creatures with humanoid traits share the space with statues that resemble plants, rocks and insects. All objects are projected with the same animation technique, seeking to create a virtual ecosystem that develops together. It exudes a certain anthropology of communities in harmony, which responds to the theme of this edition, as it finds in the intention of transmitting life, the tone of uncertainty of its organic presences existing digitally, making a common question throughout all the narratives registered in the work.
The sculptures, like individuals, are the environments and also the performances of life, they deform and form structures that, as a whole, continues to generate images and other representations.

Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
In early 2019, I participated in the institutional group exhibition “A perplexa” at UFF Arts Centre that gathered the most important works of the Video Art graduates of EAV Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro and also in “Mostra Textao” institutional group exhibition at MDS, Museum of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paulo. In October 2019 to January 2020 I was invited for an artist residency at Etopia Center for Art & Technology, a project by Zaragoza City Council and Zaragoza City of Knowledge Foundation, with support from the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, where in the end I presented my first institutional solo exhibition “I Was Present In Testimony”.

In mid 2020, I was part of the Adobe brushes campaign for the Keith Haring Foundation and selected to develop an augmented reality installation in the Vienna City Hall, Austria by a European Union fund for technology experiments in public spaces. In that same year, I created a series of sculptures that were commissioned by the Moreira Salles Institute as part of their quarantine program.

In 2021, I was part of the institutional group exhibition “Open Sesame: A Photophobic Experiment” at the Bärenzwinger gallery in Berlin, Germany and chosen for the Pyramid of Arts digital institutional group exhibition in Leeds, UK.

How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
The #CIRCAECONOMY prize would assist me in acquiring knowledge and tools to pursue my practice under less influence of the impact of my social clipping on the immigration process. Besides that, it would make it possible to afford the technologies necessary to develop my research in central spaces with greater quality. Today, I have difficulties in creating, designing installations and developing the expography of my pieces in 3D due to my low access to high performance computers, 3d printers, screens, VR equipment, sounds and projectors. I don’t receive sponsorship from tech companies, which makes me develop all my work on a notebook, which is already unthinkable. Being one of the only black queer people in digital art, and still lagging behind in technology, says a lot about the world we live in, and I believe this award would forge the path to dig this change in my carrer.

What would you do with the money?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
First I would invest in my art degree. For, in order to pursue my career, I had to drop out of college, because it was no longer possible to pay my own tuition. On the other hand, I want to buy the tools to build the necessary infrastructure to continue to develop my research more technically. The need to translate dreams and other possibilities in life, is also mirrored in my upcoming goals to take digital art exhibitions to poor communities in Rio de Janeiro, bringing peripheral voices to the technological revolution. The execution of my work also depends on the collaboration of other artists and creatives from various fields. I believe that this way I would also be able to commission them to horizontalize my research.

If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?

GABRIEL MASSAN:
I have been one of many voices in the movement for democratization of access to technology and knowledge in Brazil. More and more black queer artists are gaining space in the traditional art market, and every step I take here is the construction of a possibility for these young artists who are there, as well as others who are here. In Germany I find myself surrounded by homogeneous audiences and work spaces, even in the most progressive proposals, and I believe that being who I am in these environments helps to define a new conjuncture in this movement of digitalization of art. Being where I am is crucial for these environments to be diverse in the future, my ambition is to open doors not only for myself, but for others.