12 juli 2020

Exclusive: an interview with Nahum Mantra, organiser of Kosmica

Nahum Mantra

I recently had an interview – exclusive for the Astroblogs – with Nahum Mantra, the internationally recognised artist, composer and multi-instrumentalist, who has organised the space exhibition Kosmica, wich was recently held in Mexico City. On august 8th I had a presentation on Kosmica myself,  about my Moonbounce project. Beneath are some images about Nahum’s work too.

how did you get interested in space art, how and why did you start Kosmica?It happened when I met Nicola Triscott and we talked about all the work that The Arts Catalyst has done in the field. I was researching and writing about arts and science and then I decided to focus only on space arts. A few months afterwards Nicola and Roger Malina invited me to set up a new technical committee at the International Astronautical Federation for arts and culture in space.nahum1

After my work at the IAF I was struggling with the timeframes for developing projects in big space organisations. For nearly 3 years I was curating the Shunt Lounge in London Bridge where we had to curate 20 artists on a weekly basis. We had to work quickly while experimenting with our venue and new ways of engaging a large number of audiences. It was the artist way of doing things and with these ideas that after a conversation with Nicola and Rob La Frenais we decided to start a series of gatherings with wine, puffs and good space art conversations in London. It was an experiment, we didn’t know how many people would turn up to listen a handful of artists and scientists on a Friday night talking about galaxies. To our surprise it was hugely sexy – and not only for nerds!

Kosmica is a touring event, is the public response different, according to the geographical location and culture? and if so, what are the unique aspects of Kosmica Mexico?

Now that we have KOSMICA gigs in different countries we have learned the importance of the context. London audiences have seen it all before, everyone has their favorite scientist and can tell you about the LHC with zombie analogies. On the other hand, Mexico has a small community of scientists working in the country and people are not, in most cases, science literate. The Mexican Statistics Office (INEGI) has an interesting study about the perception of science and technology in Mexico and it presents some shocking figures. However I can sense that young people are open to hear about new and uncommon things, like artists in space. KOSMICA Mexico is packed with 20-year-old youngsters that forget there is a free bar and listen to all the speakers till midnight – it’s very inspiring.On this occasion, we had thematic blocks that could relate better to the Mexican audiences, for example: the space race and left behind communities and peace in space. The Mexican electronic arts scene is more related with DIY strategies, open source and hacktivism than in other places in Europe.

Nahum2

In Mexico City, the past, present and future seem to blend effortlessly. Why do you think is Space art and culture so popular in Mexico City, especially amongst young people?

Mexico is one of those privileged and cursed places where layers of different histories clash into a single identity. Oversimplifying what Mexico is, we can say that is the combination of two very magical cultures: the Mesoamerican and the Spanish. I think magical thinking has always appropriated space in different ways. I’ve always been careful when discussing topics like astrology and it was after meeting Nick Campion who taught me that pop culture is also important. Hence that astrology, myth and magic are an essential part of how we relate ourselves to the cosmos. However I still find alarming that in Mexican newspapers you can read horoscopes. After all, we continue to seek answers by gazing up.

how is Mexico involved in Space research?

Recently quiet a lot: space in Mexico is underground. There a few adventurers, both artists and scientists that are taking space arts seriously. It is very refreshing to see a different approach emerging on that side of the world. Is a small community that has all the right ingredients for producing exciting new work. There is a lot that hasn’t been explored in this field and I’m sure Mexico will be a nice surprise.

how do you see Space art evolving in the near future?

I would like to see more critical voices from not the usual places. I am interested on the alternative cultural perspectives on space exploration from places like Latin America, Africa, Middle East. Also I would like to see an increased awareness of how space is a fundamental ingredient in our lives. I believe that not only artists but also society needs to engage in greater debates about space that could benefit the here and now – sometimes it feels there is too much micromanagement going on in the planet.Nahum3

next Kosmica appointment?

We are going back home and that is London. We have been a bit quiet during the year. Also we might have a gig in Gothenburg sometime in the winter, it will be spacely cold.

Kosmika banner.

Comments

  1. Daniela and Nahum – if you’re reading this too – it’s a great interview! In Holland we’ve got a bunch of festivals which include space related art, like the Sonic Acts Festival. So maybe after London and Gothenburg we’ve been able to organise Kosmica Amsterdam? 😀 Would be great. And regarding the horoscopes: the Dutch papers are still loaded with them, there’s an ambient desire for them, despite our rational attitude.

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