“Because art has the power to prompt social change, I believe artists should expose and communicate the crudity found in society; artists are, in a way, the “visual muckrakers” of the twenty-first century.” — Matías
Francesco Ferranti: Hey Matías, can you first of all introduce yourself?
Matías Alvial: I’m Matías and I use He/Him pronouns. I’m a New York-based artist, activist and professional, originally from Chile. My work explores ideas of identity, queerness, and language. Throughout my artistic practice, I explore diverse media and techniques, however, my preferred media are gouache, acrylic paint and ink. My work is often characterised by surrealist elements, rich detail, and personal and historical symbolism — all of which emulate the eccentricity of my creative and curious mind.
I work as a studio assistant to queer artist Lyle Ashton Harris. I also do freelance work and I volunteer my free time to creating graphic assets for non-profit organisations, activist groups such as Voices 4 , and artist-run spaces.
Francesco Ferranti: What does #QueeringLockdown mean to you? Do you think that capitalist society is disconnecting us from each other and ourselves during Quarantine?
Matías Alvial: #QueeringLockdown means increasing the visibility of queer voices — creating a safe space online, where queer creatives can share their newest work during the time of quarantine.
I don’t know if I agree with the statement that capitalism contributes to the feeling of disconnection during Quarantine. We feel disconnected because we are not gathering in the spaces we would normally interact with fellow friends, co-workers, etc. I will say that capitalism, however, does promote individuality to a dangerous extent. The capitalist system rewards individual achievements and fails to encourage the existence of a community.
We are constantly surrounded by unfortunate news, and while the pandemic has affected many people — especially those who are most vulnerable — I like to think of the positive changes that have come from it. For instance, for some, the lockdown has meant a break from routine and a moment to reflect; a moment to pick up a skill, hobby, unfinished project, etc. The pandemic has afforded us a special time in history, where we see an increased amount of mutual care. I’m not just talking about volunteers, community organizers, and activists (who are doing great work), but also about common individuals. We become so involved in our daily lives that we forget to ask ourselves how our friends and family are doing. We each have the potential to brighten someone’s day with a simple call or text message.
This is why I started a small project to build a sense of care during these times. I’m taking social interactions offline (we’ve all had too much screen time), by sending empty postcards to the people who signed up to my newsletter. The idea is that they write a message and mail them out to people they love, miss, etc.
Newsletter subscription link:
Francesco Ferranti: Do you have any self-care tips to share? Ways of staying connected and supporting our queer community during this period?
Matías Alvial: Self-care tips… ummm… I’ve personally embarked on a self-care ritual of sorts that I perform about twice a week. At night, I turn off all lights, light up a candle, turn on my small scent diffuser, and play my ‘feel good’ music and do breathing exercises. I feel like a new person after it (if I don’t fall asleep midway).
Link to the playlist: https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/2fff6L03hElU00k901EQc2
To answer the second part of your question… ways to stay connected can be as simple as reaching out to our queer siblings and checking up on them, being a friend and a listener. Additionally, depending on your personal circumstances, you can do anything from donating to a cause of your interest, employing queer freelancers, or joining activist organizations. A simple way of helping, especially creatives, is by sharing their work amongst your own network — while you may not have the financial resources to help, someone you know might! It is a matter of connecting someone who needs help with someone who has the resources to provide such aid.
Francesco Ferranti: Can you take us on a journey through your previous projects?
Matías Alvial: ‘Fluid Beings’ (2019) is a series of drawings that explores the fluidity of one’s persona. I depict the fluidity of sexuality and gender and inquire on the role that clothes play in personal expression. For instance, in “III” and “VI” we see how clothes boost our confidence, and removing such layers renders us exposed and fragile. In “II”, we see how fashion serves as a tool of expression for masculinity and femininity.
‘Lyrically Intoxicated’ (2019) was my first time diving seriously into photography. Because of my experience working with Lyle Ashton Harris, I learned the power of archiving events — especially as they relate to my queer identity. The series records my personal encounters with queer nightlife in New York. It questions the community’s dependence of mind-altering substances to have fun (whether it is alcohol or hard drugs). While I don’t think this experience is universal across all countries and cities, my nights out have heavily relied on drug use and abuse. The images I portray are blurry recollections of events, which I use to build abstract, almost poetic, narratives of the places I’ve been. Information is non-existent; no details, no names, just unrecognizable faces.
‘Gracias a La Vida’ (2019) is an installation project that displays a poem by the renowned Chilean writer Violeta Parra, in which she thanks life for all its given her; The author committed suicide a year after writing it. This work came to be as I was contemplating my own mortality after my grandfather passed away. The copper used alludes to my roots (as the material is Chile’s biggest export), and the glass that encases it reflects the human experience — the material is strong in nature, yet external forces can shatter it, rendering nothing but unrepairable pieces. ‘Gracias a La Vida’ is a homage to my humble grandfather who raised me to be thankful for everything around me (as Parra’s poem explains) while keeping in mind how fragile life can be.
Francesco Ferranti: What’s your experience with LGBTQIA+ activism, and specifically with Voices 4?
I have been an active member of Voices4 since 2018; I make most graphic assets for the activist organisation. The motto of Voices4 is “queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere”, which perfectly aligns with my personal values. Not only the organization raises awareness of queer issues, but it also has the mission to create a global queer community in which all feel welcome. I personally believe in the impact of online communities, as they were of great help when growing up in a conservative country.
Francesco Ferranti: Shoutouts to queer artists that are inspiring you and keeping u sane during these porous times?
Matías Alvial: Have a long list of people who inspire me during this time.
John Brooks, a visual artist and poet based in Louisville, Kentucky. Instagram
Colin J. Radcliffe: