Murphy & Cadogan Artist Interview: Manny Robertson

I see that you explore a wide range of mediums, do you have a favorite, or does it depend on the project/idea you might be trying to get across?

I’ve never been able to choose a favorite medium, because so many different mediums convey meanings differently, so it really does depend on the idea I am getting across.

I love the way you understand science fiction as a natural road for people to go down who have been deemed “unnatural” by society their entire lives. What kind of science fiction do you like, and when was it exactly that you started exploring the cyber-mystic future?

I’ve been a fan of exploration in science fiction, mainly space.  Traveling across the galaxies, meeting different beings, that’s my jam.  In high school I loved the novel “Interstellar Pig,” and William Sleator’s other novels, because it was just so bizarre and captivating. The cyber-mystic idea began pretty young, I was reading so much sciencey science-fiction, but also just as much fantastical sci-fi, and wondered why it was either science or magic, when they convey similar ideas. So I was like ¿porqué no los dos? and began thinking about both as one. Doodling enchanted machines (winged toasters were a strong phase) and mystical robots in my notebooks.

Can you talk a little more about the ways in which you use androids and angels, and the cyber-mystic future you envision?

Both Androids and Angels were designed/made, androids by people, Angels by a higher power.  Androids are steps away from being human, Angels are beyond human, and so neither is human, just humanoid.  To me, they are the same idea talked about in different contexts, so by fusing them we can bring attention to the idea.  We live in a world where the default human is a white, straight, cisgender man (sometimes woman), so anyone outside that box is either steps away from human, or steps beyond.  All depending on context.

The Cyber-mystic future the Androids are a part of is still pretty young and just ideas, but the big idea, as of right now, is the breakdown of binaries, when we stop creating a system of X and Y to categorize billions. A  future where ideas we deemed as opposites are shown as the same, once the context has changed.  Magic is how we describe things we do not understand, science is when we think we understand.  Either way, magic or science, we’re talking about understanding something.

What opportunities or new questions have you been allowed to explore because of your MFA experience? What advice would you give artists considering an MFA?

It was because of my MFA that I was able to focus in on the Angels/Androids as the way to vocalize the ideas of identity I was just scratching at.  MFA is a lot of work and personal responsibility, I would say to make sure you already have an idea of what you want to do during your MFA years, even though it probably will change drastically, it is a good jumping point so you are not feeling lost for a few years.  And if you feel lost go all the way back to the earliest work, see what got you attached to art and go from there. Sometimes going down a path we get lost, but if we retrace our steps to the beginning we can go farther.

What do you hope to achieve next in your career? What big dreams and goals do you have for your creative work?

The big goal right now is to finish my MFA strong.  I have so many projects I need to materialize, and ideas I need to organize.  I’m not too sure what is after school, but I don’t want to get distracted focusing on the future when I should be focusing on making my work in the now. (which is, ironically, about a future hahaha).

About Manny Robertson:

Manny Robertson is a Bay Area artist and current MFA student at the San Francisco Art Institute. Robertson blurs disciplinary boundaries to create visual representations of non-binary and queer people as Androids and Angels. Robertson’s digital and film photographs uncover a cyber-mystic future to empower all those whose identities have been deemed “unnatural.”

About the Interviewer:

Olivia Reed is a rising senior at Oberlin College, majoring in English with a minor in studio art. She is originally from the Bay Area.