In this second article of the new written content series "The Tribe Connects," we introduce fabulous tribe members Nelson da Cruz and Marco Tamura! Their candid conversation navigates the labyrinth of self-expression while shedding light on their struggles, aha moments and the transformative experience of Art. Enjoy it!
Nelson: What makes you move forward? What’s your main source of motivation? (I’m fully expecting Shakira to be part of your answer, Marco)
Marco: Wow, Shakira is certainly a source of inspiration to me! Growing up in Latin America, I watched a lot of Telenovelas and when I was a kid she was already producing soundtracks for novelas (I can’t believe five seconds in I’m already talking about Shakira and people are going to read about it!). In the Laundry Service album, Shakira was super visual. The music videos had giant owls and she was singing in the middle of horses, running in the desert! OMG. She had a huge influence on the visual artist I am today.
Answering your question, I think the need to tell stories pushes me forward. A lot of these stories I'm not yet telling but, every time I watch a talk of a showrunner or I see someone who made a short movie or novel or simply told a story from their point of view, I get eager to take these projects out of the drawer and leave something written. It doesn't need to be anything genius or great but it needs to be done before I perish. Every time I get on a plane, I think to myself, “What If all goes wrong now? People will talk about me but many don't even know who I truly am!”. Even my family (oh god I'm turning this into a therapy session)... At THU or within friend circles, there’s a legit opportunity to hear and get to know someone, but sometimes, at home, that’s harder to achieve. Also, art is my source of income today, so not starving is an excellent motivation to keep pushing!
Marco: What elements in your childhood turned you into a creative person?
Nelson: Do you mean what brought me to this creative universe? I can blame the Megadrive and all the games that made me spend hours dreaming about other worlds, but I will focus on something else. One of the things I have no doubt put me on this path was Lisbon's Expo98. There is a Nelson before and after 98; that event exposed me to so much Art and Design everywhere I looked. It was so visual and intense! I was impressed with the parades and pavilions and mainly how technology was used to enhance art. It was pivotal. I knew I was an artist after that. I always loved to draw as a kid, but after that summer, I felt like I didn't want anything other than to be like the artists I saw there.
Marco: Was there something specific in Expo98 that triggered this epiphany?
Nelson: I had never traveled outside Portugal and, suddenly, it felt like the entire world came to visit me. The environment in Lisbon during that summer of 98 was magical and multicultural; a part of the city was repurposed for it, and it changed the town permanently. It all culminated in the last few days, mainly the closing ceremony on the last day! It was my first time seeing a multimedia show and it stuck with me. The fireworks with dancers and projection mapping were so overwhelming and different from my daily life that it opened my mind to the possibilities of what can be done with Art through technology. I still remember the Pavillion of Cience and Utopia! They made me fall in love with Art. I’ve been chasing the energy of that summer ever since.
Nelson: How do you keep faith in yourself during turbulent times?
Marco: Being an artist is like navigating a thin line between not thinking that you’re “all that” but also knowing you have something to say. And it’s too easy to fall to either side! Some days, you might think of yourself as a genius (laughs), and then at other times, you think this couldn’t be furthest from the truth!
Faith to carry on? For me, keeping track of important steps along the way is Key! I don't know if you're like this as well, but I tend to forget much of what I've done and it happens more with the good things than with the negative ones.The Great thing about Google Photos and similar apps is that at the end of the year, we get to look back and actually see the things we lived and accomplished.And you know what is also the culprit for that? NDAs. We spend so much time not being able to share the stuff we’ve worked on that we get the false sensation that we didn’t do anything at all.
So yeah, long story short, my faith comes from watching my friends’ journeys and keeping track of what I did, Journal, sketchbook, GooglePhotos. Those around you always have a better perception of your progress than yourself. So, surround yourself with cool people too!
Marco: Working in Entertainment, what's the biggest issue in this industry?
Nelson: Wow, I'm sure there's plenty wrong, but what comes to mind is a lack of recognition. We see a lot of movies starting with "A movie by [single person name]." It often takes hundreds of people to develop these creative projects, and their work remains in the shadows both in credit and remuneration. It's a bit better in the games industry, but the problem persists. I also see a mindset gap between the people making the decisions and the final consumer. This often results in disappointing features or launching works in progress as final products. We need more creatives in charge and more Artist entrepreneurs, in general, to help correct these trends.
Nelson: Did you learn what you were hoping out of school?
Marco: Yes and No, terrible answer, I know! Let me add context. Even though I went to this small suburban school, I was lucky enough to have great teachers there, especially one Literature teacher called Vilma. This person had a lot of experience, and I believe she thought her calling was to come back to this small neighborhood and make a difference. She was the one who encouraged me to explore Art, while other teachers would tell us we should become lawyers or doctors and go on the more traditional route.
But school can also carry some traumatic experiences. I learned to create this Public Persona - that definitely helps me today - but I’m not sure how the school as an institution evens out between the traumas and the teachings! At the end of the day I ended up learning a lot at school and made friends for life! And this is definitely positive. It's all about finding those key people who tell you to keep going and being persistent, as every artist should be, and you keep moving forward.
Marco: Here is a simple but deep one, What makes you Happy?
Nelson: In a very short answer, Sharing. Nothing gives the same type of satisfaction and generates happiness as sharing; for example, on the trip to THU Japan, I was alone, but sharing moments with you and many others and this made those memories so special to me. It is Fundamental to who I am. Also, I love to share food; gathering around a meal I cooked always makes me smile.
Nelson: After a long time working on the same project, are you able to move on or does the project linger?
Marco: I think they stick with me! Better yet, they haunt me like a ghost! XD It's almost like making bread; you always carry the sourdough (leaven), and there is always a base of the project you did before (I'm not a baker; don't ask me questions on that subject.). Sometimes I feel the need to start something entirely new! You know what? No one knows me, so why not reinvent myself completely? But inevitably, we can't move away from ourselves, and our fingerprints will always be there no matter how hard we try to clean them!
I am resistant to letting go of projects. I may be a good artist, but I'm probably not the right one to coordinate a project because I would fail to see if it is doomed; I would always believe in its potential. So yeah, my answer is that they stick with, haunt, and call for me.
Marco: To talk a bit about Community, as artists, we close ourselves off in certain moments, and it's bizarre to think we've seen each other at THU before but only engaged this year at THU Japan. What role does Community play in your development as an artist and person?
Nelson: I can give an example of how, in 2020, while preparing for THU Japan, some friends started a group to coordinate the trip, and then the lockdown happened. The event got canceled, but we never left the group, and at some point, someone renamed it "General Support," and now we have around 20+ people in there who talk to each other every day. It's so much more than art support. I speak more with them than with my family, and I share carelessly with them.
That inner circle is grounding to me and so precious because even when we meet artists at events, we share a couple of moments once or twice a year; even if they influence you, it's only when you have a tightly-knit community you can genuinely connect and heal when you are down and hurting. The group generates a positive energy that bounces out of each other and lifts everyone's mood.
Nelson: Why do we need Art?
Marco: That's a good one! I'll return the same question to you in a moment.
Nelson: oh boy, ok..
Marco: I was talking about Art with my cousin earlier regarding how the artist sees beauty in the mundane, in the ordinary. We see beauty; we see storytelling. And we want to show people what we're seeing! Art has the power to translate the beauty we see and feel and share it with the world. It's transformative in that way. Look at my country! Brazil had profound cultural changes through mass entertainment. Once taboo, topics such as same-sex marriage, domestic violence, or adoption were introduced to society through storytelling, and these stories made people actively think and change their attitudes toward them. That's amazing, that's powerful!
Art is influential, and that's precisely why I feel it upsets ultra-conservative people; they fear the real impact of Art in society. I love how THU's artist circles are very diverse, and we're able to talk, exchange experiences, and have honest conversations. We remove our armours and are even able to admit we are wrong. What was the question again?
Nelson: Why do we need Art?
Marco: Oh, and that's why we need Art! I answered it, didn't I? How about you?
Nelson: To me, Art is not a choice. It's who I am, and I believe everyone has some form of Art inside themselves, be it poetically describing a bottle of wine or applying programming techniques, which has a lot of Art in it, too. It's part of being human, but it requires some nurturing.
You feel it when you look at Art. It does make you feel something. Any subject that touches you this profoundly has to be necessary. We chose to follow the path of expression and become artists, while others were never in touch with that core or lacked the courage to follow their calling. We are all artists; some are just more ripe than others.
Marco: Art is everywhere and in everyone, indeed. Then why do some people repress that side of them?
Nelson: Some are naturally more inclined to be analytical than emotional, but it's also about self-awareness of your feelings and who you are. That's an uncomfortable inside job. And many people avoid going through that process. Some people will never know the anguish of the blank canvas (laughs). Artists follow through due to that passion and desire to share.
Marco: I don't judge those who don't want to open that Pandora's box; being an artist is frustrating at times… a lot of times! It's inevitable but also so rewarding. (Let us leave it at that and pick it up at some point on our podcast. Hopefully sponsored by THU hint*hint.