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We sat down with Morgan Stokes, an emerging artist based in Sydney, to discuss his transition from screen to canvas and how his work plays between virtuality and actuality reflecting entrapment. In a leap of faith, Stokes moved to Berlin from Sydney to pivot his medium thus embracing mindful travel as part of a deeper self reflection and personal shift.
Berlin just has this electric energy. Everyone is either a DJ or a writer or an artist which means everyone is broke and really pursuing these lofty and admirable creative dreams. I think there must also be a causal link between the creative scene and the nightlife - which exists as this surreal alternate world anyone can step into at any time. To that extent the whole city feels like an actual fantasy. I think since the wall fell it has transformed into this vision of alternate futures, all living simultaneously together and that's exciting. Despite some often bleak streetscapes, unforgiving weather and the raw and real history it's endured, the streets hum.
Yes! The struggle was real. Designing is problem solving which has a clear goal. Art is cleaving open yourself to find out what you want to say to the world, and given the endless possibilities available, I stumbled through several existential crises to get to a point where I felt my art authentically represented me. It’s a bizarre, illuminating and unexpectedly difficult process to interrogate yourself through your art. How you look at the world alters. I think everyone should be an artist at some point in their lives because of this.
I think the pandemic has really forced everyone to critically consider the role of travel in their lives. As I'm currently sitting in Sydney five weeks into our first serious lockdown, I feel like my screen and I have finally merged and all I can think about is leaving. The pandemic has underscored travel as the joy of elsewhere. I think that's the same joy we get from our screens: travel and the digital world are both escapes.
Vitally for me, one is a form of carnal rejuvenation and one is a contrived illusion designed to manipulate us. While social media has connected us more than ever, the concept of travel has been commodified in an entirely new way. People travel to send images to their existing world rather than immerse themselves anew, which is the antithesis of mindful travel.
Entrapment is an interesting word to use regarding travel - perhaps entrapment is the ultimate goal of travel? Experiencing life wholly as another?
Exploring is as human as art making. Additionally, art and place are shackled to one another. I think when traveling, seeing what human creativity has been produced in your destination is critical to understanding and empathizing with a place and its people, whether through architecture, music, literature, food, art etc. I think understanding through the internal journey of art in the external journey of travel is as mindful and soulful experience as we have.
Large museums and galleries are vital as hearts of culture, however visiting small, local artists and galleries is a surprising and personal way of engaging with time, politics, culture and place.
My sister Miranda and her family lived in Nairobi for many years and I went to visit her a few times on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya, near Somalia. Just thinking about Lamu is getting me emotional - I’ve spent many hours in lockdown wandering the streets of Lamu through my mind and phone. It was a trading port for hundreds of years set against this spectacular scenic backdrop and through some mysterious formula it just happens to be pure magic.
When I was 21 and walked out of the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof train station alone with my backpack after 30 hours of travel, naively expectant but extremely underprepared. Embedded in my retinas is the low, grey German sky reflected in the low, grey buildings replete with garish signs I couldn’t read and the smell of sweet bread hanging around. Dread is as powerful as beauty, I felt alive and upsettingly keenly aware of my mortality.
Mindful travel, like a scary movie or a very spicy meal, means seeking out and embracing the full breadth of the human experience.