Finding a New Purpose for Old Technology: A Conversation with Nick Gentry
By: Erika Streisfield
Many of your materials are sourced by external contributors, including film negatives, VHS cassettes, X-rays, and floppy discs. Why did you choose to work with these items and how is this collaborative effort significant to your artwork?
Art is becoming much more inclusive and collaborative. The renaissance days of having this separate, isolated object are gone. A revolution is happening where the public is now demanding to be included as part of the work, and it’s inspiring to see that artists are now responding to that call. As people we need art to reflect and define who we are, so to fully embrace this notion I have opened up my practice and invited the public to get fully involved by embedding their memories within the work. I want people to feel the artwork from the inside out and to be involved from conception (and even far earlier, when you consider that we are dealing with materials with such rich history). I propose that these objects contain a shared energy and stand for something quite remarkable. I resist defining exactly what that is, preferring to leave the viewer to again take part and feel something unique based on their own individual past experiences.
How are your ideas about reality versus the created world reflected in your work?
We are creating and recording our experience of the world with ever greater frequency and detail. The real world is there, but now overlaid with more and more of these digital additions and filters. This augmented reality that we are entering is completely different to the pre-internet and pre-digital photography age that I grew up in. Since those inventions have occurred, I feel it’s my duty as an artist to describe the feeling of this hugely significant shift. Are we currently experiencing the most significant change in human history? It feels incredibly inspiring to be here now to respond to that suggestion.
Credit: Nick Gentry
With technology rapidly changing, will your art encompass these changes? What kind of tech tools or associated materials do you hope to work with in the future (i.e. iPods, Walkmans, video games)?
I don’t project myself too far into the future – I have a hard enough time comprehending the present! I actually find that as experiences occur it then takes time to assimilate those and reflect later on. So really, you could say that I’m using elements of the recent past to reflect the present times. The future is implied of course, but I personally love the fact that it is unknown to us, that element of mystery is inspirational to me.
Imagine it’s the year 2020, what does art look like?
If the predictions of the world come true then we may well be looking to machines to provide us with all forms of culture. We are programming an alternate reality, with superior versions of ourselves in our own image. Hello Art Frankenstein!