Interview—Nick Gentry, a floppy disk artistJuxtapoz // Tuesday, 25 Jan 2011
Our Helen Soteriou sat down with the floppy disk artist, Nick Gentry, whose work is currently on display in Barcelona at Le Pan. As mentioned in his mission statement, "[Gentry's] portraits use a combination of obsolete media formats, making a comment on waste culture, life cycles and identity." —Juxtapoz Magazine
Helen Soteriou: Can you tell us about your background?
Nick Gentry: I was part of the first generation of kids that grew up with computers. Naturally I formed some kind of bond with these objects and the media that surrounded me. I tend to think that our parents cannot relate to this technology in the same way and humankind has changed forever in this respect.
How did your first floppy disk piece come about?
It was a painting of a fingerprint. At the time I was thinking about identity and ways to portray that through my work. The fingerprint struck me as a metaphor for this and I thought that the disks could be formed, not just as a canvas, but also as a big part of the art itself.
You remind me a little of Nick Georgiou, was it your intention to make a powerful statement about the constant state of changing technology?
He uses old paper and printed text. Just like the floppy disk, it is in that inevitable process of obsolescence. Maybe we both regard the media that we choose to make art with as artifacts of the recent past, even though they still fully exist en-masse in the present moment. These objects are no longer in the spotlight, but by placing them there for a second it becomes easier to comprehend the speed and extent of the changes that are taking place today.
Are you a great believer in recycling materials?
The way I see it, why not reuse a form that is already in existence? I don’t need to buy a pristine white canvas when I can find or make one myself. To me, used ‘junk’ has a unique charm and a story that cannot be found in the new forms.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I like to travel to new places. As soon as I set off on a journey and leave my usual surroundings my thought process is altered. It’s vital for me to have a sketchbook on trains, buses and planes as that is when I tend to have my best ideas.
What has been your biggest piece to date?
I have just finished a painting called “Emulated AI”. I used 300 disks to make it.
What piece are you most proud of and why?
So far it would be that same piece. It’s inspired me to work on an even larger scale. I’m happy when a painting provides some motivation and clarity for a new development. Seeing that many disks on the wall says a lot more about sheer numbers and waste. What would it look like to have all the floppy disks ever produced united in one place? You could probably pave every street in London with them!
Have you experimented with other types of obsolete media?
I have used VHS tapes before. Floppy disks are my favourite though as I love the variety of colours and the handwriting that gives clues to what might be stored on them.
Where do you source your disks from?
I used to buy them on Ebay, but now the majority are donated to me. It’s so much better when they are donated as I like art to feel like a collaborative process. I think people enjoy being part of this creative process too.
What has been the publics reaction to your work?
To me it’s amazing that so many people are seeing my work. It’s seems to be that some people see the work and recognise a number of things that they can identify with. I’m happy because the beautiful part of the work is not about me. In a sense it belongs to the public and I am always looking to make art with materials from them.
Do you get a lot of private commissions?
I get some requests for that but I tend not to take them on.
Who or what inspires you?
I find inspiration in everything. It all goes into the mix and comes out the other side as a simple image. I am especially interested in the notion that everything is in constant flux. Through our best efforts at preservation people attempt to make things permanent, but nature relentlessly breaks everything back down and creates new forms. Technology is important as we are now reaching a point where the social concept of reality is in the process of being completely overhauled.
Can you tell me about your book Obsolete?
When a painting is finished it is out of my life and I am moving onto the next idea. So occasionally it’s good to put something together that reminds you of what you have done. For me the book is a nice way to look back for a second. For other people I think it’s a chance to see a collection of my work.
(link to purchase)
What does 2011 hold?
I am going to travel with my art more, making some large scale public works (if I can get enough disks!) In the background I will also be experimenting with new materials.
More of Nick Gentry's work here.