Q&A with Travers Smith's CSR Art Programme artist Nemo Nonnenmacher
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a white cis-male artist who grew up in Germany in the 80’s and 90’s. I was raised by my mother, a single parent and freelance carpenter, who used to work day and night to survive in a male-dominated line of work. I had two non-biological fathers, one a bibliophile, recluse painter, the other a blind and heavily disabled musician.
I was often alone and more interested in books, philosophy and parallel digital worlds of the emerging internet, rather than attending school regularly. I retreated into inner worlds, and in a severe case of media-escapism spent most of my time on the web, in chat rooms, immersed in video games and books about Virtual Reality and Cyberpunk.
In an attempt to visualise these written worlds, I started studying Photography. I was lucky to receive a scholarship when I was finishing my BA, which enabled me to continue my studies at the Royal College of Art in London, UK. Following my MA, I started working for an artist-run residency and exhibition space in West London, hoping to provide opportunities for other emerging artists.
In early 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, I moved to Southern Greece, where I now have a permanent studio and fully dedicate my time to my practice.
Tell us more about your work/practice?
I am trying to capture the attraction and seduction of digital spaces and materials which were so desirable to me as a young boy. I am still deeply influenced by the virtual worlds in fictions like 'Otherland' by Tad Williams, 'Neuromancer' by William Gibson or 'Snow Crash' by Neal Stephenson.
I am led by a skeptical enthusiasm for digital technologies in general. On the one hand fascinated by the democratic outset, the participatory ‘everyone is a creator’ and the possibilities for expanding the human condition. On the other, I am aware of how these worlds and connections influence our identity and dictate our day to day lives.
Which tools and media do we use to access these worlds? How can we better understand the way we relate through them, their impact on our mind and body? What are their political and ethical implications? And what is left today of the initial promises these utopias had to offer?
The work I am showing with Travers Smith this year ('all skills, even the most abstract, begin as bodily practices', 2017) is a work I made at the end of my time at the Royal College of Art. I was struck by the fact that all technology is derived, or abstracted from the most immediate material we carry with us - our bodies. I was eager to explore this relationship in the imagery I was creating during that time - a movement, a touch, a notion, that even by squeezing through pipelines of technology and bastardising its properties, will always be present.
How does it feel to be featured in Travers Smith's CSR Art Programme once again?
I can't stress enough how strongly I feel about the importance of this kind of support for artists at the beginning of their careers and I love seeing the initiative being continued and expanded upon. The support I have received through this programme has been incredible and to receive professional recognition from a field outside the arts has been one of the most respectful and empowering experiences within my career so far.
I am thankful and encouraged to see modern, experimental, and particularly digital positions recognised and represented in programmes like this. I do wish to see more of this kind of respect and professionalism in the arts and culture sector in general.
What's next on the horizon for you?
I am currently working on a new series of digital sculptural works with a focus on Virtual Reality, for which I received a scholarship from the German Ministry of Culture. In preparation for this, I worked with some amazing digital artists in Germany and the UK, learning about game engines, data-streams and digital platforms for collaboration. I am looking forward to presenting this new body of work in Spring 2022.
Nemo was one of our 2021-22 artists. Read about more of our Art Programme artists here.