suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Nick ERVINCK: As an artist I was always fascinated by the future and the idea of recombination, mutation, and manipulation. With this series I wanted to question the status of flora in the 21th century and fantasize about how our flowers, plants, and fruits will look like in the future.
As a sculptor who experiments with the possibilities of all media, I don’t want to think in the present but rather have fresh ideas and fantasies about the future. In that sense, these sculptures are a fantastic view on the future and a visualization of futuristic dreams.
After the Second World War there was the idea to find “peaceful” uses for atomic energy. Researchers working on experiments with radiation, fruits & vegetables had the idea of reducing world hunger and helping farmers. Success or not, it’s in this “Atoms for peace program” that the idea was born that we could manipulate nature in such a way that the result became something completely unconventional. We could play God in a way. With this series of 3-D prints I want to reflect on this optimism. The “Atoms for peace program” may seem rather naive now, yet today universities are employing entire teams of researchers to create variations on fruits and plants. The idea that everything is manufacturable is very much alive. It’s something that fascinates me till this day and it has pushed me to constantly experiment and look for alternative options in my own artwork. Yet there are things we can’t forget whilst striving forward .We are breaking through all the technical restrictions of these technologies like 3-D printing, which is why we also need to broaden our general perspective—defined by time and culture—that limits our imagined standard. With projects like NOITATUM, I try to enlarge that perspective by searching for new solutions, visualizing them, and by doing so, introducing them into reality.
At the same time NOITATUM has his roots in an art-historical context. More than building on the tradition of sculpture, NOITATUM refers to the bombastic history of the art of ceramics in the Renaissance & Rococo. Back then it was the task of the artist to recreate an ideal form by studying the beauties of nature and trying to depict their underlying perfect form. The objects were judged not by their restrained or harmonious appearance, but by their creator’s ability to make something that could be seen as a rival to the natural world. In a way NOITATUM is a homage to these sculptures that almost seem to burst of ambition.
Altogether, these plant mutation sculptures, form a sort of frozen mutated garden, an archive from the future. Captured in a moment of flux, the organic character of these sculpture is accentuated. Although these sculptures are digitally designed, the fluent movements of these creatures leave the viewer in doubt about their status. I look for the subtle border between abstraction and figuration, the suggestion rather than the definition.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
NE: Many things drive me and my work, and it was no different this time around. But for this project, it was when I met Dr. A.P.M. Ton den Nijs from the Plant Breeding Department of Wageningen University. It was through him that I became fascinated by the potential of food manipulation, including through the use of 3-D print technology.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
NE: I have to say, it’s hard to pinpoint what I was reading, watching, or listening to at any given moment during this project. Most of the time I’m exploring my own archive. At this point in my career, 11 years in, I’ve collected a huge archive of approximately 600,000 files—mosty composed of elder projects and inspirational images I encounter on the internet. But for this project in particular, I have been reading up on some European ceramic design and radiation experiments during the cold war.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
NE: I really like the works of Henry Moore, Hans Arp, Tony Cragg & Anish Kapoor. But I also have an interest in a younger generation of artists, like Michael Hansmeyer and Tobias Klein.