Author Spotlight: Nemomatic



Nemo Gould, better known on Instructables as nemomatic, is a kinetic sculptor who uses found objects to create his works. A larger collection of his work and more information about him is available at his website. Read on to learn a little bit about the intersection of Fine Art and Makers, not to mention a touch of controversy around the uncredited use of some of his work in Wired magazine. (And if you'd like to support fine art, quality making, and Nemo himself, check out his Quicksilver Scooter in the Instructables store.)

What’s your background? How did you get into sculpture?

I was interested in art at an early age.  Back then I imagined that I would grow up to be an animator.  I've always loved old stop motion movies.  Once I was old enough to pursue this I learned how tedious the process was.  Before long I realized that the procedure for making things that actually move held more appeal than the procedure for making things appear to move.  So, I went to art school.  The Kansas City Art Institute for my BFA, then U.C. Berkeley for my MFA.  I'm now making sculpture full time in my studio in Oakland.

What prompted you to share your work on Instructables?

Throughout my career as an artist I've found that I get consistently more support from the DIY, Maker community than I do from the Fine Art community.  I think this has to do with my early science fiction / animation interests as well as my tendency towards craftsmanship.  Instructables attracts the kind of reader who is predisposed to appreciating what I do, so it was only natural to share my process there.

You’ve been in Wired twice without mention. Were you surprised to find your sculpture waggling his robo-wang at Andy Rubin without getting credited for the sculpture in the background?

Honestly I wish it was more of a surprise.  I'm afraid that our culture, and mass media in particular has a long way to go towards appreciating the value of art.  All too often I encounter the attitude that I should be grateful for any kind of "free exposure" that I can get.  This may have been correct thinking once upon a time, but with the internet that argument falls apart.  An artist can now easily promote themselves globally for little or no money.  When media companies and businesses use art to strengthen their image without acknowledging the artist, they are simply stealing from us.  I don't think this disrespect is intentional, it's simply part of the greater misconception that artists somehow produce their work in a cost / risk vacuum.  Because what we make does not fit cleanly into any given market, its assumed that it isn't a commodity.  This overlooks the cost of our education, the cost of the materials in the piece, the rent on the studio space, the cost of the equipment used etc.  The fact is that art is one of the most difficult and expensive goods to produce, and is commonly viewed as the least valuable.  Until we can turn this around I think this kind of behavior will persist. 

You use a lot of found objects. Where do you find your stuff? Do you leave with an image in mind of what you want? Or does inspiration strike while you’re exploring?

I make regular trips to Urban Ore in Berkeley, as well as the S.F. Dump and several other scrap yards and second hand stores around the Bay Area.  One of the best things thats happened to me in recent years is to have developed a reputation as the guy to take your cool old crap to if you don't want to throw it away.  Some of my best "finds" are now things that people have donated to me.
There is no simple answer to the question of how / when inspiration strikes.  I've basically learned to trust the instinct that an object has "potential".  Sometimes its immediately obvious what I'll use it for, but often it will languish on a shelf for years before its purpose reveals itself.  The trick is to not be in a hurry about it.  Just steadily collect and build.  Eventually everything comes together.

One of your projects is being sold in the Instructables store. What is it, and can you tell us a little about the build?

My Quicksilver Scooter is in your store right now.  It was a pretty big departure from my usual body of work, though it was built by the same principles.  The project really began as a sort of gift for myself.  I find there is a bittersweetness to making things of personal importance only to then sell them to others.  Ever since I was a kid I had this fascination with vintage scooters and motorcycles so I decided to apply my skills and facilities towards making something that would satisfy that old longing.  One of the things that originally kept me from getting a vintage bike was the difficulty of maintaining them.  For this reason I chose a 1980's Honda Elite 125 scooter as my starting point.  They have a reputation for running forever, and they are pretty mechanically simple. 

Everything you see on the exterior of the bike is found metal.  There are many street lamp covers and vacuum cleaner parts (among much else) welded into pieces to form the skin.  One of the finer features is the nixie tube speedometer.  I owe much thanks to Rich Humphrey for the concept and execution of that detail.  I'm really pleased with how it came out.  I wanted a classic (but strange) one of a kind ride that was easy to own, could turn heads, and was street legal.  Mission accomplished.  The only trouble with realizing your ambition it seems is that then you find something else to strive for.  Having had my fun with the scooter I'm now eager to move on to a larger bike project.  I have a Honda CX 500 waiting in a corner for my attention.  It is my hope to find a good home for the Quicksilver to make some room and provide some funds to get to work on the CX.