The Maker of Stuff

Neil Mendoza and His Creations Between Art and Technology

In his website, Neil Mendoza modestly defines himself ‘maker of stuff’.
Actually, he is a talented programmer who applies his informatic-engineering skills to art, creating always new and surprising installations.

Here are some of the questions I asked him and the description of the artworks I liked the most:

In your artworks there are both an objectual part and an engineering one. Which are the differences in working with each one?

Both have things I like and things I dislike. The biggest difference is that in real world, when there’s a problem, you can’t just fix it rewriting a part of the code.

That’s why, for example, in The Tyranny of Birds, Neil had to do many baking experiments to learn how to bake the bread in the shape of a bird able to move its wings.
He indeed wanted to empower bread to take flight from its bird predators when they appeared on museum’s screens.

How do you create all, making it seem easy and effortless while there’s so much study and work behind each decision?

I think that making art is about ideas and not about materials, it’s like when a painter makes a painting: the subject isn’t paint so I think it should be the same with technology.
When someone uses technology for art purposes, it should stay in the background.

I can’t even imagine how difficult was to create all the mechanisms in House Party installation: a party at home where the guests are objects and not people.
Inside this old-styled living room with its own life we can indeed see a tv that shows the loop of a program, some shoes, books, lamps, a hat, and a coat that keep the rhythm, San Francisco’s Golden Gate and a dog which bend and swing inside the pictures where they were shown, the level of a flowers vase’s water that raises and gets low as music’s pulses, a frame and some flowers spinning like they are dancing, and a fireplace which intermittently illuminates.

As can be seen in House Party, music is a very important component in many of your artworks. How come? Is it because you composed some music with the alias Apex?

In the past I used to be a deejay and I also used to produce electronic music.
While recently I’ve been spending more time making art and less time making music. I still want to make music though, so I put it into my art instead.
Moreover, it’s interesting to see how music transforms people’s relationship to space and objects.

In particular, for two of your musical installations, you chose famous songs whose titles are bound to the aesthetic features of your artworks.

The Electric Knife Orchestra consists of 16 knives and a meat cleaver moved by mechanisms programmed by the artist to reproduce Bee Gees’ hit Stayin’ Alive. The title’s aim is indeed to warn those viewers who want to touch the blades forgetting their danger just because this orchestra seems captivating and harmless when it sounds.

You also created a Rock Band literally formed by rocks thrown or slapped by some instruments to play Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun. It’s like rocks themselves are describing the arrival of sun on the lawn where they are.

I saw that in your works you use not only found objects but also many animals, both physically and figuratively. How come?

Technology is an aspect that differentiates us from the animal kingdom and separates us from nature. So, I think it would be necessary to bring back the animals in our world because we are animals too.
Some of my pieces are then a commentary of our relationship with the natural world.
Moreover, dealing such issues not directly but through the humour and the art, allows to make these messages more striking.

Fish Hammer, in particular,empowers a fish to destroy a house as we destroy every day natural sea life habitat.
The artist made this possible tracing with a camera the moves of a goldfish inside a fish tank and linking its movements to a hammer that was moving around and was activated only when the fish stopped. In this way the fish was able to smash miniature furniture of human habitat

Thanks to his art, Neil Mendoza brings us to surreal worlds or allows us to interact with objects in unexpected ways.

In Mechanical Masterpieces installation he does both allowing viewers to act on famous paintings filling them with water, switching their lights on and off and much more.
Down here you can discover the artwork. Can you recognize all the renowned paintings he used?

Useful links: Neil Mendoza’s website
Vimeo channel
Instagram page
Facebook page

Photo e video courtesy by the artist

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