photo:  Rose Currie

I find satisfaction in taking an item that's surplus or cast off, and re-creating it to suit a task it was never intended for. Many of my light sculptures involve materials such as old science equipment, lab electronics, or appliances from another era. I often combine these with tubes known as nixies, invented in the late 1950s and obsolete by the 1970s.

In March of 2017 I was fortunate to have some of my pieces in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. I was asked to summarize my artistic aesthetic for a brief talk. Here is an excerpt.

"Our world travels at a fast clip. We continually look for ways to streamline production and improve efficiency.

I find the way machines interact with us interesting. Currently, most of our lives are focused through a keyboard, mouse, and a screen. If you look at what 1950s science fiction had to say, machines would interact with us via lots of flashing lights, meters, and levers that made a satisfying clacking sound when used. There’s something about this tactile property and the way that information was conveyed back to us that’s unlike the uniformity we get from modern gadgets.

My goal in creating art out of these parts is to end up with something that looks old. I want to avoid the polished appearance of steampunk gears or other bits that serve no function. It is very hard to fake the effects of decades of  wear and use, so I try to preserve those marks of time as much as I can. When I’m searching for raw materials, the more weathered a piece looks, the more interested I am in making something from it.

I enjoy seeing some piece of machinery or object still do the task it was designed for, albeit a bit differently, especially if that object is obsolete or out of fashion. I also like taking something from a different context of decades back, and bringing it forward. Taking something from 1940s Britain, something from the cold-war era USSR and having it reference contemporary culture by having it spell out ‘punk’ or ‘kink’ creates a cool collision of different eras for me.

The warm glow these tubes create is a nice counterpoint to the LCD glow that we’re used to. They serve as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of such technologies, and as a gesture to their enduring elegance."

Mike deWit