Artist Interview: Nicholas Knutson

Artist Interview: Nicholas Knutson

Posted May 19th, 2017 by Juleana Enright

With his fingers on the pulse of what radical videocore should be, artist Nicholas Knutson has found a way to speak to the nature of digital media and the saturated presence of the internet in the form of visual arts.

This year, for the Art-A-Whirl event Wolf Pack, he shares the bill with some of the Twin Cities most innovative video artists. I caught up with Nick for a quick taste of what Wolf Pack will look like for attendees and to talk about the jarring nature of video aesthetics.

Juleana Enright: For Art-A-Whirl, Wolf Pack plans to represent a collection of sculptural video pieces from some of Minneapolis’ most innovative artists. What kind of elements make the artists in this show fall into this “innovative” category?


Nicholas Knutson: Calling ourselves “Minneapolis’ most innovative video and sculptural artists” was a bold move, considering the abundance of talent in the Twin Cities that often goes unrecognized. The variety of media in the practice of each artist gives it a unique and original take on displaying our work. We are taking video, sculpture, performance, painting, and drawing and combining them to create a multi-dimensional experience for the viewer.


Digital Bath/Engram, sculptural video installation


JE: The content of your work is pretty futuristic. There are recurring themes which explore the oversaturated existence and the chaotic nature of digital media. How do you balance your work so that the disarray and hyper-realism is still recognized but the viewer isn't so overwhelmed by visuals that they miss the point?


KN: In my latest piece (Digital Bath/ Engram, currently on display at 10th & Hennepin as part of the Made Here installations downtown), the chaos of social media — which I’m representing in my video piece — is projected onto a dodecahedron, which is a 12-sided shape commonly used for gaming dice. The shape of the sculpture is intentionally clean and simple, reflecting the  technology we use to access social media and is meant to be pleasing to the eye. Juxtaposed against this is the jarring and spastic video. The desired outcome is that the viewer be mesmerized...but also uncomfortable.


Digital Bath/Engram, as seen in the Made Here installation.


JE: Minneapolis just recently showcased its first glitch art exhibit at Gamut Gallery. With distorted elements and references to digital media and the internet, what makes the video works you create different from glitch art?


NK: I don’t consider myself a glitch artist, although much of my work could fit into its parameters. My understanding is that “glitching” is breaking down digital or analog files with the intention of distorting imagery to the artist’s liking. With this medium, the artistic process is itself the art. I find this to be satisfying at times, but also limiting, as my means of expression are varied.


JE: Much of your work also examines the intersection of audio and video, manipulating visuals and sound to produce works that are dual sensory videocore performance art. What drew you to working with this medium?


KN: I grew up with the powerful imagery of MTV in the ‘90s and saw a new form of escapism that was both alluring and rebellious. Later, I was exposed to artists such as Mike Kelley, Pipilotti Rist, and Matthew Barney, who expanded the idea of video art and sculpture for me and indelibly changed my perspective.  


JE: Will your noise project, Soft Sculpture, be performing at this event?


KN: Soft Sculpture is not performing at Art-a-Whirl this year, but a collective of the band plus assorted noise artists created a Super Group called Chaos Combat Marching Band, who will be performing alongside Fancy Ray at the Casket Arts Building, Friday at 6 pm.


The artist (right) with a friend.


Wolf Pack kicks off Friday, May 19th at the Arcana Lodge #187, 920 Lowry Ave NE. Check the Facebook event for more details.

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