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Nate Mohler on experimenting with digital art and new media

Artist Nate Mohler discusses where his art comes from, and how he negotiates the real and digital.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Dec 19, 2022

The artist Nate Mohler is a new media artist who works with technology as a paint brush to build conceptual and avant-garde experiences through digital works. He hails from Los Angeles, is a UCLA graduate of Design and Media Arts, and remains intrigued with the fusion of conceptual art and technology. As he tells STIR in a note about himself, he has a strong focus on “how the marriage of the two may be utilised to support connectivity and social activism with unconventional space and sound, and on eliciting action and question through digital mediums such as projection mapping, immersive installations, sculpture and video art.”

Untitled 2, 2022, photo, digital media, Nate Mohler |Untitled | Nate Mohler | STIRworld
Untitled 2, 2022, photo, digital media Image: Nate Mohler

Mohler explores the influences that have inspired him to create his distinct works, saying, “I am very inspired by a mixture of directors, musicians, and designers such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Lohanzo Zemmer, Casey Reas, Refik Anadol, Joanie lemercier, Andrew Thomas Huang, Colin Stetson, Max Cooper, Thom Yorke, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Sigur Ros, Nicolas Jaar, Philip Glass, Numen/For use and many more. Refik Anadol and Casey Reas have been the largest influence and inspiration for me as I entered college, and recently the real world.”

Paris Louvre Garden, 2022, video, digital media Video: Courtesy of Nate Mohler

The visual artist does not know if he can pinpoint when his creative journey began. He believes that one could argue that a practitioner’s creative saga begins right when they are born. “I think I have ADHD,” he says. “I have never been diagnosed, but I don’t sit still well. I need to be constantly doing something, if I am not working on a project I am thinking of the next project.” He has found big, daunting projects to be a coping mechanism to balance himself, and to focus his wandering attentions. The artist’s creative approach has always been to strive for challenging ideas, with an understanding that liberates: that he will most likely not satisfy his grander hopes for the piece. Mohler explains, saying “Before I start a project, I have already accepteditsfailure, freeing myself from the stress and pressure that comes with wanting to create something that “succeeds” in a conventional sense. Often this freedom allows for deeper creativity and risk, resulting in more efficient work, and I can feel a tiny bit prouder of my outcome every time I finish creating a piece of artwork. When compounded over multiple projects, it becomes easier to make sure something doesn’t outright fail, and becomes, in fact, unique or innovative in its own right.” 

Vellum LA Elsewhere Opening, 2022, photo, digital media, Nate Mohler |Vellum LA | Nate Mohler | STIRworld
Vellum LA Elsewhere Opening, 2022, photo, digital media Image: Nate Mohler

Mohler has a fascination with cityscapes, or Painted Cities, that came from a desire to capture the essence of a city and memorialise the city through an ephemeral and dreamlike moving painting. The works in Painted Cities started as a series of experiments trying to fuse the colours of a city with video footage of life in the city. The artist uses photos that he took from different neighbourhoods or paintings online, and digitally “paints” the architectural videos that he filmed of various popular streets, buildings, or walkways over them. Mohler says, “The main processes I use to fuse the photos and videos together are Neural Style Transfer and Ebsynth, which attempt to re-paint the output video of the city with the patterns and colours from the input photographs. It’s like creating a new city, on top of a city. It was also an exercise to create something intended as a video sculpture; something that can stand alone in the physical world for hours without fast motion or narrative plotlines.”

Vellum LA LAAS 23, 2022, photo, digital media, Nate Mohler |Vellum LA | Nate Mohler | STIRworld
Vellum LA LAAS 23, 2022, photo, digital media Image: Nate Mohler

The artist believes that he is now, inevitably a small part of the new media art movement. He says, “I have now curated and hosted digital art-oriented shows with past professors and mentors and other artists I greatly look up to. It was a really fascinating year in 2020-2021 during the NFT boom. Unfortunately creating NFTs felt like holding up a big mirror to the traditional art market, where lots of backroom deals and marketing dominated the space. It became about hype rather than art, which inevitably led to a very depressing outlook on art and life developing within me.” He does, however, identify that regardless of his criticisms of the NFT space, it did lead to the new media art movement receiving an amazing influx of capital, recognition and legitimacy, which is undoubtedly a net positive. Mohler says, “The concept of artist royalties and better infrastructure for artists and collectors is a really important change for the artworld and a really exciting element of NFT’s for the future.”

Profile Picture, 2022, Image, Nate Mohler |Untitled | Nate Mohler | STIRworld
Artist Nate Mohler Image: Courtesy of Nate Mohler

Mohler has presented at a multitude of locations, of which he remembers Vellum LA, LA Art Fair, Bright Moments Gallery in Berlin, Art Basel at Factory town and New York most fondly. He expands on this, telling STIR, “My favourite shows are the ones I have been put on with friends, right here in LA. The Eventual Unraveling of Everything, Be(coming) to Terms, 454 Seaton: Notice for Reclamation, and 11th floored are among them. LA is a hard city for art galleries, but a great city for shows, installations and film.” Of late, Mohler has been striving to fuse more human finesse and elements of nostalgia into highly digital video works, by introducing certain personal moments he recalls, such as swimming naked in a pool or using his iPhone photographs as textures. He has been exploring the fusion of photo texture and film through AI tools such as neural style transfer to harness the machines’ ability to recognise pattern and create uniquely stylised video. By feeding AI systems images and forcing them to try and find patterns within video frames, he is able to fuse the texture from photographs or wisps from ink paintings with what he identifies as “sharp and rigid video.” Discussing his plans for the future, the artist shares, “I am working on my writing and directing skills a lot to try and incorporate more live action into my work. I want to continuously blend digital art with physical installations. I will constantly be improving my public art installations and submitting for festivals throughout the year.” 

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