Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010

Ken Rinaldo  (USA, 1958)

Mert Gündüz, B.U., mert.gunduz@boun.edu.tr

Ken Rinaldo (1985) is an American artist who takes both organic and inorganic into gesamtkunstwerk, a complete work of art. His works belong to a category of interactive robotics, artificial life, digital imaging and biological art, deleting the dividing line between art and biology, between nature and technology, between the organic and electro-mechanical elements. His works have been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

Mert Gündüz: Can you tell us about you? I mean your background, education and art?

Ken Rinaldo: Sure, my family is pretty much all artists. My father was an artist, my mother was an artist. They both worked as ceramics artists. Although they were, may be more conceptual artists. My grandfather was an artist. My French grandfather and my other grandfather was kind of an inventor, from my mother's side. So, that would, may be my childhood frame was that arts were great. We spent a lot of time in museums and we were going to art museums and also science museums in New York city. So, I had probably a pretty good childhood and learnt what an artist do. From an academic step point I had a  degree in computer science as an associate's degree. I have a bachelor in communications in human kinds where I study living systems theory but I also study things like body language. After I started making my own work, much more fully I went back to school and earned a degree in something called conceptual information arts in San Francisco State University. So, much of the knowledge I have in electronics and robotics as large as we talk.

Mert Gündüz: Can we say that you grew up in an environment that includes art and science both?

Ken Rinaldo: I would say more in an environment that includes art.

Mert Gündüz: How did you come up with the idea that combines art and technology? What factors attracted you to make art?

Ken Rinaldo: Well, for me it was, may be a little bit of organic experience. When I first started making art, my experiences were, may be outside of a traditional university environment. And mine began basically by sketching and expressing myself using pencils and paper. Later I started moving into painting what I found was that my interest said, or what I found was that in making paintings and making drawings that I was creating illusions or realities so at some point I thought myself why not make real sculpture. The artist that attracted me at that time were, you know, a constructivist artist from Russia, also the constructivist movement  and one of the things I did was , I actually have fairly decent body of work and I was able to get into a masters of fine arts program in San Francisco State University. That is the computer or CIA program, computer or rather a computer information arts program. During a critique one of the students said to me I have made a kind of kinetic sculpture that did not move and went on: “Why does not it move?” That seemed like a very good critique. From there, I realized that in order to make it move I had to learn something about motors. Once I started learning about motors I was in a sense moving into kinetic art works, but when you start getting into kinetics, then you start to realize that the things that are kinetic are often repetitive and somewhat boring. So at that point I realized that I was gonna have to learn about micro controllers and Nano-controlled art. And that really began my research of my study into understanding electronics, how to program and so on. And that has been journey of self study, burning things up, struggling to make things work. You know basically engineering. It is what engineers do. So, it was basically how I got into it. The more I started to learn about electronics and robotics, then the more I read about these things I started to understand things like artificial intelligence and artificial life and things of that nature. I try to figure out different approaches to allow things kinetic and interactive sculptures to show levels of complexity. So this is how I got into arts and science and technology. But I have always a very strong interest in biological systems from the time of high school , studying biology. Still to this day I study biology. I like to read and online research, but I read mostly science magazines. Actually not very art magazines to tell you the truth.

Mert Gündüz: How old were you when you started to make art with science?

Ken Rinaldo:  I would say that I was about thirty.

Mert Gündüz: In art it is not very common being interactive. What kind of reactions did you have in exhibitions?

Ken Rinaldo: When you move around static sculpture around there is a certain point that I thought to myself I can make sculpture that reacts with relation to people. The reactions were very positive in the installations I get very invitations around the world. My art is sculptural which is unique. A lot of artists choose to use screen to be interactive, but I choose to real physical stuff to be interactive.

Mert Gündüz: Which one is more important to you? Do you base science on art or art on science?

Ken Rinaldo: I think both, a lot people try to create a juncture between arts and sciences. I think science and arts have  a lot  in common. I inspire by the ideas like communication between human and robots for instance .

Mert Gündüz: How much do you need technical support while making your techno-art work? We know you have a good scientific background and can we say that it is one hundred percent made by Ken Rinaldo?

Ken Rinaldo: You can say that but when you talk to any technology artist they would be lying to say everything made by one hundred percent by them. I rely on the people who make microchips i do mine own programming, I do mine own engineering but I am also relying on the pieces that are created by engineers  specifically microchips I don’t make my own microchips or wire i sometimes get a code  from world wide web.

Mert Gündüz: In which science fields are you good at other than computer and robotics? Can you give us a related example piece of art?
 
Ken Rinaldo: I don ‘t feel like I’m an expert on anything .I do a lot project ,a lot of research on that project .maybe there are some areas that I would like to read about for example biology and biological system and  am I an expert on this, certainly not. I know this because when I read about it I realize, art really need to get a doctor and it needs to go back to school in order to really understand but often I can learn enough what I really need to know and certainly enough to understand how to accomplish the project but I don’t consider myself as an expert on programming or computer engineering or biology. I am not a specialist I am a generalist.

Mert Gündüz: Also you are an educator in Ohio University I think you are teaching interactive robotic sculpture, 3D modeling, rapid prototyping, motion graphics and animation.I wish I were one of your students but unfortunately not.What can you say about your students and improvements they got due to your lectures?

Ken Rinaldo:  It is very exciting, what are trying to teach them in our program we teach them really good art comes from rally good ideas first because sometimes a lot of beginning student believes that good art work comes  out of through good knowledge. We believe good art work comes out of interesting ideas and we try to teach to students that they should take those ideas and then select them as a tool object to express their ideas.

Mert Gündüz:  Thank you very much,I appreciate your kindness to me.

Ken Rinaldo: You are welcome, have a nice day.