Kinetica Art Fair Artist Interview: Alex May

Kinetica Art Fair is now in its sixth year and is a hub for collectors, curators, architects, industry leaders and the public to view and purchase artworks in the thriving field of kinetic, electronic and new media art. Running 16-19 October, the fair has moved to an Autumn date and a new venue: the Truman Brewery in East London. In addition the large number of stands present there will be a number of special programmes including a collection of dynamic live performances, featuring an international line-up featuring the UK premiere of Vitruvian, an “interactive” opera performance from Germany. There will also be a display of Alex May’s luscious interactive sculptures. He captivates viewers by painting with digital video footage in real-time onto physical sculptures with synchronised audio and interactive technology. May speaks to Aesthetica about the origins of his art and his work with Kinetica.

A: Your work is quite unique in that it combines sculpture, painting, sound and digital footage – how did you come to work in this way?
I taught myself programming at the age of eight and found I was most taken with the aesthetics of the visuals and sounds that could be generated, even back in 1981. While I was advised to abandon the “weird” digital video art I was producing for my A-Level’s and focus on holding down a “proper programming job”, at night I’d secretly be continuing to explore strange digital corners into the early morning hours. I finally found an outlet for all this knowledge and experience in 2001 when I stumbled onto the VJ’ing scene – using computers to mix multiple video layers with real-time digital effects. While I enjoyed performing in clubs for a few years, I wanted to explore more structured subject matter and put these digital experiences into different environments for different audiences. I eventually emerged as somewhat of an outsider artist in 2007, and I’ve been happily exploring ever since.

A: Which artists have inspired you to work in this way?
I was very fixated on M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali as a child, then later Egon Schiele, H.R. Giger, Len Lye, Norman McLaren – lots of animators and film directors – Ray Harryhausen, Andrei Tarkovsky, David Lynch, Luis Buñuel, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Maya Deren, and also the A/V group Emergency Broadcast Network. I am ashamed to say I’ve only discovered the work of artists such as Tony Oursler and Klaus Obermaier in the past couple of years.

A: Why did you want to get involved with Kinetica?
This will be the fourth year that I have either had a stand, talked at, and otherwise had work showing at Kinetica. It’s an exhaustingly excellent way to engage directly and honestly with thousands of people and to show work in a different context.

A: Where would you like to see your work installed if you could choose anywhere in the world?
Well, of course, there are many world-class galleries and museums I would humbly love to see my work exhibited at. But, sometimes you get an offer to show work in places that you would never think of and reach audiences that you would never have reached, and they might not be a traditional art space but they turn out to be very special. I was invited to run a workshop in Caracas, Venezuela last year, which was a great experience, and from which I created a video piece in response to my visit that was projected onto the back of a rusty street sign (my choice) in the centre of the city as part of a massive street festival. I was really happy to be part of it.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
AM: Exhibiting at Kinetica is part of a grant that I was awarded this year from Arts Council England to further develop my video mapping sculpture practise, so as well as currently exhibiting work at The Lightbox in Woking, and at Cinekid in Amsterdam, I’ll be showing work at Watermans, Goldsmiths, and in Dubai in November. In December I’m excited to be running a video mapping workshop at Phoenix Brighton for established and emerging artists who have backgrounds in traditional art mediums, to work with me to create a whole digital video projection exhibition from scratch in three days.

Kinetica Art Fair, 16-19 October, Old Truman Brewery, Ely’s Yard entrance, 15 Hanbury St, London, E1 6QR

Find out more about Alex May at

1. Painting with Light, Alex May, Tate Modern Performance, April 2013.