Interview: Marnix de Nijs

Marnix de Nijs is as one of the leading exponents of interactive sculptures, and recently sat down with me to discuss some of his recent artwork that explores the dynamics between the human body, machines and other technology.

Trained as a sculptor, de Nijs is now best known for his interactive machines which play with the perception and control of sounds and images.


is an exemplary work of Marnix’s in which art + technology + body are connected. In the piece industrial treadmills are connected to digital display systems; running on the treadmill controls the speed of the digital display unit leading to pleasant and unpleasant surprises for participants.

What qualities do you value in your work, what do you strive to create?

As a contemporary artist I reflect on the world around me. A good work of art is for me a work that represents aspects of this world in critical manner and is successful when there’s a harmony, an agreement, a balance, between the way you present it and what you’re trying to say. The thing the work of art is trying to accomplish has to correspond with what it’s communicating. Because the world we live in gets more and more defined by technology it’s for me a logical step to use these technologies to tell something about this world, hence the technical character of my work.

How do the multi-faceted aspects of your work come together - do the mediums feel separate or do they all remain fluid and connected?

Using so many aspects in my work I quite often work like a director, balancing out ingredients like the physical experience and the audio-visual experience. Technically I most often manage to find a fluid balance. The total experience I create however quite often contains some friction. I’m using interactive technologies to generate a bigger involvement of my audience, they get a certain amount of control over the situation but at the same time the systems I design also manipulate the perception and therefor also the behavior of this audience. I always try to program my works so that within a reasonable span of time you can find a new balance between all your sensory inputs: auditory, visual as well as that of your organ of balance. These are the ingredients between which I create a new balance, and you either find it or you don’t, if you find it you stay connected, if not, you loose control and disconnect

Do you have any set goals for this work or are you just interested in the creative process? What has been the result?

My productions are often technically complicated and expensive so I need to have a clear idea before the production starts. I define clear concepts that function as a reference point during the whole creative process but at the same time I always shape a production in a way that I can anticipate on specific qualities of a setup that reveal themselves only during the production. Qualities that are not necessarily the same ones that I thought to find when initiating a new project.

What do you think of advertising and commercial driven “art”?

I would propose to keep it simple, advertising and commercial driven art is not “art” because the intentions with which the works are made are different. Specially when talking about the field I know best, new media or video and animation, you can however question in which field the biggest artistic and creative steps are made these days.

Do you see your projects as art or manufactured products?

The motives for making my works are very much alike as the motives from any artist. The functionality of the works however demands for production processes that come pretty close to the production techniques of manufactured products. Some works also do have the potential to be translated into commercial products but creating something new is always more challenging for me then exploiting old idea’s.

How collaborative are your projects? Do you work with other artists, crafts people and in what ways?

I’m a very individual person and develop my ideas mostly on my own. I would however never be able to realize these idea’s without the help of the dynamic pool of crafts people, artists and technicians around me. I’m always very happy to be able to co-operate with people that think with me, understand the concept, come with ideas to improve the results.

Do you ever feel that technology limits what you’re trying to do?

Technology mostly limits me time wise, specially when we have to develop it ourselves, then we mind end up having to little time to play artistically after the technology is finished.

Has technology ever failed you in trying to construct a piece and message?

It does happen but at the same time a setup quite often reveals unexpected qualities with which I can tell the message.

What would the work be without limits?

I honestly wouldn’t know, the idea of having unlimited possibilities already blocks my imagination.

What is a typical work day/week like for you?

I usually work 6 or 7 days a week, wake up around 9 or 10 am, start with the administrative jobs and end my day with the more artistic jobs around 12 pm. I break the day with an extensive dinner.

What has influenced your practice and how do you see yourselves inspiring others?

I don’t have hero’s or something but I have a strong interest in sculpture, technology and how this technology influences modern city life. I’m aware I inspire for example students, it’s nice to notice but It’s not something I actually work on or think about?

What new pieces are you working on?

I hope to finish my research project Exercise in Immersion at the same time I looking for new partners to create new levels for my installation Exploded views.

Do you collect anything?

No. It’s probably funny to read from somebody making such big hardware but I don’t like to have stuff around me.

Thanks Marnix!

Read more on Marnix De Nijs @

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