The Impermanence of Memory: Recycling Storage Into Art

The sad truth about our electronics consumption is that we often end up throwing away obsolete technology. How many of us have found ourselves wondering what to do with a stack of floppy disks or a box full of VHS tapes? London artist Nick Gentry uses these aged bits of technology to create something new and entirely different: fine art with a soul.

His paintings are, in themselves, quite haunting and lovely. Gentry favors humans as subjects, and his portraits are full of personality. But even more impressive is the fact that these portraits are painted onto the physical data storage devices of yesteryear. While at one time every computer user was familiar with floppy disks, we are now trending toward large hard drives or servers to store our data. As a result, those old floppies are going unused.

Nick Gentry puts them to good use, utilizing the unique characteristics of the storage media to create enthralling portraits. Many incorporate the landscape of the disks into the overall picture; others simply atop their bumps and ridges. The artist makes no attempt to conceal the true nature of his “canvas,” however; the disks’ labels are visible, giving one a jarringly private view into the former lives of these thin pieces of plastic.

As lovely as these pieces are from an artistic standpoint, they also serve to remind the viewer of all that we lose in our lifetimes. Memories slip away on forgotten disks shoved to the back of a closet. Letters, records, and creative pursuits are locked away in the magnets of the disks.

The environmental aspect of Gentry’s work certainly can’t be ignored. By taking the obsolete devices and turning them into art, he is saving the disks from an eternity in a landfill. With these paintings, the artist is rebelling against the disposable society where we so freely and quickly throw things away. According to the artist, he is challenging the notion of a disposable world by breathing new life into what many would consider garbage.

If you’re interested in having your own collection of unwanted floppy disks immortalized as art, Gentry’s website includes directions for sending him donations of obsolete storage media.