Artist Profile: Nathalie Lawhead

I interviewed Nathalie Lawhead for Rhizome! Nathalie’s work is incredibly inspiring, and it was a privilege to collaborate on this article about the nonsensical internet, the demise of Flash, indie games, and digital self-preservation.

RK: I really admire how you not only state, but literally manifest, the themes of survival and self-preservation in your work. You consider digital art to be inherently ephemeral, and so your works depict graveyards and dismembered, skeletal systems that literally fall apart at the touch. Spirits and vermin inhabit these spaces, and as the creator, you are ever-present. You are both self-aware and prophetic about the eventual death of your work, which frequently reads like its own eulogy. How does your physical body relate to the digital structures you create?

NL: Oh man... That's well said. Yes, I'm constantly tormented by the inevitable doom of my work. I keep making it and now I have to maintain something like 40 games. I have to update them, make sure they are all converted from 32-bit to 64-bit, and don't get wiped out by major OS updates. The struggle to not let it just vanish into the digital void is real.

The ephemeral nature of digital art fascinates me, but it's also terrifying. As an artist, I want to be remembered for my art. I want people to enjoy it long after I'm gone. At least that's the promise of art. Art definitely becomes more meaningful when it ages, and when it's taken out of context of the zeitgeist it was made under. You can't have that with digital art. An indie game today will last about five years before becoming obsolete or just unplayable. It seems so irrational to me that you can spend more years making a game than it will be playable.


Read the profile.