In the final days of I have a deep nostalgia for the future, we posed a few questions to artist Pete Fleming. This interview was conducted via email between Kimi Kitada (Jedel Family Foundation Curatorial Fellow) and the artist.

KK:  With the Screen Grease series, the initial concept for this work began to materialize back in 2017. Could you share a bit about the earlier iterations of this work? Following those material explorations, how did you come to the UV prints on raw canvas?

PF:  The Screen Grease series started with a backlit photographic print, and in later pieces I printed on and inside silicone and rubber. These combinations of the screen/image/finger with a material facsimile of skin, perhaps reminiscent of the TV in Cronenberg’s “Videodrome”, are kinda disturbing to touch and have a greasy, meaty appearance. With the works at Charlotte Street I moved into both monochrome and a more “conventional” print presentation. I am referencing earlier social media like the xerox, and ‘zines,’ while also trying to be generous with how readable the work is. The ideas around, and content of the pieces are quite abstract, so I felt starting somewhere concrete – print, canvas, stretcher – was a good place from which to disperse into the various discussions I think are urgent.

KK:  I appreciate the reference to Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” from 1985 in the extended wall label. Do you view yourself as a cyborg in some ways? Could this cyborg existence be considered beneficial? Harmful? Some combination of those?

PF:  I think that kind of judgement is probably slippery at best. I think it is important to be attentive to what is changing, what is different, where are the affects felt and who is on the receiving end. It is these points of friction that are probably the best bellwether for any way of being, and generally I view my cyborg origins as a mixed bag. The reason the Cyborg Manifesto resonated with me is the attention given to a political and emotional ontology in process. What can we learn from this seemingly prescient text that describes a world that was being made when I was born, and seemed to define the development of a generation?

KK:  Bringing the theory from 1985 to 2021, I believe your works align with some ideas in Legacy Russell’s Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, an intersectional view that acknowledges the earlier precedent of Donna Haraway. How does your work operate in a “glitch” context?

PF:  I see a correlation in how identity and the self is being transformed by personal smart devices. Part of the focus in my Screen Grease series is on hardware, the everyday physical materiality of networked media. Every morning I turn off my alarm and encounter myself reflected in a consumer-corporate object. I comprehend my messy, greasy being in contrast to this shiny ‘perfect’ block before I am even fully awake. The fingerprints I leave on the screen blend with and smear the content beneath, while also activating a troubling lineage of criminology and surveillance. I think we can identify a glitch when these things crash into each other and are noticed. In the Screen Grease series I highlight these moments – glitches – to question how digital media, the material world, and our emotional ontology relate. Touch is very intimate: Who are the people you touch as much as your phone?

KK:  What does I have a deep nostalgia for the future mean to you?

PF:  I think that phrase captures the melancholy that tints most feelings of hope I currently experience. It feels like we are definitely in a time of transition away from a livable planet, from democracy, from freedom without constant surveillance and performance. The idea of a future that was used to power 20th century social projects seems obsolete, and quaint in hindsight. I am however hopeful for the end of historical hierarchies, conservative definitions and dominance. I have my fingers crossed for a future very different to the past.

KK:  In viewing your work alongside the works of Emmy Skensved and Richard Alexandersson, what do you hope the audiences take away from the exhibition?

PF:  The exhibition offers a sort of snapshot of the current concerns of the three artists. It is a space to reflect on where we are at, and where we think we might go. Although technology is central to the exhibition, tactility – attention to the experience of surface – is the key component linking all the artworks.