Rejecting Consumerism with New Media Artist Mitchell Craft

by | Jul 5, 2018 | ART

Technology for Mitchell Craft isn’t just a form of engineering or applied sciences, it’s a sense of hope and a means for expression.

Craft saw the advantages of technology at a very young age, and wanted to explore that talent. While growing up, he was introduced to making art with technology through his parents and his guitar teachers, Mathew E. White and Scott Burton.

“I decided I’m just going to get all smooth in highschool, pick an art and look cool,” Craft said. “My thought process was I was just bored at school so I should make art at home.”

Craft was working with family friends and other visual artists since childhood, gaining experience, inspiration, and learning what methods and techniques he could use within his own work. He started making his own videos when he was about 13, but as a young child, he worked with family friend, writer and producer of One Ring Zero, Michael Hearst. Another major influence in his career is singer-songwriter, producer, arranger, and founder of Space Bomb Records, Matthew E. White, with whom Craft assisted one of White’s earlier projects, titled ‘Fight the Big Bull.’

As a graduate from VCU, Craft edits his videos by combining 3D programs, creative code, and manipulated videos. He explains this style is categorized as ‘New Media Art.’ The psychedelic images and optical illusions create an uneasy, yet hypnotic viewing experience as his work is both unsettling and captivating.

“Now that I’m out of college, I’m a freelancer,” he said. “So I do videos for artists and I do professional work, as well.”

Much of Craft’s motivation for his work revolves around nature and redundancies in nature, which is clear in his videos that offer repetitive, albeit bewildering, images. He likes to poke fun at our consumerist society that has an overwhelming amount of product output, yet fails to meet our actual needs.

“I think a lot about the continued series and how we buy the same things over and over again,” he said. “When you go to a big department store to buy toothbrushes, and all [you need] is a toothbrush, but there are hundreds of them, that always baffles me. So I’m trying to explore that and make abstract work about it.” Humans replicate redundancies in nature, similar to the repeat appearance of a type of tree, in their daily lives. Craft uses this theme throughout his work.

Despite his current success, Craft has experienced his own surprises outside the redundancies he feeds on. Life experiences bring out different emotions and different perspectives on things. It’s what defines our character even if it means learning how to redo the usual stuff you’re used to. And for Craft, he managed to constantly evolve through fighting the odds.  

“I was in a bike accident about three years ago and I don’t remember it at all,” Craft said. “That’s the crazy part, I only know stories based on what people told me.”

Craft was diagnosed with a serious concussion and experienced amnesia, losing basic motor and cognitive memory skills such as reading an analog clock. It still didn’t stop him from pursuing his long life goal.

I used video-making as a way of communicating how I felt when I didn’t know how to,” he said. “There’s one piece I made called ‘The Shift,’ because of my depression while I was crippled from the bike accident.

Craft’s solo show recently debuted at Black Iris. The show is based on the idea of arbitrary combinations of images and distortions of reality.

He said he was inspired by the grapple (grape-apple) fruit product in some grocery stores. He explained the whole show revolves around the idea of being surrounded by the things we don’t need, like an unnecessary fruit, yet made to feel like we do.

“I think the show is meant to kind of make fun of the idea that we’re just being thrown things we face all the time, saying consume, consume,” he said. “So I just tried to make weird things for people to look at and say, what the hell is this?”

Mitchell Craft Instagram

In the future, Craft wants to do more immersive set-ups. He likes the idea of filling a space entirely with art, and since he works with new media, he wants to work more with interactivity as well as immersion within architecture. As excited he is for what the future holds, he’s also worried about where it may take him.

“My biggest concern is that I’ll have to get a full time job and not have time to go,” he said. “Luckily, I’ve been okay doing freelance so far but you never know what could happen later.”

Craft said he’s learning to “flow with the wind,” wait for what comes next, and not to think too hard about it.

Sarafina Sackey

Sarafina Sackey

Sarafina Sackey is a Senior at VCU majoring in Broadcast Journalism.

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