New York's Strangest Astronaut

Uploaded by vice on Jul 13, 2012


My name is Nicholas Forker.
I make drawings and sculptures.

I encounter so many people who feel kind of listless and just
misplaced or apathetic, and I was trying to answer that
question, why do my contemporaries
feel so out of sorts?
So I started to turn towards when men felt vital.
The heroic roles, the classic things like the deep sea
diver, the cowboy, the Arctic explorer.
Well, then I drew a cosmonaut, and it kind of all clicked
into place.
Here was this subject that made perfect sense--
the explorer, the hero role, which turned out to be more of
a metaphor for the trajectory of the American male in the
late 20th century.
I think that it's become more of like a Don
Quixote figure, though.
Now, anyway.
With the space program being pushed into the private sector
and NASA's funding getting cut dramatically, we're seeing
that dream kind of fizzle.
And we've gone from--
right, we're going to do these things because they're hard,
to like a mess, really.

The idea to wear the suit was seeing the use of the
astronaut as my main figure.
It was seeing that idea to a logical conclusion.
I was able to borrow a suit, and it was an exact replica of
Buzz Aldrin's lunar landing suit from '69.
And my very talented friend Clint Spaulding came along to
shoot some photos, a series of photos of me in the suit.
The original idea was to take all of the photos, reference
material, create realistic drawings of them.
But the performance aspect of, like, embodying the astronaut,
that idea of the self-portrait as the subject, now I'm
thinking that the photographs might stand on their own.

The reason why space is so fascinating to me is because
of its unknown quantity.
It's more about space, to me, than the astronaut.
Because the astronaut is only a symbol.
It's a symbol of our attempt, our kind of frail human
attempt, to thrust ourselves into something that we know
nothing about.
The feeling that I would experience in space would be
peace and quiet.
It would be a refreshing change of pace.
That would quickly give way to loneliness
and madness, probably.

When I walked around in this suit, I felt that it was the
embodiment of that left-hand path, the life of the artist.
It's monastic.
You spend most of your time alone.
When you do you open your mouth, you find that either
you don't understand what people are saying to you, or
they don't understand what you're saying to them.

So many different people tried to make the space suit, and it
was Playtex that got the contract for the space suit
for the Apollo mission.
It was because of their knowledge of fabrics that they
were able to weave together, like, I don't know-- it was
like 13 to 20 different types of materials to make the space
suit that they landed on the moon with.
It's just a really fascinating idea that you could come up
with essentially what is like a plastic bag and jump into it
and go into space.
It represents the fragility of human life.

This work is an example of relating that human experience
in the later half of the 20th century in the United States.
It's like, I can only speak from my experience.
These are the experiences I have.
It says, take the most triumphant hero and watch what
happens after nobody cares about them anymore.

The dinosaur that is fine art is quickly being replaced by
this multimedia explosion.
Like, just all your synapses are filled with digital
information constantly.
Well, how do you make a two-dimensional static image
that is captivating?
I thought on that long and hard, and I think one of the
ways to do it is to demonstrate a skill, something
that can't be done on the computer, with
an app on your phone.
Do it with materials that are really difficult to work with,
that people wouldn't think about combining.
The ballpoint, the Mylar, drawing on plastic.
Take something that has to do with the essence of your
experience as a person, as a human being, everything that
you've done, everything that you've seen, everything that
you've thought of, everything that you've been exposed to--
and condense all of that into one image.

I chose the astronaut because as a
symbol, it's very powerful.
It speaks of a specific point in time.
It speaks of a specific place in time.
It talks about dreams.
It talks about hopes.
It talks about aspirations.
It talks about realistic implication of those things.
It talks about successes and failures.
It talks about the human mind, space as this infinitely large
representation of something that is infinitely small,
contained in all of us.
The artwork, for me, is about highlighting that last stage
in the adventurer, the person who is the frontiersperson.
I think that role, or the landscape
for that, has changed.
I think that that has to do with our own brain, our own
consciousness, and the way we affect our reality.
So for me, this is more like putting up a signpost and
saying, like, this is where it's at.
And I'm looking forward to possible replacements.