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Image Transfers | Mike Nourse

Mike Nourse
Image Transfers

Mike Nourse is a Chicago-based visual artist, educator,

and curator. Originally from Montreal he moved to
Chicago to complete degrees at DePaul University and
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has lived
in Chicago since the late1990s, working as a fine artist,
teacher, program director, and curator.

“ His work focuses on found objects,

imagery from avant-garde filmmaking, and
found footage from popular media outlets.
Nourse’s video and transfer art have shown around the
USA and internationally. His work has been covered by
JPEG Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, L’Express Magazine,
New York Times, and CBS Evening News. His Polaroid
series, videos, and transfer works are explorations, using
every day subjects, found media, and materials to ask
questions about cultural identity. His work focuses on
found objects, imagery from avant-garde filmmaking, and
found footage from popular media outlets. For the past
ten years he has been driven to respond to mass media
and popular culture through his work.
Mike Nourse compliments his art practice with teaching.
As an educator Nourse has taught high school to graduate-
level university students. In addition, he has spent time as
a program manager and director, overseeing studio and
exhibition programs for Marwen, Digital Media Academy
(at University of Chicago), Chicago Art Department, and
currently for The Chicago Architecture Foundation.

“ For the past ten years he has been

driven to respond to mass media and popular
culture through his work.
In addition to learning, Nourse has also curated over
25 exhibitions, starting in 2001 with a show designed to
explore Stanley Kubrick’s 2001; A Space Odyssey. His
exhibitions are sometimes the result of programs taught
at DePaul, SAIC, or Chicago Art Department, which he
co-founded in 2003 as an informal art lab, a place to lead
explorations in studio, exhibition, and learning practices
for new and emerging artists.  
Nourse’s teen programs can be found at
and, while his recent art can be
found at

© All images courtesy of Mike Nourse

64  Soura Issue 30 Fall 2010  65

Image Transfers | Mike Nourse

The Streets Of Time

The Polaroid experience is a universal one. 1900, will go to 1960. The next block does not
People from all over the world have owned or immediately follow that number, but rather starts
used these cameras, waited in anticipation fresh at 2000. This allows for predictable block
for the photos, and instantly shared the numbers, so that even newcomers to the city can
images. Do you remember the last time you navigate fairly easily. I found that while this system
saw a Polaroid picture? Chances are you was good for predicting the city layout, it was bad
didn’t think twice about the format, because for my Polaroid project. I aimed for the series to
it’s something you know. This is why we miss include dates from 1937 to 2008, however there
Polaroid, she is a valued friend who has are not many blocks with more than 35 houses
been with us through thick and thin. Polaroid on them, meaning I was only able to find a few
cameras were popular for the same reasons numbers above 1970 in Chicago. I spent roughly
we love computers today, instant gratification. six weeks on car, foot, and bike searching the
entire city. I did find a couple of 1970s addresses,
Today, we expect quick service from restaurants, but after many weeks of work, I realized that
banks, and other service outlets, because we Chicago would not be able to give me all of the
are used to the speed of exchange through numbers for this project. After exhausting every
the Internet. That sense of immediacy was street option in Chicago, I realized that I had to
paramount to the Polaroid.It’s hard to think that travel to a different city.
Polaroids are really no more. Towards the middle  
of 2008 I was searching for a way to eulogize I’ve always needed reasons to visit New York
Polaroid, which had recently announced that they City, and this was a good one. I went to the Big
were ceasing the production of film. Like many Apple in the spring of 2008 with a mild sense of
other Polaroid users, I was caught between two direction, bad shoes and a bag full of 600 film
places. First, I couldn’t imagine a world without packs. I was missing roughly 20 numbers, mostly
Polaroid cameras. Next, I understood modern between 1980 and 2000. I quickly figured out
economics and changing times, which could that the dates in question would most likely be
easily explain why Polaroid’s run as instant south on Flatbush Avenue, and way up north in
camera king was seemingly coming to an end. Harlem. In typical NYC style, I spent the weekend
So I stood in the middle, an admirer of the tool, in my own world, meeting great people, puzzling
but understanding that its time had passed. many more, burning through two pairs of shoes,
  and finally finding my last date (1994) in Harlem,
At the time I would not have called myself a roughly two hours before my flight back to
Polaroid fanatic, but when it comes to art, I Chicago. I was hoping for an easier project when
often look for moments in history to address I started, something that wouldn’t take as much
important issues, and use such opportunities out of me. However maybe that was an important
to create a meaningful series. This felt like just part of this work, the fact that it was grueling,
such an opportunity. I saw the end of instant much like the feeling of losing something. When
film as a challenge. How to memorialize a pop I found the last number in NYC, I stopped, stood,
culture institution? How to speak to this while and wondered. I knew I had finished the project,
also building off of the Polaroid legacy of being but after three months, part of me didn’t want to
quick, easy, fun, and clear? Like many of the believe it. I had to sit on the curb and look at this
best Polaroid projects, I started with subjects number. How could it have taken so long? Was
that were around me, close, and part of my this really it? I took a couple of extra shots just to
urban landscape. I thought of death and trying to make sure that I had it right. I placed the pictures
capture that. Old people? Graveyards? Visuals of in my container, and made my way back home.
dying or falling apart? These directions seemed Like the saying, all good things come to an end.
too obvious. I didn’t have a clear vision until  
coming home one day. When I noticed a house Like the camera itself, my favorite art projects
address that reminded me of a date, I knew what are simple ones. I aimed to memorialize the
I wanted to do. So I started to take pictures of Polaroid era, and ended up with a series of
years around my neighborhood, starting with images that represent the life of an icon in the
1937 (the year Polaroid was incorporated). For photo industry. While individual images can
the first few days of shooting, it was fairly easy be seen online, the finished piece hangs in my

and painless, fun, and simple, not unlike the staircase, and houses all the dates from 1937 to
I understood modern economics Polaroid itself. Other factors however, turned this 2008 inside of a vertical grid, much like the 600
and changing times, which could quick and easy “fun” into a 3-month project. film that I used. At some point I might change
  my mind, but for now I can’t bring myself to sell
easily explain why Polaroid’s run as If you have ever been to Chicago, you know that the piece or even show it. Maybe it’s because I
instant camera king was seemingly the block system for street addresses works on a don’t want Polaroid to be gone forever? I look at
grid, and is simple to follow. Every block features the piece almost every day, and it never ceases
coming to an end. addresses, which begin at 0. For example, the to make an impression, lift an emotion, or help
address numbers on a block with 30 houses, on me appreciate the life around me. Not unlike
the even side of the street, which begins at say what Polaroid did for so many years.

66  Soura Issue 30 Fall 2010  67

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