Nemo Gould’s Kinetic Cephalopods

Oakland, Calif.-based kinetic artist Nemo Gould never ceases to amaze with his ability to create magical, playful sculptures featuring the smoothest, fluid kinetic motion. To boot, he does this all entirely with found objects. Gould has been featured numerous times on MAKE, including a full feature in Volume 34 on the studio collective he helped to found, named the Lost and Foundry.

His latest work is a set of three kinetic environments celebrating cephalopods, commissioned by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their upcoming exhibit, “Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes,” opening April 12. We chatted with Gould for more details.

1. How did the project come about?
The straight answer: I received an email from the Senior Exhibit Developer at the aquarium. Apparently my history of making cephalopod sculptures left a pretty clear digital breadcrumb trail back to my website.

The metaphysical answer: I always loved visiting aquariums as a kid. Later, as an artist I dreamed of doing installation sculptures that felt like my memories of those visits. I personally believe that the intensity of my desire to do this led to the project.

2. What are some of your favorite reused items employed in the pieces?
It’s not really a case of “favorite” pieces. What was satisfying was finding really good use for stuff that I wasn’t really wild about. I’ve cut up dozens of stovetop coffee makers over the years and compulsively saved the lids. Until this project I had no clear sense of why I needed to save them. This was the case with all of the plant life in the project. I collect these things largely on impulse and its a huge relief when I’m finally able to put them to good use after years of hoarding. The repeating shapes provided by these lids, the juicers and serving platters led to a really convincing sea floor environment.

3. What was the biggest challenge?
The commission nature of the project was definitely the biggest challenge. Since I rely on found objects for inspiration/direction it is often difficult to communicate with the client about what the work will look like. I also don’t generally begin with such a clear idea as was called for in this case. They wanted three distinct species facing three distinct circumstances. It was equally important to provide them with what they requested and yet produce work that was a genuine reflection of my own style and process.

4. How will the final pieces be displayed at the aquarium?
The exhibit in the aquarium will be broken into three main areas, arranged by species. As you move from one area to another you will find a large kiosk with information pertaining to that exhibit. The sculptures will be built into these kiosks, serving to help illustrate the conservation message that the aquarium is trying to impress on its visitors.
















The Monterey Bay Aquarium also made a great little video about Gould’s process in creating the pieces:

YouTube player

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can see these works in person at the Lost and Foundry open house on Saturday, March 15, from 4pm–8pm at 305 Center Street in Oakland. Also on display will be works from Sean Orlando, Christopher Palmer, David Shulman, Peter Kropf, Ari Derfel, Tom Sepe, Alan Rorie, Jeff Hantman, Ben Carpenter, Daniel Yasmin, and Matt Feeney. As the announcement aptly states, “If you can’t find anything here that interests you, you should probably see a doctor.”

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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