Mark Goerner is a walking receptor, absorbing information into every pore at every level at every moment. He is constantly present and aware of his surroundings, all while acknowledging and responding to every nuance of the conversation. You have to wonder how this mind developed. Every artist’s seed of creativity has to start somewhere, and Goerner is such a unique combination of skills and talent it seemed an appropriate place to start.
Goerner finds inspiration in the most unusual places. The child of family that had a small manufacturing business, his mother was allegedly running a punch press while he was in the womb. He credits his love of white noise and industrial sounds to those months of development. As a child, he entertained himself with the company scrap metal.
|“I used to be able to pop out the backside of the company, go to the train tracks and throw the metal parts on the tracks and watch them get crushed. My dad would actually come up with me. We had this wonderful collection of destroyed scrap metal. It was a strange hobby,” he said with a wry smile, “but you learn from your father. When you’ve got a crazy father, you become a crazy person.” |
He has collected an odd assortment of knowledge. After tripping over something as a child, he set out to redesign the human foot, another project he shared with his father. Through that experiment he learned, “you can’t modify the human body beyond its anthropological form, the US government has a restriction on that. You can’t have gills, or can’t add a third arm on your back.
You can have gigantic boobs or you can break your legs and extend your shins by three inches but you cannot modify your body outside of what is considered normally human.
”Even Goerner’s typical experiences were turned into unique learning experiences. I remember being a seven year old when I was dragged in to see Star Wars, and my brother educated me in why certain things were cool and some things didn’t need to be explained. Flash forward, and through no direct pathway, I ended up being in the film industry for a while, and still dabble in it.
I look back at those older films and how they affect a large section of the population. I remember seeing some of the making of’s.
|That’s when it breaks down the mystic of it all. You see behind the scenes, and the people that see that are going to blaze the trail for the future.” Growing up in a tight knit and supportive family, Goerner's curiosity was encouraged. He was allowed to be expressive, and to attend art classes at a young age. “I was 10 or 11 years old and my folks got me a back tour of the Epcot center. It showed them building attractions and rides, and how they used foam for this and fiberglass for that. They had drawings up on the walls, and they had model shops and welders. You got to see even topiaries started from a sketch that went into a prototype that went into a wireframe that went to a nursery where they started growing vines and it took five or six years for it to reach the tip if the nose of the elephant. Seeing that whole flow was so important.”|
Goerners’ fascination for crushed metal has materialized in a variety of ways, one of which is a side project, designing a family home. “I think some of the shapes that inspired me early on, some of the forms I witnessed and perhaps sunk in subconsciously, I reflect some of those. Shapes I like to play with in interior and exterior shapes have to do with creasing, form manipulation, all those things.” He sees architecture as a frame that encapsulates with design. “I think that’s why architects sometimes have very intelligent, heady, or sometimes egotistical thoughts because they are kind of like this god figure and are literally sculpting a world on a bigger scale. Let’s say you designed cutlery, they are doing something more finite, more intimate, and the personalities change, based on what kind of design work you do.”
The house he is designing will use shapes based on what he creates in his sketchbook and personal art, giving it its own specific sculptural design language. It’s a concrete structure influenced by sandstone and surrounding formations. “I go and get a sense of how the human body and perception reacts to different volumes, whether it feels cave-like or feels like a precipice you want to go to the tip of. There is always that question; do you want to go in the valley or hopscotch from the top of things?
The place is so dramatic that way that it gives you an opportunity to experience different ways of traveling. Do you jump across or do you go in-between? For me, it’s like a playground for the mind.”
Working as a concept artist means Goerner can’t discuss much of what he is doing because he is coming up with ideas sometimes years before the film or game is released. Contracts and NDA’s are getting tighter. He does, however, find a great deal of positive aspects in the way a production evolves in such an organic way.
“It’s one thing I think the movie industry has over other industries that are lumbering and lacking the speed and agility to change direction a few degrees in order to better themselves. I think the movie industry is great that way, dissolving every time a movie is made. A production is a corporation that rematerializes every nine to 14 months, and that shakes out people that aren’t supposed to be there, shakes up processes that don’t work well, and it’s a fast evolution. It’s why I think it’s such a good model."
"Look at the automotive industry," he continues, "who does a lot of the same process that filming does. You have a market, young, old, whatever, what’s the mood, the flavor, the materials? You build a trend, you come up with a design. They have to be familiar with the target age group. They have the problem a lot of industries do; they lumber, they can’t adjust properly. Look at them now, they are dying. I think movies can fall into the same trap. Look at how many crap movies are made in a row.
They seem to forget there is a story behind it all. You see a film that looks like such crap because they did all the technique, all the departments were running smoothly, but they just let the inception of it fade.”
Goerners’ comprehension of design is impressive and has led him to many positions in a variety of genres, and the respect of many other artists including the likes of Syd Mead, who Goerner knows personally. Like Mead, Goerner feels a design needs to have a purpose that is logical and efficient. “Working on Minority Report was fortunate because the production designer and I saw eye to eye with technology. Alex McDowell is a very intelligent thoughtful visualist. He could see from my portfolio, from things I did for BMW that it was advanced concept automotive, that hand gesture recognition and eye tracking and all these technologies could parlay right over into the movie. He could see I was focused on not just making a pretty image but the pragmatic behind it.”
Goerner has always worked as a freelancer, and often winds up with layered projects in different genres. “Some people go into a specific job. I’ve always been working either from home or as an independent contractor, and might do two or three days here, then fill in a gap there, or they all overlap on top of each other. That is some interesting multitasking. One day you are doing some modern day school yard and the next you are doing some evil satanic lair, and not cross those two into each other. But I like it because it keeps you energized.” It’s his wide list of abilities that helps him to keep focused.
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|He’s also worked on some gaming, contributing some key images to inspire some elements to the online game, Star Trek. He is not a gamer by nature, a view we share. “I think the gaming industry will evolve with the people that started with it. I was part of the side scrolling gaming and I never got into first person shooters. I still love games like Ms. Pacman, they are hilarious to me and that is truly entertaining. |
But if I get stressed out over having 365 buttons that I somehow have to get my 10 fingers around and there’s people shooting at me and screaming, well, I get enough of that at work, I just don’t want to go into a hypothetical space where I’ve got 3000 bosses trying to shoot me. I tried one online gaming where a friend suggested I just sit in and I got tense and wondered, OK, how do you get into this?” Goerner prefers to use his time and talent for quests that are more substantial, simply because that is his source of fascination. He worked briefly on a project trying to do computers for seniors, feeling it would be interesting to bring older people into programming and software just to get familiar with computers.
His most recent project is a personal venture that has yet to launch, but is a form of architectural wall tiles that he hopes to manufacture through his families business in the upcoming months. It’s a concept that is both artistic and environmentally responsible. Goerner is a rare artist who delves into the human psyche in order to find the edges. To him, all of life is an illusion to explore, and there is never one answer. He values good times and down time and beauty in the simplest of lines, and abhors stupidity and narrow-minded pettiness. If I could only live long enough I would bet that his designs will be studied and referenced for many generations to come, and his ghost will be found studying the spaces.