In Marvel’s recently released film Guardians of the Galaxy, galactic space rogue Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) spends most of the movie carrying around an old 1980s Sony Walkman loaded up with a mixtape labeled “Awesome Jams Vol. 1.” It’s the character’s spiritual link to the childhood he spent on Earth.
This is an aspect of ’80s technology that Austrian designer Kay Knight understands very well. Having grown up in the ’80s, Knight feels a spiritual connection with the technology of the era–Walkmans, boomboxes, clunky retro computers, and more–which Knight attempts to bring back to life with beautiful mosaics made up of keys pried off of early computer keyboards.
In construction and material, Knight’s ’80s electronics-inspired mosaics are part found art, part digital. Scouring local scrapyards and e-cycling centers for vintage electronics, Knight uses old keyboard caps from computers, calculators and typewriters as his tiles. Knight then photographs them and uses them to digitally recreate photos of the electronics and media of yesteryear, taking anywhere from a few hours to weeks to complete.
Over the past few years, Knight has completed dozens of such mosaics, for a huge range of vintage gadgets and devices. He’s completed mosaics for old Commodore computers, retro Radio Shack robots, Gordon Gecko-style mobile phones, ancient Speak & Spells, and even mixtapes that look nearly identical to “Awesome Jams Vol. 1.”
Feeling a little bit like Peter Quill himself, Knight says he has always felt closer to the electronics of his youth than the more polished devices of today.
“You know, my first Sony Walkman cassette player is still the greatest thing I’ve ever owned,” he tells Co. Design. “I just don’t remember ever having a closer relationship with a piece of technology. I cherish the moments we spent together, and I guess I’m hanging onto those memories, but also trying to make people realize how far we’ve come in such a short time, from the typewriter to the iPhone.”
You can see more of Knight’s work on his Deviant Art page here.