The Power of the Tangible

There’s an article on Politico by Jack Shafer questioning the success of print newspapers’ jump to invest in digital versions. After all this time physical prints still have higher perceived value than the digital versions.

…online editions tend to be perceived as inferior to the paid-for print product because they’re free, plus the “tangible” nature of newsprint gives it an edge in readers’ minds over the pixel product.

This is, of course, very human. Even in the face of so much intangible passing around our culture, we are still hard-wired to value material objects and tangible markers of time.

I’ll point you in the direction of Ellen Dissanayake for some of the reasons.

Early on as a printmaker I latched on to the poetic righteousness of Print’s role in marking time and disseminating knowledge. It is still one of the things that drives my days.

Here’s to the hope that on the other side of this era of cultural upheaval there are some really great steakhouse quality newspapers waiting for us.

(Read the article for that analogy to make sense.)

Thu-Van Tran – La Venice Biennale di Arte

In a series of works Thu-Van Tran reproduces fragments of a rubber plantation in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale di Arte.

Casts of hevea tree trunks are laid out in front of photograms of tropical foliage and a video of people carving the bark of the hevea tree to extract rubber. The photograms make the ephemeral moment of light hitting leaves durable, and the mark of the worker’s hand is evident in the casts of the trees. Looking like bones, the trees are displayed on crates reminding me of something being packed and stored like an artifact, no longer a part of its true ecosystem. Together the pieces broadcast an experience of work, colonial domination, and nature.

I’ve been reading some of Walter Benjamin’s writings on mechanical reproduction and the “aura of the original.” He creates an argument that contradicts itself almost immediately, or at least pales over the intervening years.  He places the reproduction in the realm of the “other” or alien; something that is not quite right as a way of devaluing it in comparison to “the real”. I assert that the otherness or the mediated state of reproduction in and of itself creates an experience all its own – a new realness.

In this case we are presented, through mechanical reproduction, with the weight of the nature and action of the plantation. Pain and beauty are both present in the collection of these seemingly prosaic objects and views, until the video decodes the signs for the viewer.

Benjamin and I are going to be healthy sparing partners.

Again, again, over and over, that’s when it starts to get interesting.

 

 

 

Printmaking and Catalan Independence

Catalonians are fighting to vote on whether to secede from Spain.

In this week’s On the Media journalist Vincent Partal speaks about the roll of media in the Catalan independence referendum: Catalonia Crackdown.

Partal mentions the importance of printed materials in the battle between Spanish and Catalonian officials. In an attempt to stop the referendum voting the Spanish government confiscated pamphlets, posters, and ballots.

In response Catalonians printed new ballots in a secret location (see video above) and created posters that could be printed at home.

Print Power and democratic distribution in action.