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.

ABETARE – Petrit Halilaj

 

170711_3

ABETARE – Petrit Halilaj – Wallpaper installation, scans from a book

There was a special focus on the book, as an object and as inspiration, in this year’s Venetian Biennale di Arte. Christine Macel, Curator of the 57th International Art Exhibition, even referred to the nine main sections of the exhibition as chapters.  The Pavilion of Artists and Books, rooted in an exploration of artistic practice, opens with works that illustrate the continuum of  otium and negotium, idleness and action, the fits and starts of intuitive creative production.

The pavilion, there’s no physical separation between the conceptual pavilions they flow into each other room to room, highlights artists’ relationship with books and knowledge as both inspiration and object.

Halilaj’s piece is a deconstructed a book spread over the surface of a few walls.

A digitally printed wallpaper is made from images of pages from Halilaj’s childhood alphabet book. Ubiquitous across cultures, alphabet books are used to teach children the basics of language as well as a social behavior and norms, two kinds of knowledge imparted.

The original book was passed from family to family in an effort to protect cultural identity during a time of oppression and lack. Reproducing the pages in this way, across a wall, in ABETARE the information is disseminated all at once, urgently, as an announcement across the viewer field of vision. There is a radical nature to exposing information that was once passed hand to hand to avoid detection.

The images are printed on a plasticky vinyl maybe, self adhered to the wall. The all-over-ness and encompassing environment is disrupted only by the work’s location in a hallway to the bathroom.

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

170728170711_2