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.)

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.

Dear John

“Schoenberg said that everything is repetition – even variation. On the other hand, we can say that repetition doesn’t exist, that two leaves of the same plant are not repetitions of each other but are unique. Or two bricks on the building across the street are different. And when we examine them closely, we see that they are indeed different in some respect, if only in the respect of how they receive light, because they are at different points in space. In other words, repetition really has to do with how we think. And we can’t think either that things are being repeated or that they are not being repeated. If we think that things are being repeated, it is generally because we don’t pay attention to all of the details. But if we pay attention as though we were looking through a microscope to all of the details, we see that there is no such thing as repetition.”   —  John Cage


Oh, John.

I taught a four week workshop in Venice this past summer and while there multiples and copies were in the forefront of my mind.

Last year I presented a paper at Mid-America Print Council’s conference, Modes of the Multiple – I talked about variation and repetition as pursuits in art. I wrapped painting, photography, prints, GIFS, and Book Arts into my talk. Writing the paper inspired me to continue to collect ideas, reference points, artworks, and theories about multiples.

This process of collecting ideas and artworks has gotten kinda unwieldy, crossing from conversations and note taking to fully formed thoughts. So I thought I’d start setting down some of my collection here in a series of blog posts.

While collecting I expanded my definition of reproducible media from image and mark replication (printmaking / photography) to include all forms of mechanical object making. It was an intuitive expansion, probably the result of being raised at Penland School of Crafts where different media easily crawl all over each other in a happy jumble,

The concepts play out in different forms: casting (metal, clay, glass), digital and analog printing, digital fabrication, repeat patterns, Xerographic printing, publications / book art and design, paper-making, textiles, photography, graphic design, product design, and more.

If I cast (ha! pun!) a wide net for conceptual links there are really interesting relationships between all reproducible media:the multiple, seriality, intermediary process, copy/original, replication, sequence, transference of mark, plurality, industrialization, and standardization… to name just a few.

And so it was with that eye that I first approached my art viewing this past summer. It helped me to clarify for myself, to find the edges, and some of my main questions about what can be included in reproducible media. Does it include collaged ephemera? Performance? What about the daily tides of the sea?

Starting here are some of the threads I’ve been gathering as a  basis for understanding this large subsection of artistic practice – Reproducible Media.

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

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Oxford University Press and the Making of a Book

A silent film made in 1925 that describes the work of the press, including hand casting type, composting text in Syriac, plate making stereo plates, giant amazing presses and all kinds of other really arcane and dorky things. Enjoy!

An Admission of Nervousness

A 37

Baby me in 1996, on a ‘mountain’ in Wales.

I’m headed for a (another) re-boot and it makes me really nervous.

I’ve been living in the same place for 9 months now and I’m about to leave it for a series of really awesome opportunities that I’m thrilled about and at the same time, make me feel vulnerable. I have an amazing, blessed life. Maintaining a balance of healthy relationships, nurturing gratitude, and keeping up with my own ambitions and commitments, is a challenge that I try but sometime fail at.

A broken web camera became a stumbling block for me this week.

I was getting ready to video chat with my nieces this past Thursday and the camera on my laptop wasn’t working. I could see them and they could hear me, but the built-in camera wasn’t working. There were a few moments of stress, my eldest niece was now upset because she wasn’t going to be able to see the new books I got from the library to read to them. I was upset because I love getting to hang with the girls but sometimes technology can upend your expectations. I came up with a work-around, using my iTouch to video chat. But the screen is so small that i could hardly see them.

I’ve grown accustomed to being able to maintain treasured relationships via technology. I know in my heart that these moments of video and voice connection are no replacement for the real thing. But they’re what I have right now as I travel, job to job, project to project. The life of an artist / academic post-grad school can be very itinerant.

I need my family and friends. I need to see and hear and feel loved and heard by people who have known me for longer than a few months. I need to have people I can give to, to be there for. I tend to be slow at building intimate friendships and so I lean fairly heavily on the ones I already have. And so when you travel as much as I do, and am about to do, the technology becomes vital.

When the camera broke, I entered a spiral of stressful questions: What if I have to get an external camera? Where the hell am I going to put it in the bags that already seem like they’re going to be beyond full? I can’t afford to spend that money right now. What if my computer breaks while I’m traveling and I can’t read to the girls anymore? What if I miss it, what if I miss all the important things about them growing up? What if I’m already missing all the important things? What if they don’t know me when I come visit because I stay away for too long? What if? What if I’m fucking all of this up?

Crazy town.

What am I doing? Well, I got a job in Italy. After three years of being in grad school and one as a visiting assistant professor both in small mid-western towns, I’m going to be back and forth from Italy for the next year. In fact, I’m not planning to have a permanent place to live for the next two years.

I can do this. I know I can. I’m thrilled about the things I’m going to get to do, and see, and taste! I’ll be going kayaking in Croatia, going back to the pub in Oxford I worked at when I was 18 years old, revisiting friends in Venice, presenting at an international conference, putting up a solo show in Italy… endless, endless once-in-a-lifetime events. Just promise that some of you will hang out with me on the way. And that when I get back, we’ll still be as thick as thieves.

The adventure continues….


So last Friday I got to go over to Russian Recording for a delightful show of prints. Dear and talented Steph Becker, had a show of her animal prints and some special rock prints. There were also m&ms and a room full of cats, a good time was had by all. All of the prints are silkscreens, except one intaglio, all of the cats are cats.

Kinsey Art / The Uncovered Body

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction is based at Indiana University. Along with their accademic research they also support creative research. They house a vast collection of art, media and photography to their mission. They have a small exhibition space in the Institute’s main office where they host frequent exhibits. The institute also sponsors a yearly invitational show that is exhibited in the University’s main art gallery, the Grunwald Gallery of Art. I visited the opening of this year’s invitational and was for the most part underwhlemed by the show, Bloomington’s largest annual international art exhibit.

I spent a good amount of time discussing with friends why we all had a similar response to the work…. are we all jaded grad students, no longer able to simply enjoy a room filled with art from different sources? or is was there something inherantly lacking in the exhibition. At the time we settled somewhere in the middle but in hindsight, I think it’s the show that is lacking. The show could use a more stringent curatorial hand. The themes of Sex, gender and reproducation are so broad that maybe a theme or curatorial authoring would do a lot to help the overall presentation.

There were a couple of lovely prints –

I wish the show could have the beauty and impact I sense when I look at the works in “The Uncovered Body” at the Arab World Institute.

This one video by Adel Abidin asks us to see women, bodies, and aggression as a question, not fully answered by the artist’s portrayal.

Nate Gibson – GO! GO! GO!

So I’ve been working with the spectacular Nate Gibson on art for his forthcoming album. He was looking for something similar to the Hatch Show prints Country Music Hall of Fame series.

So, to do this, I photo-shopped a picture of him.

Then I did a line drawing of the photo, and added text and the general layout.

Then I did an ink drawing of the pencil drawing, one for each of the two colors we’ll be printing.

Then I used my magic computer robot Internets to finish off the colors and make some fine adjustments.

We’re going to be hand silk-screening 300 of these in a couple of weeks!

A Printmaker’s Guide to Disneyland – Part 4

To wrap up the Disney guide, here are a few more tidbits. There is a hotel that abuts the park, Disney’s Grand Californian. It’s built in the theme of arts and craftsman style, but in a postmodern over sized way. The hotel is decorated with craftsman style tiles, carvings and decor. In the main lobby I found a case with leather tooling tools, some wood type and a few books with handmade covers. These objects seem to make little sense in their tourist context, especially the ligatures… but they’re still lovely objects.

Oh and all over the park are lovely wallpapers, mostly in a William Morris style. I managed to remember to photograph one, this sweet sparrow(?) paper pasted above the counter in the Jolly Holiday bakery (Mary Poppin’s themed) . The birds look like they might be ready to attack each other.

Last but not least, the reason I went to Disneyland in the first place –