This means something. This is important.

‘I can’t describe it, what I’m feeling and what I’m thinking, this means something! This is important’ are the words of Roy Neary played by the actor Richard Dreyfuss in the 1977 science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the film Neary is depicted as an adult who never really grew up, a character that gradually becomes obsessed about an image in his mind – followed by the ensuing need to externalise his vision. More specifically this sweeping analysis of the film refers to the the bit that I am interested in.

Form Follows Fiction

Although the actions of Roy Neary in the ‘mash potato scene’ are largely induced by his previous alien encounter in the film, his child like conduct and obsessive behaviour provide the first segue in to what appears to becoming a series of art works (Stretch out with your feelings & Ray Kinsella) that embrace the theme of Form Follows Fiction. Here the obsessive and compulsive nature (and sometimes child like) provide a parallel with the artist and designer, individuals that can embody a similar preoccupied disposition – often attributed to the single minded pursuit. Other ‘artistic’ segue include; technologically enabled ‘remakes’ and a continuing fascination with objects that initiate oscillations between fiction and reality.

The Making:

Devils Mountain, Google Earth View
Google Earth View of Devils Tower, Wyoming, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was originally interested in developing a series of drawings for this project by using Google Earth as my point of reference and vantage point. The outcome would be to continuously produce multiple drawn copies of Devils Tower. The continuous re-drawing of the tower would eventually result in the image becoming fixed in my mind – a subtle nod to the plight of Roy Neary. I would therefore be able to recall and draw its image at will, continuously recreating Devil’s Tower in multiple form. The idea would be to explore today’s situation where the body is no longer the dominant measure of space. Instead it is digital technology that dictates how we see and experience the world – affording a new mediated measuring stick. I may still undertake this approach although I would need to carry over some further facet of the Google Earth program – in order for the work to mean something, something important.

3D render for Devils Tower, Wyoming USA
Terrainator render of Devils Tower, Wyoming
3D render for Devils Tower, Wyoming USA
Terrainator render of Devils Tower, Wyoming

 

Anyway, some months after this initial thought I was speaking with a friend who mentioned that he was thinking about 3D printing a trek that he had recently walked in the USA. To cut a long story a bit shorter I researched the 3D capture and print possibilities for landscapes and found an online company called Terrainator. The company use an algorithm to extract the topographical data from Google Earth and extrude this information to create a three dimensional file. The generated 3D data is exportable to the print on demand company Shapeways who specialise in 3D printing. Alternatively you can purchase the 3D file and print it yourself – much cheaper. Above are two views of the topographical render created by Terrainator for the national monument Devils Tower in Wyoming, United States.

The 3D image file that was produced by Terrainator wasn’t quite what I was expecting. This was mainly due to the fact that the top of the tower wasn’t flat – like it is in the Google Earth image or in reality, and more importantly like it is in the film!

Wire Mesh for Devils Tower
Wire Mesh for Devils Tower
3D file of Devils Tower
3D surface render of Devils Tower
3D build file for Devils Tower in Mash Potato
3D build file for Devils Tower

Once in possession of the 3D file (and to initiate the Form Follows Fiction theme) it seemed only logical that the physical rendering of the data should remain true to my filmic reference, that being mash potato. Whilst I say mash potato I really mean the instant mash potato brand Smash. Smash / mash potato is not one of the more common material’s used in the 3D printing world and I therefore had to access a more novel approach to printing. Luckily two of my colleagues at the CFPR Peter Walters and David Huson had had some previous experience printing with Smash and designing bespoke extrusion systems for the process.

Extrusion System and Printing Material

Interestingly the printing process allowed me to recover the flat summit of Devils Tower, the bit that had been lost in the 3D generation of the file. This achievement was not so much an insightful bit of software manipulation or a crafted adjustment to the hardware. Instead it was accomplished by the timely pressing of the pause button, about a minute from the end of the print. The printing of the mash potato tower also included a fixing agent in the Smash and water mix. This helped the structure retain its shape whilst drying. The previous 100% Smash and water mix had resulted in the structure slumping after an hour or so. The resulting prints conjured visions of printed objects by the Biltong creature in Philip K Dick’s 1955 dystopian novel ‘Pay for the Printer‘. In the novel the Biltong is an alien that serves humankind by duplicating everyday objects but over time the Biltong’s have become exhausted, to the point of extinction – and are no longer able to produce accurate copies. The quality of these inferior objects degrade each time they are replicated to the point where nothing has any longevity, buildings are collapsing in on themselves and newspapers become nothing more than a mishmash of meaningless words. The loss of function is described as ‘puddinged’, an adjective articulated in the novel where several copies later a Swiss watch has become nothing more than a piece of misshapen metal. Mmmm ‘puddinged’.

That said the new addition of the binding agent still has a few structural integrity problems but it was good enough to produce a 3D print that could be photographically recorded for the Annual Miniature print show at the Arnolfini. Unlike the scale of the 3D printed Devils Tower artwork Beautiful Minds (2017) by the artist Anya Gallaccio my 3D printed mash potato version has an altitude of 14cm and is now located in my desk draw waiting for further developments of the idea.

3D Printing of Devils Tower in Mash Potato
3D Printing of Devils Tower in Mash Potato
3D Printing of Devils Tower in Mash Potato
This means something. This is important. (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements:

Big thanks to Peter Walters and Dave Huson for allowing me to print on their machine and with their assistance.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Print is Dead Series

Paul Laidler, Print is Dead, 2012
Paul Laidler, Print is Dead, 2012

‘Prints are like repeated stories, passed on from one to another, sometimes accurate recordings, other times with added variations and distortions, either by design or accident. Working within a series, prints become a game of whispers, each story retold, misheard and elaborated on to create new meaning and context’. – The Mechanical Hand

The series of paintings described in this post is an ongoing body of work that I started in 2010, so get ready as I’m gonna prattle on for a bit. Over the past couple of years I have written and talked about the series intermittently, from a variety of different perspectives and for different audiences. Subsequently and somewhat to my surprise I have received a number of requests to make the work/text available online. Given that the series has been published ‘in print’ this version has been edited and refocused.

Printed Paintings

The post discusses the themes of printmaking, collaboration, process, and the digital age as a series of concepts toward the initiation and production of a digitally mediated ‘print’ series ‘Print is Dead’ (figures 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5). Here the preoccupation with production and process is emphasized over the end product as a means to address the collaborative print process and the conceptual considerations for the work, engaging with printmaking themes. Whilst the resulting works are not prints in the truest sense, printmaking is imbedded as a means to consider the broadening definition of ‘print’ in the digital age. In this instance printmaking is considered as an expanded term through the production of paintings whilst the digitally mediated ‘print’ is realised through the Print on Demand model – a facility synonymous with digital technology. Collectively the themes and production processes highlight the often de-emphasised collaborative undertaking by printers for artists, and the subsequent acknowledgement of this art category, whilst the resulting artworks challenge assumptions of authorship and originality in the production of artworks for artists.

Introduction

Historically within the fine arts, print was used as a means to reproduce other works of art such as paintings – a medium of seemingly higher esteem. Although the premise of the reproduction was often for disseminatory and financial reasons, the quality of execution was still important. The reproduction was dependent upon the original source material, the skill of the engraver and techniques developed over the years to accurately transcribe and replicate.
The transcription processes used to produce the Print is Dead series differ from the historical rationale for replication in art. Instead the work can be seen as an examination of a process rather than the reproduction of a subject; elevating the ‘reproduction’ to the status of an ‘original’. For instance, the dependence upon an original source for accurate replication becomes impractical in this context – the source image exists as only an infinitely reproducible digital file that is susceptible to a number of transformations in appearance, both on screen and as a printed image. The resulting series of individual artworks can only ever be copies of the original digital file, yet remain unique in their systematic production.
The allusions to production processes within the Print is dead series are considered in much the same way. The artwork is conceived by thinking about the print medium in terms of a process rather than producing printed artworks; the medium is addressed in relation to print’s inherent relationship with reproduction, where the Publish-on-Demand facility becomes the appropriated tool. The content arises from the seamless integration of digital technology within pre-digital processes, practice and media.

The resulting (non-digital) artworks can be seen as a response to Marshall McLuhan’s “rearview-mirror view of the world” observation, that we are initially numbed by new technology until it has been completely superseded its predecessor. McLuhan states that in this transition period of ‘the present’, our senses become overwhelmed so much so that we go from the unfamiliar back to the familiar. We attach ourselves to the objects and atmospheres that characterise the past where we feel a compulsion to make the old environment more visible.
The resulting non-digital artworks reflect McLuhan’s technological transition period in that the field of printmaking is still awaiting the arrival of its digital natives. The process and production of the Print is Dead series is representative of this current juncture between technologies and conscious of the fact that it is an analogue work within a digital age.

POD

The POD (Print-on-Demand) facility is a relatively new addition to the artist’s possibilities for producing printed artworks via digital means. The development of the technology is a product of the digital revolution that has democratised the opportunity to self-publish. The democratisation has been possible because of the technology’s economic potential to reduce the costs previously incurred through mechanical printing processes such as offset printing. A large percentage of the POD industry caters for book and artist’s book publishing, although there are a growing number of POD facilities that specialise in fine art, digital prints for both artists and publishers.
From the self-publishing artist’s perspective, the process follows a system-based procedure through a set number of options for printing a digital image. These options often include a choice in scale and substrate before remotely uploading the digital image (via the Internet) to a POD facility server. Once stored on the server, the digital image is then downloaded and printed to the previously established print options. Because the digital file can be reproduced and stored indefinitely, the edition size may be left open allowing for further renderings of the digital file at the client’s request – hence print on demand.
The democratisation of digital technology and the marketing potential of the POD facility developed the idea of the ‘personal factory, where you can make almost anything – including electronics, homeware, fashion and furniture’. Consumers in search of bespoke designs can now access digital fabrication technologies through companies such as Anyline , imaterialise, Ponoko and 3DDC using a range of Laser cutting, rapid prototyping, 3D rapid printing and surface coating options.
Although the Print is Dead series does not directly use digital fabrication technology, the artwork shares similarities with the fabrication process as part of the artist-fabricator approach to making. These associations consider the human crafting approach as part of a systematic and automated method to making, by employing the technical skills of others to help realise the work that informs the idea.
Unlike most POD facilities that produce printed images for clients, the facility that I chose for the reproduction of The Print is Dead series use the hand-rendered method of painting as processes to reproduce a digital image.

 

(order272)completed
Fig 3: (order272)completed.jpg Painting produced by Odsan Gallery, China
order542 completed.jpg
Fig 4: (order542)completed.jpg Painting produced by Odsan Gallery, China

 Replica Factory

Figures 3 and 4 are oil painting’s on canvas produced through Odsan Oil Painting Gallery in Dafen, China. The company is one of many in the region that employ academy-trained artists within a factory-line approach to reproduce vast numbers of old master oil paintings. The act of copying great masters’ works by artists has been a continued practice throughout the ages. Conventional practices have often required that artists access the original painting to capture the intricacy, scale and presence of the work. I do not profess to being a master artist – the idea of having a work reproduced in paint that contains none of the traditional precedents for reproduction was what interested me.

More specifically the conventional reproductive process becomes inverted as the facility takes a digitally printed image and reproduces it by hand – in essence the machine and human exchange places. The use of a digital image also highlights the problematic situation of what is being copied and therefore; what is believed to be the original work? If we consider that a digital image is susceptible to scale and colour changes through different computer monitors and print devices then the work becomes less concerned with reproducing a subject but examining a process.

Figure 2 Printed image used by Odsan Gallery to create figure 3
Figure 2 Printed image used by Odsan Gallery to create figure 3

Perpetual Painting

The Odsan Gallery’s reproduction process functions in the same manner as the POD facility when offering a client the possibility of ‘self-publishing’. As previously stated this involves the transfer of a digital image (figure 1) that is rendered to the specifications of the client. Figure 3 was created from a digital print (Figure 2) made from the low resolution digital file (figure 1) that was requested by the Odsan Gallery to create the artwork. In this situation, the rendering is by hand, not restricted to the scale of a print device and can be reproduced in a range of different painting styles. The resulting painting for the Print is Dead series, is a photo-realistic style reproduction of the digital print that was used as the source image for the work. In this instance the reproduction of the source image contains a magenta hue produced by the printing of the digital file.
The inclusion of the colour cast in the painting is not seen as a fault with the reproductive artwork but as a reminder of the parameters of the tools and processes we use. In his article The Aesthetics of Failure, the American composer Kim Cascone discusses the positive outcome of imperfection:

‘Indeed failure has become a prominent aesthetic in many of the arts in the late 20th century, reminding us that our control of technology is an illusion, and revealing digital tools to be only as perfect, precise, and efficient as the humans who build them’. (K. Cascone, “Post-Digital” Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music’. Computer Music Journal, Volume 24 Issue 4, 2000, p.12)

Figure’s 4 and 5 are painting’s also created from photographic sources although these photo’s are taken by the Odsan Gallery to show the client the painted image before posting the actual canvas. In essence the photos are proofs that need to be approved by the artist/client before the next stage can be implemented. By photographing the painting and e-mailing the digital image for approval a perpetual system for further paintings is developed. These approval photos are then used as the source image for the next painting and so on and so forth. Despite the absence of print production in the appearance of the paintings, the association with the reproductive process is embedded within to the content of the work. The possibility of an indefinite number of copies remains, although the reproductive endeavour is one of human automation or human printers.

Figure 5: Paul Laidler (order547)completed.jpg, Painting produced by Odsan Gallery, China
Figure 5: Paul Laidler (order547)completed.jpg, Painting produced by Odsan Gallery, China

Ray Kinsella

Ray Kinsella
Paul Laidler, Ray Kinsella, 2010

‘The model is an in between form, it shifts between disciplines’
Ian Kiaer, 2009

EDITION INFO:

EDITION SIZE: 20
IMAGE DIMENSIONS: W 45 cm x H 45 cm
SUBSTRATE DIMENSIONS: W 55 cm x H 55 cm
MEDIUM: Pigmented Inkjet Print
SUBSTRATE: Hahnemuhle photorag
PRICE: £250

 

Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner in the 1989 film Field of Dreams), a crop farmer, is walking through his field one evening where he hears a voice uttering the words ‘If you build it, he will come’. After pondering the meaning of the words, Kinsella decides to construct a baseball pitch in his cornfield despite the financial risks to his farm and family. Not completely sure why he is making the pitch the compulsion to do so outweighs any thoughts of purpose for, or economic return from the pitch. The compulsion to make has many parallels with art and its intended function (to be received by an audience). Towards the end of the film the baseball pitch becomes an attraction as it is deemed that ‘people will come’. Ray Kinsella was the first text piece that initiated the Build it and they will come project, and as with the film character Ray Kinsella, the work had no intended audience, it was just a feeling that something had to be realised. The realisation was due to the fact that for the idea to function as an artwork, it had to be more than an idea. As an idea the words ‘build it and they will come’ remained a solitary and silent voice. For the idea to be ‘heard’ the text requires audience participation, therefore the work refers to itself as an object for exhibition – to physically exist in a space where ‘people will come’.

Ray Kinsella was produced as part of the series of artworks Build it and they will come; a collaboration between myself and the artist Brendan Reid that refers to architectural practice within a fine art context. The work contains a series of four quotes that have architectural connotations and are printed using rapid prototyping technology to create three dimensional, text-based objects. The three dimensional printing process is used as device to create a series of self-referential dialogues within the work.

For example the three-dimensional printed text of Sol LeWitt’s statement “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art” (Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), in “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”, Artforum, Summer issue, 1967) refers to both idea and process. Here the rapid prototyping process is used for its industrial function – as a machine that produces prototypes rather than creating final artworks. The technology is commonly used in architectural practices to produce concept models/ ideas, which makes the three-dimensional printing device essentially an ‘ideas machine’. In this instance the machine becomes an idea that makes the art. Reid and I share a mutual interest in the oscillation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphic forms, and we approach this from both perspectives. The fine art context emanates from collaborative practice in art and the ensuing self-referential play between image and object, process and idea.

From these dual perspectives Ray Kinsella exists as a series of artworks that include 3D and 2D printing methods. The marriage of these two spatial and graphic concerns is alluded to through the photographic recording of the 3D print, both upon and within a 2D printed surface (see illustration). With this in mind photography is not used as a means to objectively document the physical work. Instead the photographic recording is indicative of a ‘photosculpture’ that utilises the inherent qualities of photography to recreate the sculptural form anew.

 

Roombeek Series

Title: Roombeek Series, 2009 (9 images making one work)
Edition: 10
Price: £150 (per image)
Medium: Light jet print on Kodak Endura paper mounted on aluminium and bonded onto 5mm clear Perspex acrylic.
Scale: Individual image size w 29.7cm x h 19.8cm
Set of nine presentation size w 99cm x h 68.5cm

 

The following text is taken from an interview that I did about the series. The interviewer represented an online art website which now doesn’t appear to exist anymore.

 

Do you have a name for your ‘house series’?

Roombeek series I guess! – The Roombeek is the name of the area in Enschede, The Netherlands, where the photos were taken.

What prompted you to create these photographs?

The ideas that inform the work are mostly rooted in the appearance of reality. It is often said that today’s media saturated culture has created a new reality where the image has replaced the reality that it once described. Examples of this cultural phenomenon could be described as experiencing a real life situation that appears more like a movie, or being disillusioned by a holiday destination that didn’t quite live up to its image representation from the brochure.

With this in mind and being an avid peruser of architecture magazines, walking amongst the Roombeek houses felt very much like reading those same printed pages. Obviously the structures were real in this instance but at the same time they still retained an image quality (it was almost like they were made to be images).

The creation of these photographs (amongst other things) was therefore, to continue thinking about the ‘image world’ phenomenon, whilst enjoying the decisions involved in the making experience – something that can be overlooked if you don’t get out much.

Can you describe your process for making these pictures? How do you scout out a location, etc? (Also, if you don’t mind me asking, is any of it photoshopped?)

The work utilises ideas concerning familiarity where the subject matter (eventually combined with its presentation) invokes a mediated presence as opposed to ‘the original’ source. I stumbled across this particular bit of the Roombeek area purely by chance during a visit to The Netherlands earlier this year. This was partly due to a group of tourists blocking the cycle lane during a frenzied photo session of the surrounding buildings. Tourists photographing ‘attractions’ is generally a good sign that I might be interested in what they are looking at. Normally I have to see what something looks like as a photograph first. However, no matter how relevant the actual subject may be to the concept, if the recorded reality does not have a certain quality (as a printed image) then it’s not worth continuing with.
After noting the location I cycled back the following day to begin taking photos.

Process for making a Roombeek series:

1. Park ‘dutch bicycle’ somewhere with easy access (you never know).

2. Return to the tourist location and begin shooting (with a camera).

3. View recorded images on camera display ensuring image quality parameters for acceptable print quality.

4. Cycle to campus (that your working at during this period) and print digital files checking acceptability of print quality.

5. Mount the prints on to a card backing, cut and leave to dry (go to pub).

6. Return to location (the proceeding day) with printed images and tripod.
7. Realise you didn’t bring the camera, so return to the campus, pick up camera and cycle back to location.

8. Park in the now ‘usual spot’ (remembering to lock the bike this time) choose a printed image then find its actual location.

9. With camera mounted on the tripod, hold the printed building image in front of real building, thus obscuring the real building’s actuality.

10. Don’t try and be overly precise, its not supposed to be a hyper-real image but rather, suggestive of the reality theory.

11. Repeat the process until all prints have been photographed and then head back to campus – in anticipation.

12. Open images on a computer, re-scale the file dimensions so that the hand in each image is life-size.

13. With no Photoshop manipulation required go ahead and print what you believe to be the best nine images.

14. Mount the nine images (similar to previous mounting method) and then exhibit prints in a 3 x 3 grid formation, thus mimicking the rectangle of a photograph whilst accentuating the formalistic qualities of the buildings.

What inspires your work? Are there any particular artists who are real influences to you?

I think I probably find things interesting rather than inspirational. On a similar note, I once got detention at school in a religious studies class for insisting that I didn’t have a role model!

Having said that I do have a piece of writing that I always transfer from notebook to notebook. It’s an extract entitled ‘Why I go to the movies alone’ by the artist Richard Prince

“The first time he saw her, he saw her in a photograph. He had seen her before, at her job, but there she didn’t come across or measure up anywhere near as well as she did in her picture. Behind her desk she was too real to look at […] He had to have her on paper, a material with a flat seamless surface […] a physical location which could represent her resemblance all in one place […] a place that had the chances of looking real, but a place that didn’t have any specific chances of being real”

Murmurs from Earth

Murmurs from Earth
Paul Laidler, Murmurs from Earth, 2010

EDITION INFO
EDITION SIZE: 10
IMAGE DIMENSIONS: W 30.5 cm x H 30.5 cm
SUBSTRATE DIMENSIONS: W 38 cm x H 57 cm
MEDIUM: Laser Engraving
SUBSTRATE: Black Somerset Paper

The text below has been adapted from a much larger article due to be published in 2014 by the Brazilian Journal Porto Arte. The (currently unpublished) article is a conversation between myself and Prof Paul Coldwell that discusses the convergence of old and new technologies in art practice – aptly entitled Printmaking New and Old Technologies – A Conversation.

Anyway I have more recently been revisiting (with a view to restructuring) my interests in post digital artworks and the thinking that gets assigned to such things. So following on from the article topic of old and new technologies I thought it might be interesting to present some thoughts on a digitally engraved work that I made in 2010 entitled Murmurs from Earth.

Before discussing the work I reckon it would be useful for me to say a little bit about the production of the work – or more specifically, how the laser cutting process works, and therefore what the viewer sees in the photographic recording of the artefact Murmurs from Earth.

As its name suggests, the laser cutter is a burning process that cuts through and into materials. The laser’s function can be controlled in one of two ways: by either cutting straight through a material, or by engraving into the surface. Murmurs from Earth is a digital, photographic image that has been laser engraved into the surface of a black, cotton based paper. The varying levels of engraved depth in the paper refer to the tonal information that is present in the digital, photographic image. The tonal information in the digital file is read as numerical values of grey (255 levels of grey, with black and white at either side of the scale). The laser cutter then transcribes these numerical values as different power intensities, creating a depth field for the engraving process. For example, where the image is darker in tone the laser will cut deeper into the surface, and where the tonal information is lighter, the depth of the engrave will be shallower. As a result, the engraved vinyl image in Murmurs from Earth is made visible because of the different tones of black paper fibres that are present in and on the paper surface.

Diagrammatic I
Diagrammatic I

The artwork Murmurs from Earth is developed from the same sentiments that were employed by the NASA space exploration programme that took place in the 1970s. The mission involved the deployment of a spacecraft that would carry a message from Earth beyond our solar system with the intention to communicate our sights and sounds to an extraterrestrial audience. The recording of these images and audio were transcribed by engraving the information into a gold-plated copper disc to produce a twelve-inch phonograph record known as the Voyager Golden Record. The latest celluloid film technology of the time would not withstand the conditions that the journey would subject upon the recording, so a more sustainable format from the past was revisited to resolve the present and future technological issues of the mission, hence the use of the phonograph record.

Without telling the whole story, the Voyager Mission prompts technological considerations that occur when we move from one technology to another; such as transferability, readability and compatibility. These transition periods, or the state of ‘in between’ bring together the relationships with form and function, analogue and digital that are central to this work.

During the conversation between Paul Coldwell and myself, Paul  mentioned how the development of photography moved toward a ‘greater and greater fidelity to the real’. This progression has increased with the advent of digital technology and its potential to simulate space and enhance material qualities from photographic capture. It is this potential to digitally record and render material properties that led me to combine the laser engraving process with black paper. The combination produces a facsimile quality, in that the exposed black fibres of the engraved paper mimic the material appearance of black vinyl. Here, the possibilities of reproduction become more than photographic, as the transfer of the analogue object retains a material form although the function is lost.

The appearance of form without function in Murmurs from Earth refers to the possibility that the Voyager disc will be unreadable in some distant world or inevitably, the disc may never be heard – it is a one-way message. Here, the Voyager Golden Record is best seen as a time capsule or a symbolic statement, rather than a serious attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life. To some degree it is this sense of failure that allows the laser engraved record in Murmurs from Earth to function.

The digital recording and rendering of an analogue format initiates the combining of old and new technology that has been central to this article. Murmurs from Earth has developed from a historical event to communicate with another world, yet we might surmise that there are two communicative worlds within our own; the analogue and digital.

Snippet of video from Impact 8 about the process and thinking around Murmurs from Earth

The Human Printer

Paul Laidler, The Human Printer.tiff, Produced by The Human Printer, 2010
Paul Laidler, The Human Printer.tiff, Produced by The Human Printer, 2010

‘First we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.’ (M. McLuhan, 1964)

The Human Printer.tiff is part of a series entitled Print is Dead andwas produced by a group called The Human Printer. The group consists of eleven individuals who specialise in reproducing by hand, the digitised rendering of a half-tone image that is normally associated with mechanical print processes. The Human Printer group has adopted the remote Print-on-demand facility for transferring digital files, although the potential to rapidly produce large editions is somewhat limited due to the extensive labour involved and the small-scale production of the studio. The Human Printer.tiff (see source file here) took just over two weeks from order to receipt.

In keeping with the mechanised half-tone print process, the digital image is printed as colour separations using the four printing channels of CMYK. To produce the final drawn image, each colour separation is traced individually on to a single sheet of semi-transparent paper so that collectively, the channels register with one another. The layering order of each colour follows the half-tone print procedure using four different coloured pens that correspond to each of the separate colour channels.The Human Printer’s transcription process includes the visual descriptions associated with reproduction through the mechanised image. The Human Printer’s rendering of a coarse photographic half-tone and its associations with automation are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s 1963 comment “I want to be a machine”.

Further overtones of convergence between humans and technology reference a (hypothetical) Post-human future where a biological generation of humanity ends and technological one begins. The influence of science and technology upon the human condition has been a constant source of inspiration for the field of science fiction. In more recent times the fictional associations with phenomena such as implants, smart materials and cloning have accelerated the science fiction world toward are own.

The idea that a fiction can become functional through an associated process has been incorporated in to the selection of a specific technology for the work entitled Stretch out with your feelings.

The Human Printer.tiff is part of larger series of work entitled Print is Dead that continues the theme of humans as printers and the broadening definition of the print medium in the digital age.

Stretch out with your feelings

Stretch out wit your feelings
Paul Laidler, Stretch out with your feelings, 2010

EDITION INFO

MEDIUM: Laser Engraving
SUBSTRATE: Black Velvet Somerset 250gsm
SUBSTRATE DIMENSIONS: Width 38cm x Height 57cm
IMAGE DIMENSIONS: Width 12cm x Height 12cm

The orb image depicted in the photograph to the left has been burnt with a laser into the surface of a black heavy weight cotton based paper. The laser engraved orb image in the paper is a ‘Jedi training remote’ from the film Star Wars. In this instance the training remote image is only visible because of the resulting topography that is burnt (by the laser) into the depth of the paper. Therefore the orb image is described by angle, light and the papers darker fibers that sit beneath the (slightly lighter black) paper surface.

Form follows Fiction:

Upon our first encounter with the ‘Jedi training remote’ (in the film) we find Skywalker struggling to focus his Jedi abilities during the laser training exercise. There after it is decided that Skywalker should be blinded allowing the force to guide his actions instead of his eyesight or to ‘let go of his conscious self’. Now blinded by ‘the blast shield’ Luke sees nothing except darkness (black paper) by using the force Luke is able to render the objects image in his mind (the image on the black paper). Although in his minds eye the object is devoid of physicality yet Skywalker has the ability to sense the training remotes presence in a space (the laser cut depth within the flat space of the paper). The realisation that the Jedi training remote is essentially both image and object creates a sense of mystery around the works visual presence – perhaps drawing further parallels with the order of the Jedi Knight!
Stretch out with your feelings is part of a continuing fascination with oscillations between image and object and fact and fiction. Subsequently I have an interest in film props and replicas where our associations with these objects are generally through their ‘on screen’ image presence. In this context film props are essentially objects that are preceded by their image, they are able to traverse fiction and reality when we consider that fact that they are ‘real fictional’ objects.


Stretch out with your feelings (2010) was conceived around the idea of creating a ‘real fiction’ where a physical object (an artwork) would be literally formed by some aspect of its fictional reference. In this instance the laser technology was used to initiate the traversing between fiction and reality. Here laser cutting technology refers to both the Jedi remotes fictional function (shooting lasers at Skywalker) and the actual technological process that renders the Jedi training remote visible in Stretch out with your feelings. The self-referential play around the idea of creating real fictions also has a resonance with the rapid advancement in science and computing industries. What was once thought to be only possible in science fiction is now becoming ‘science faction’.

Remastered

Paul Laidler, Is it a game, or is it real, Unlimited (Hardback & soft cover versions), Produced through Blurb.com
Paul Laidler, Is it a game, or is it real, Unlimited (Hardback & soft cover versions), Produced through Blurb.com

Limited edition, 2009
UK. Published in 3 formats: softback or hardback, hardback with jacket.
Width 13cm x  Height 21cm  x Depth 2cm
Hardback version available here: Blurb books

The book work Is it a game, or is it real is a reinterpretation of David Bischoff’s War Games. In this instances a remake of the Penguin book that uses the film adaptation of Bischoff’s novel as the cover image. The visual reference of the film as a printed cover image is employed by publishers as marketing tool to sell more copies of adapted novels. Marcella Edwards, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Classics sees the film’s influence as a way to tap into new markets. The film image appears to make some classic texts more approachable for these new audiences. Edwards describes this phenomena where the text “becomes less classic, less difficult. You don’t need a PhD to read this stuff – it’s readable”. Here the novels text is proceeded by its cinematic cover image a reinterpretation that for many becomes the original, diluting any beginning or end – and somewhat ironically, a reality made out of fiction.

Here the reinterpretation/remake foreground’s the digitized theme of the novel, period and production process. Firstly the work presents the digital pixel aesthetic of the 1980’s although in this instance the digitization is not screen based but instead simulated by printed dots that construct the appearance of pixels. For instances the book work Is it a game, or is it real is a digitally recorded version of the (1983 Penguin) publication although the transition from physical to digital becomes pronounced through the flatbed scanning of the books three dimensional form and the pixellated appearance of both text and image. The book has been recorded using the different resolution sizes of 12, 32, 42 and 52 ppi (pixels per inch). These resolution settings assigned to the recording of the book are purposely set below the standard amount of pixel information required for reading digital images on screen (72ppi) and in print (300ppi).

I might add that when using automated POD facilities for producing work, low resolution preference generally sit outside of the systems approved optimum print settings. Subsequently the ‘computer says no’ the system breaks down and you need to convince a human directly (via the online help desk) that you want pixelation.

As well as the physical, printed edition of the book, the Blurb facility also offers a virtual rendering of the book format that can be considered as a digital edition in the truest sense. The electronic format otherwise known as an e-book, allows the user to view the on screen flipping of pages as animated actions that refer to the experience of its physical counterpart. Although the e-book phenomenon engages with the dynamic potential of the Internet and allows publishers to reduce publishing costs, it does not currently provide the best reading experience to the customer.
The pixellated appearance of Is it a game or is it real? as an e-book initially makes the viewer question the technology as a reliable tool for reading digitised information. Viewed on screen the image appears to have become corrupted, or the correct resolution setting has not been assigned to the digital file. The assumption that the e-book is not a true representation of the printed version is re-addressed once seen in conjunction with the printed, signed edition. As an artist’s book, the signature confirms the intentions for the final printed results and the subsequent reading of the physical work as an ‘unsophisticated’ e-book facsimile. In one sense, the book fails to function before the concept reveals the object’s primary function as an artwork that appropriates the formal designs of the book format.

The appropriation and function distinctions resonate with Michael Craig-Martin’s thinking of real objects as if they were art. Here Craig-Martin considers utilising the characteristics of objects rather than the Duchampian idea of art by nomination, “The defining aspect of an object is what it is used for e.g. scale, material, look – using their functionality as a device to make art from.” (Cork, Michael Craig-Martin) However, the resulting book as an art object is not in the strictest sense a direct appropriation of a previously existing object. The work is an appropriation of an object’s function that is conceived and realised in conjunction with the object’s associated on screen presence.

And finally, like the film/novel the artist book has distopian undercurrents concerning digital technology and our trust in its utopian design. The POD facility Blurb highlights the relative ease with which one can copy, reproduce, store and send digitized imagery/objects without any concern for origins or authenticity. Further more the rapidity with which this technology moves raises archiving issues concerning the compatibility and ‘readibility’ of digital information between old and new software. Data is either lost or interpolated – are we preserving the past or distorting it?
Is it a game, or is it real fuses past, present, text, image, fact and fiction as an artwork that is interpreted through its mediation. Subsequently the work invokes a self-conscious presence, perhaps referencing Bischoff’s vision of computer consciousness. Also see the analogue after digital Pinterest collection for usage of the pixel aesthetic