“Suzanne was getting sick of breakfast in bed.” (Doctorow 373)
Is the concept of privilege applicable to situations that do not necessarily relate to socio-economic standing? More specifically, do the students in this class take the knowledge they are being introduced to for granted?
I hear more complaints than praise regarding, not just this class, but every class I have ever taken. Ever. Tom complains about rubber ducks. I complain about everything. Innumerable people complain about InDesign. Is access to these tools not cause for exuberance? Is the ability to fail and learn from those failures without risk of negative impacts not a rare and fantastic situation to be in?
“It was two weeks before Death Waits could sit up and prod at a keyboard with his broken hands.” (Doctorow 287)
Can impairment lead to profundity?
It would be less than insightful to point out the fact that abundance and availability makes for a situation where certain tools and freedoms are taken for granted. It wouldn’t be nonsensical, in this case, to promote self-controlled limitations. Is this not why Whitney’s Polaroid travels peaked much of our classes’ attention? And didn’t we practically shun the iPhone-instant-photo device as some sort of atrocity? Perhaps some of us found beauty, not just in the haunting faded-memory impact portrayed by the photographs, but in the admirable restrictions Whitney was able to impose upon the documenting of her vacation?
I have learned a fascinating and unexpected new technique for creating relief prints. However, I hate it. I do not think I will ever use it once this class is over. You see, I have learned something valuable about my favorite art medium: just like everything else, it is about the journey rather than the destination. I don’t carve because I love the incredibly stark images created by the black and white shapes, or the texture of the dried ink on the printed image. I carve because I love the whispered conversation between the blade and the product. I carve because the mistakes only improve upon the composition. I carve because linocutting is a craft that crashes the fine-art-circle-jerk party. I carve because it is a middle finger to the digital universe encroaching upon mine without consent. But I never realized this until I side-stepped the entire method.
“She picked it up and shook it. He heard the works inside rattling and flinched toward it. She jerked it out of reach and threw it, threw it hard at the wall.” (Doctorow 250)
How does art and media effect the way we react to situations? Makers is packed with plot and plot twists, and the plot moves very fast. This seems to mean that sometimes characters act more abrasively than is natural. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is simply a device Doctorow uses. But does this have any correlation to people progressively becoming more melodramatic? We blame soap operas and reality shows — that’s an easy accusation — but what if subtle applications of plot progressions (like the ones Doctorow uses) are just as easily mistaken for a reflection of reality, and just as detrimental to our collective disposition?
“’I was playing ball in the house,’ Ada said in the
same small voice. ‘Even though you have told
me not to. And I broke something. I should have
listened to you.’
Eva shook her head. ‘Plays me like a
goddamned cello,’ she said.”
I wonder how programmed we are to “play” individuals we perceive as authority figures. Is it learned in K-12, or is there some evolutionary purpose? Lately, I have been thinking a lot about our species’ shift from hunter-gatherer societies – and if it was, at one point,a genetic advantage to give others the illusion of control. Certainly, once we ceased living in relatively egalitarian communities, some became leaders. But, just as certainly, it was in the interest of a majority of people to not just fall into, but thrive in the role of the subordinate.
But, like so many other things, it comes down to nature versus nurture. A co-explanation to this phenomenon would label it as an acquired skill. So many kids I have known, myself included, have tried everything imaginable to keep compulsory education from feeling like a cheese grader to the back of the head. Many, myself not included, determined that the difference between the-path-of-most-resistance and the-path-of-least-resistance are remarkably similar. And that is potentially a dangerous conclusion to draw.
Change is encroaching upon an art medium famous for its stagnant nature. Someone else has explained it with more eloquence and authority than I. “Printmaking in the twenty-first century…simultaneously relies on and explodes tradition; welcomes the incursions of other mediums and materials; and adopts traditional techniques into a larger practice to suit formal, technical, or conceptual concerns. This sense of fluidity is seen in other quarters, as publishers and printers adapt to the changing needs of both artists and the market, and as formerly codified roles are circumvented to allow for reinvigorated do-it-yourself production. Within these multiple channels of activity, there is both an embrace of tradition and an openness to expanding the boundaries, a desire to maintain and acknowledge print’s specificity and to position it within a larger discussion that will keep the print world — and the print people — central to contemporary art” (Suzuki 24). Suzuki, here, captures the irony of evolving printmaking. There are things to preserve and there are things to push forward — printmaking falls under both categories, and there is something almost eerily poetic about that.
My project has remained relatively unchanged throughout the course of this course; the motive behind it, on the other hand, have multiplied and become more energized. Among numerous other possibilities for increased artistic precision through computer-aided printmaking, is the potential for multi-layer stamps (meaning color). Running parallel to my digital road-less-traveled are the subjects of Patric Prince’s article, Imagining by Numbers:AHistorical View of Digital Printmaking in America:“Printmakers have historically used ‘states,’ examples taken at long intervals along the final process, when analyzing and completing a work. When artists use the computer, they no longer need be afraid of alterations and worry about when a work is finished…this also changed the concept of a work-in-progress” (Prince 97). I found solace in these stories of artists who gained a valuable tool without losing what it is that breathes life into art. In order to not mislead the reader, I should disclose that Prince’s definition for “digital printmaking” is not the same as mine. To him, it is any work of art created on the machines, but he focuses on painters and other visual artists who decided to switch to computers when Macintosh’s desktop first came into existence in 1984. I like my definition better, and for one reason: my concept of digital printmaking facilitates limitations, and limitations breed creativity.
When there are restrictions placed upon a piece of art, the potential for innovation is often increased. This, I believe, is what first attracted me to relief printmaking. And pushing these limitations are what keeps it as a recurring theme in my life. It leads to artistic experiments I could have never otherwise conceived. Jennifer Smith’s critique of an art show at the Chazen Museum of Art that exhibited two prolific relief printmakers demonstrates the different directions these limitations can push people in. “This small show illustrates how printmaking diverged, some artists adhering to more traditional techniques and subjects and others moving in a more experimental direction. Take two prints with similar subjects, Hashiguchi Goyo’s Underrobe (1920) and Mitsutani Kunishiro’s Nude Woman on Blanket (c. 1935). Although only 15 years separate them, they’re worlds apart stylistically. Underrobe is meticulous and elegant in its composition. As a woman ties her patterned robe, the sash momentarily held in her mouth, the strands of her hair are remarkably detailed. The dusty red butterfly-and-floral pattern on the robe contrasts with creamy expanses of skin that are formed by unprinted areas on the paper, a nifty and economical design solution. Nude Woman on Blanket, although also a color woodcut, has a loose, free quality that makes it seem more like a lithograph. Both the flowing lines and the informality of the subject call to mind European artists like Matisse. Instead of Goyo’s fine detail, Kunishiro depicts his woman elementally: slits for eyes, a single slash for a nose, two lines for a mouth” (Smith 16).
Nonetheless, these two artists are still decidedly thinking inside the alleged box, while there are artists out there who have torn that box apart. In 2011, Erik Brunvand and Al Denyer developed a method of “micro-scale printmaking” where materials that would normally go into creating micro-chips are used instead for tiny, tiny printmaking. This takes unique factors typically revolving around developing hardware with no aesthetic value, and turns them into restrictions for a new art form. This is the model I would like to use for my project. Using the filament and the printer we have, along with the inevitable warping and dis figuration, my limitations are already more-or-less non-negotiable.
After thinking about all of the aforementioned thought-tangents, I look at the smiley face I printed as a toe-dip in the water and I see only potential. “Technical achievement in its true form is significantly a positive process. The excitement outweighs the apprehension, and I am ready to jump. And in light of all this, I must still admit that this project is a sidetrack rather than a leap forward. Because authenticity can not be duplicated. “[W]hen one’s desire for creative expression is dominated by imposed disintigrative techniques, practiced in isolation, expressions become inane and the technical process is a negative one” (Andrews 25).
Suzuki, Sarah. “Print People: A Brief Taxonomy of -Contemporary Printmaking.” Art Journal70.4 (2011): 6. Web.
Prince, Patric D. “Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of Digital Printmaking in America.” Art Journal 68.1 (2009): 90. Web.
Smith, Jennifer A. “Two Roads Diverged.” Isthmus 25 Nov. 2011: 16. Web.
Brunvand, Erik, and Al Denyer. “Micro-Scale Printmaking on Silicon.” Leonardo 44.5 (2011): 392–400. Web.
Andrews, Michael F. “The Art of Creative Printmaking.” Art Education 17.4 (1964): 23–25. Web.
“That’s the point. You can’t print or fab these. They’re wonderful because they’re so well made and so well used!” (Doctorow 188)
We have talked a lot about what we gain in the shift to desktop industrialization. But what do we lose?
And is there anything more beautiful than a sweater? You wash it once a season. It collects smells. It gains holes and loses buttons and the cuffs stretch out, but it is never really trash. This is so unlike three-D printed objects for obvious reasons I need not even recite.
So are we going about our projects wrong? Should we take Katie Hatam’s lead and make items that involve true craftsmanship, and use three-D printed objects only for the parts that could never otherwise come to fruition?
“Businesses are great structures for managing big projects. It’s like trying to develop the ability to walk without developing a skeleton. Once in a blue moon, you get an octopus, but for the most part, you get skeletons. Skeletons are good shit.” (Doctorow 140)
Why is Evergreen so great at churning out internally-motivated entrepreneurs? Are the structures with which students develop their projects parallel to business structures, making the transition organic? Talking to people about their blue rabbit projects often seems to be the echo of a business pitch. Profitability and potential for problem solving seem to be huge motivators. Even the more artistic projects address these. ‘Murica!
Apart from a (largely embraced) shift from wood to linoleum during the early half of the twentieth century, the invention of water-soluble inks, as well as the disposal of labor division, the medium of relief printmaking has remained relatively unchanged throughout its twelve hundred year history. This is doubtlessly one of the reasons it seems to compel such a diverse range of artists. Another reason could be the rampant restrictions it imposes upon the carver’s artistic vision: fine artists are restricted by the imprecision of the blade, which make lines imperfect and color inconsistent; while propagandists are restricted by the degradation of the linoleum (being that linoleum presents a bit of a paradox – the softness of the material makes small details possible to carve, but that same softness means that prints slowly wear down and lose their detail). And although these hindrances can breed creativity, three-D printers present doors begging to opened.
So, Is it possible to blend the oldest form of printmaking with the newest?
I spend my free time running stamps through a printing press. I spend my class time creating digital models to print on a MakerBot. That fantastic juxtaposition glared at me until I noticed it halfway through the first week of class. Suddenly, I had an intention. I would use the fermented cornstarch or some other filament to print computer-calculated stamps that could potentially print with an unprecedented consistency. It was circular, poetic, and it barely followed the rules – all synonymous with impeccability, in my book. The idea of making something two-D out of something three-D, and using cutting edge technology within a medium that’s been largely stagnant for a millennium, was too enticing to leave anywhere but the forefront of my mind.
My enthusiasm was met by a fellow student and lino-cut artist who shed light on the processes’ potential for evolving the foreboding multi-layer stamp. Before, the project seemed like a cute little interpretation of technology from the viewfinder of a self-assured technophobe, but the idea of working with layers could mean a tangible advancement in not only the medium, but in my personal germination as an aspiring printmaker. For the past couple of months, multi-color prints have been both the prerequisite for, and the bane of, my aspirations. I’ve been largely unsuccessful in my attempts to augment other mediums in order to add much-needed color; my venture into abstraction using only (and far too much) lino was laughable and left me feeling wasteful. In fact, most of it was distressingly un-printable. But Involving computers in the printmaking process could mean the margin for imperfect calculation droping to zero: colors could meet one-another with precision, and their interaction would not detract from the continuity of the print (a phenomenon which so often cripples my efforts). In light of all this, I must say that I haven’t a damn clue how this is all going to turn out, or even if it will turn out at all, but my thoughts are consolidated by an individual I discovered on the internet who has gallantly tread these waters.
The appropriately named Jason Webb, in March 2013, using only a basic knowledge of printmaking, developed an open source “printing plate generator,” and briefly experimented with stenciling, embossing, as well as relief printing. This is a step forward, but it seems to have ended there. I searched the internet to the best of my abilities, and could not find a single print made with his generator (outside of his initial work-prints), and there is certainly nothing that ventures into multi-layer printing. So although two-D printing with three-D printers is a door that has been previously opened, it has remained at a very rudimentary stage in its development for the past year and a half. I would be lying if I said this did not comfort me I way, knowing that whatever I create will be the first of its genus and caliber.
Walking into a situation where your creativity is pressured to bud can be a little counter-intuitive, and frankly, no one knows this better than myself. So, the excitement in finding a place for my passions within such parameters is duly multiplied. Yet I have no idea what to expect. And thus, I walk into this project both skeptical and optimistic, invigorated and terrified – a blind man with a flimsy walking stick.
Thompson, Wendy. “The Printed Image in the West: Woodcut.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wdct/hd_wdct.htm (October 2003)
“They put a sign up on the door that night: Author of Your Own Destiny…” (Doctorow 93)
In a whirl of passionate (and perhaps necessitated) creativity, a concept manifests: widespread distribution of Three-D printers to communities on the lowest bracket of socio-economic standing. It’s an unmistakably revolutionary idea, but is it safe to assume that these printers will be used for the production of tools, fixtures, and marketable items? Is it not more likely that a majority of users will find it in themselves to create only useless objects? Our class, within its mission, could stand as a testament to either side of the argument, and I would bitterly have to argue that the items I’ve been watching people dedicate ten weeks to serve as antitheses to any form of problem-solving.
“We’re going to create a new class of artisans…” (45) says Tjan in Makers. And indeed, the book is about frontiers in many forms. This is represented by a literal move away from Silicone valley, and the ebbs of the dot-com-boom, by our Carraway-esque heroine, Suzanne Church. “Suzanne had heard a lot of people talk about giving up on the Valley since she’d moved here.” (58). She discovers, like the reader and like the tech industry, that the future is elsewhere. In her case, elsewhere is the seemingly egalitarian workshop of Perry and Lester in a charmingly decaying Miami suburb: “The great cities of commerce like New York and San Francisco seemed too real for her, while the suburbs of Florida were a kind of endless summer camp, a dreamtime where anything was possible.” (71). This perhaps begs the question: are frontiers harder to establish in metropolises with endless competing startups, thirty dollar hamburgers, and two thousand dollar single-bedroom apartments?
“The great cities of commerce like New York and San Francisco seemed too real for her, while the suburbs of Florida were a kind of endless summer camp, a dreamtime where anything was possible.” (71). This perhaps begs the question: are frontiers harder to establish in metropolises with endless competing startups, thirty dollar hamburgers, and two thousand dollar single-bedroom apartments?