Monday, June 14, 2010

animated decay

Recently I came across a video that had been uploaded and downloaded from YouTube 1000 times. Contrary to popular opinion regarding the “perfect” reproducibility of digital media, the result was heavily distorted, with images and movements rendered thick and abstract, and the videomaker’s voice sounding like it was underwater.

I’ve long been interested in the degeneration of images as they move from one medium to another, or are copied successively using the same reproductive technologies. I once took the iconic man on the moon photograph and photocopied its copies until Buzz Aldrin slid completely off the page. It took over 500 acts of copying for that to happen, and in the meantime his bulky astro-form became nearly indistinguishable from the pockmarked lunar surface on which he was standing.

Another time I took an image of a film strip from Bruce Conner’s REPORT and applied a similar technique.

Here is the original, scanned from a book:

And here is copy number 50:

I like the way the strip curves, reminding us of the malleability, and manipulability, of celluloid. In this case, Conner’s REPORT reworks the famous Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination, so the material is already optically printed over, layered, and as can be seen with this selection, punctured. Because REPORT hole-punches through the actual moment of death, it suggests all the missing information, the gaps and empty spaces, around events we have recorded in some way, as well as the inherent flaws that such acts of recording always entail.

I tried to work with this idea of degeneration with the images used in Negative Sky, scanning found photographs and then rendering them as photopolymer dies for use in a letterpress. After they were printed, I applied a light gray ink and randomly reprinted them, sometimes over the first image, sometimes in a different spot. Vernacular photographs are suggestive of memory and keepsakes to begin with, and here I was interested in using the process of decay to push them further into the realm of ghosts.

Ghosts live, or they move, in aberrant ways. They lurk in the spaces we assume they don’t, in between acts of reproduction, even in supposedly flawless media. While the static-y videotape that haunts the Ringu/Ring franchise might be a more popular example, I think Alexander Stewart’s Errata most vividly explores this idea of animated decay. Photocopied off a photocopy, and with each page used as a frame for animation, dots and lines come alive, constantly changing shape and color and direction. The film is only a few minutes long, but it’s clear that the copies could go on mutating forever, ghosts that not only live in the machine, but transform it altogether.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

in the fold

Paper is a Chinese invention, the oldest known pieces dating from around 140 BC. 200 years later, Ts'ai Lun, an official of the imperial court reported its invention to the Emperor and therefor went down in history as the inventor of paper. Although not the inventor, his innovations in the process of making hemp into smooth insect repellent sheets revolutionized his country.

This is medium weight paper with a hot pressed "laid" effect that feels like ribbed fabric. This isn't a book model. Just a formation of folds that crunch flat and pop apart when handled.

This is a very simple book structure that we plan to use with children. We want to print a river going down the middle crease and then have each child carve their own tree in linoleum to print a 3-d forest popping up. When it's folded together it looks like a slightly slanted booklet that we'll fashion a sleeve for.

Cam's way of book design is very fun to watch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is paper?

What does it do? And what do we do because of it?

Why do I, an ecologically conservative person use paper as my main means of expression? When many of my friends have stopped their magazine and newspaper subscriptions, avoid fancy packaging, operate the written word mostly in I am pushing paper around, leaning over a white sheet, reading, studying, copying, remembering, folding, gluing, sewing.

Paper can be made from the waste of industry. It's becoming an afterthought. We seek out paper that's not made from virgin materials. Paper is the energy put into its production and how we use it.

Paper is a harness.

Recently Cam had a brainstorm of book structures based on origami techniques. One of his structures will be part of the next rendition of the Forest Drive. We spent a good portion of our day looking at it and discussing what content it was fit to carry.

The front cover has this nice polygon shape. The foredge can be cut to make a rectangular shape without disturbing the structure which will be sewn into the larger book as a single signature.

The first spread is a hexagon with an upturned triangle beckoning to be flipped under the index finger.

The second spread reveals two triangles balancing each other at the corners and segment of the previous spread peeking through.

The back cover with its shadows. Maybe it will reflect a richly colored sheet that starts the next signature? Could this structure be about putting things together, about divisions like stations in radio frequency, about shadows and reflections? It marks the first foray into the Forest Drive. The paper invites our hands into a smooth, blank place. Our fingers gently pinch and rub along the folds.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Desiree Morales featured in Chaparral

Chaparral is an online poetry journal that doesn't feature hundreds of people at a time or have busy pages with ads galore, or publish just anyone any time. The issues of Chaparral are lean and muscular, featuring an electric group of hand-picked writers whose poems all touch on an evocative theme. The pages are comprised of sparse information on a black background.

Desiree Morales, whose poem, "Negotiating Death in Los Angeles," was featured in the Forest Drive showed up in the Spring issue of Chaparral.

The journal features the striking artwork of southern Californian, Shawna Taklender. The high contrasts and natural shapes of her work suit the journal very well. I'm picking up on a theme of rooting in the landscape and going out in many directions. I'm thinking of poets all spread out around the south land in their little rooms made of drywall and wood, smelling the dry June sage and orange trees on the wind. I'm imagining people huddled together around a fire deep in hallucination, their bodies are still yet they're acting together in other realms. I'm thinking I should get another glass of wine and read more poems from Chaparral.