Print the code > Code the print
Creating art at the cusp of printmaking & mobile media
Impact7: Intersections and Counterpoints
International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference
27th – 30th September 2011
Drawing from research currently in progress for an art practice-based phd, this paper examines artists’ processes in the context of materiality, tactility and crafting works of art which incorporate printmaking and the use of mobile devices. The phd research questions notions relating to materiality and the art object which arose in the 1960’s with conceptual art, and which again came into play in the 1990’s with digital media. Critical thinkers Lucy Lippard, Martha Buskirk and Lev Manovich provide a conceptual backdrop for art practice and research into de- and re- materiality in a print studio environment.
Working at the point where printmaking and digital media intersect, this research is a study of relationships between the physical, material and digital through making works where “graphical tagging” is used as a bridge between the physical world and that of digital mobile media. A “graphical tag” is a two dimensional barcode which can be scanned by a mobile phone-camera to link directly to web-based content. This can take any form, from text to audio, images and video. There are many different types of graphical tags, so as yet no universal standards, but currently the most common in use in Britain (where this research is based) is the QR-code.
Discussion of studio practice in the context of medium and materiality is key in this paper, and in particular, how logistical problems working in the studio open up paths for critical thinking and writing, which would never have occurred had the studio practice not taken place. For example, current studio work focuses on using processes such as photoetching to break away from the mechanical feel of a computer readable code, and to reconcile the aesthetics of the code within the content of an image. Here the very act of inking up an etching plate leads to textures and qualities unique to that medium, so the limitations of an emerging technology are being challenged by traditional printmaking processes, leading to conceptual exploration of what this can imply.
When creating works such as these, where there is a physical material component (the print) and a digital component (a mobile optimised website) studio practice also gives rise to questions for the maker such as, Which comes first - the digital media or the physical print? One needs to “point” the code somewhere to link to the digital media, but in making the works, sometimes the digital content is actually influenced by the printed artwork or vice-versa. The material properties of print such as paper choice, tonal range, texture and colour, become even more important when viewed in contrast to a digital component which is limited by the nature of a mobile phone screen.
This paper seeks to open up the internal, almost personal debates about the medium an artist has in the studio when producing artworks at the cusp of traditional printmaking and digital media. At the same time, it will also engage with more public critical debates surrounding materiality and de-materialisation of the art object.
 Undertaken at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, Scotland