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“the machine comes to life” (science fiction story)

September 11, 2014 at 2:00 am

well, yikes. everything has been really, really busy. some things are done, but there are more to do (always). I just sorted out my to-do lists and “post story to blog” was the last thing on the “story” to-do list… so here goes! one more list can now be crossed off & put in the folder of “done” lists. (yes there is a folder of “done” lists, it’s highly satisfying, leave me alone!)

This was written for a performative story night that Walker Mettling put together as a fundraiser for the AS220 Community Printshop offset press… to finally fix the second-color head so the press can print two colors at one pass. The story night had the theme: “the machine comes to life”. It’s so short (and a little fragmentary, perhaps) because there was a 300-word limit. Okay!


Three steps up: I don’t extract. The fare alert pulses — I lift my glance and blink to debit. I lean across the boundary (handrail’s roughness) just barely, to make sure I don’t sit in residue.

The bus’s rumbling evaporates as I slip back into the translucent layers, brushing each leaf aside after seeing its contents, descending through the ever-renewing sequence. An image lets me grin, words coax a sigh. One comment makes me chuckle — another I answer quickly —

Oh! new picture! Friends, familiar faces. An alert nudges my awareness, along with the smiles. Ah…!

…the disruption continues, tugs on my attention. I blink to dismiss it. The layers twitch and quaver.

I halt and breathe faster, flick the leaves away in reverse — extricating, impatient now: something other is moving against a part of the body.

I startle through the boundary, gasping at the extraction. The bus lurches, paining old bruises under the thighs. It’s never fun, landing back into the body, present at all its edges, tight stale breaths, abraded skin. Also — something else. Another body. Part of it touches the shoulder. Its hand, on the shoulder, my shoulder — !

Around us, each passenger is deep within their own softly leafing world. Nobody has seen the violation — there is no one to come to my rescue. The other turns towards me.

Its face unscreened, no phone. Its eyes’ dark centers leap at me. No. Too difficult, it’s dangerous, the warnings… No. I don’t want it. I swipe for the boundary. I can’t feel the layers. I look back at the other —

— then — entanglement. That depth. Too much. It’s too much. It’s what I’ve always — it’s too perfect, it’s —

The flesh of the body — my body — grips me in its trembling thickness.

The other’s eyes are infinite.

Nobody will report us.


I thought a lot about smart phones when I was visiting the bay area, and riding public transport… where not *everybody* has a smart phone, but a lot of people do. (Also, after my old beloved dumb phone finally snapped in half after being semi-broken for more than a year, I got a smart phone back in February, and it’s definitely changed my life in some good and some terrible ways…) It struck me that the era when people “hold phones in their hands” will someday be looked back on as a weird anomaly, an incomplete proto-form, like we might look back at early cars without roofs… That’s what this story is partly about. And, eye contact.

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Also, I know nobody really looks at self-hosted blogs or websites (like this one) anymore, but I still love them, so if you are like me, and hope for some kind of internet that isn’t all conglomerated onto one or two monopolizing web$ite$$$ who happen to have the money to pay the cable companies for fast transmission, please take a moment to send a message to your lawmakers and the FCC about protecting net neutrality and classifying internet access as a “common carrier” under Title II of the Communications Act. I promise you, it will take you less time than it took me to write the above sentence! YES!

Here, for example, is the great self-hosted website of Cathy G. Johnson, there’s lots to read & see; Cathy is an amazing artist & narrative-maker. She’s also been nominated for the “Promising New Talent” Ignatz award at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD this weekend… if you’ll be there, you can vote!

“I feel like… sometimes…” (in the new year, part 2!)

April 3, 2014 at 5:50 am

Yikes, I meant to write about this a while ago! The short version: I have a piece in a show at the Carpenter Center at Harvard U. in Cambridge, MA; it’s up till April 6th, 2014; you can see it for free. The whole show is vast & awesome, featuring some hyperlocal as well as global “social practice / art & activism” projects. The work in the show is generally extremely generous, inspiring, & great.

My piece was made specifically for this show and context, & the way you look at it (through a viewport hole, at a certain height) is an important part of it! I hope all y’all New Englanders get a chance to check it out before Monday!

More details & background follow…

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Late last year, I was asked to be part of a group installation along with other former and current members of the Dirt Palace, a feminist / women’s art space here in Providence. My relationship to the Dirtpal has always been a little complicated, which meant I didn’t automatically agree to participate… but I did my research about the larger show that the installation was going to be a part of, called Living As Form, and the approach the Dirt Palace’s owners were taking to the whole thing — asking every person who had ever been a member of the space to contribute a piece of their current art that would be assembled into an installation — and I got psyched about making something… also because one of my stated goals for 2014 was to “make more three dimensional letters”, and this would give me a chance to do it.

So then in the fall I was really really busy, with the fall & holiday art sale seasons, moving stuff out of Building 16, my show at URI, etc. The first two weeks of January I spent doing a lot of house & general life projects that had gotten put off since, like, September… Then in the third week of January I realized that the deadline for the Dirt Palace installation was upon me! So I worked really hard for FIVE DAYS (!?) & busted out a thing.

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I had known I wanted to make a three-dimensional diorama, based on the awesome time I had had making the poster for my show… the Dirtpal folks had given me the maximum dimensions that the work needed to fit within, and I had told them that I wanted a 6″-diameter hole in the wall that all the art works / dioramas / slide-viewers were going to be set behind. I built this box out of plywood… & made a cardboard mock-up to show the placement of the viewing port… & started drawing and cutting out letters.

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The words in the box make a sentence that is a lil’ joke on me, a lil’ joke on Dirt Palace house meetings, and also a really true idea that might be the most important thing I learned while participating in the group processes & workdays of the Dirt Pal.

(…and I’m not gonna say “it’s supposed to be illegible”, cause that’s a little bit of a cop-out, but I will say “it is definitely intentional that it should take a certain amount of effort to read” — that’s for real.*)

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This was fun fun fun to make and I worked really directly and I moved things around and when I liked where they were (from the viewpoint determined by the porthole) I glued them down with hot glue. YES! (ahem, excuse me, “thermoplastic adhesive”…) Part of the reason I hope folks can go see this in its installed context is that it is meant to be seen from a specific angle and I don’t know when the next chance will be to display it that way…

Also because it was made specifically about the Dirt Palace, and for this show Living as Form which talks about “social practices” and “community engaged art” and a whole bunch of other buzzwords which I am all for as real things, but which, as words, often get bandied around without people’s feet being on the ground. In figuring out what to make, I wondered: what is a way I can talk about real horizontality, true non-hierarchy? And I feel that, like washing your own dishes, shutting up can be a deeply radical act — especially when practiced by those who aren’t often required to shut up (aka. white, masculine-appearing know-it-alls like myself). !!!

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ALSO! the whole Dirt Palace installation wall (seen above) is great, and does an excellent job of celebrating the history of the building and the contributions of all the alumnae (& alumni) of the D.Pal — while also extending to all those people an opportunity to have their current personal work showcased in an international show, at a fancy institution.

So much work went into the installation on the part of Pippi Zornoza and Xander Marro, Arley-Rose Torsone who drew the wall text, and many other helpers & installation workers, not to mention all the artists themselves! The labor of all the people who have worked to build the Dirt Palace into what it is today often gets erased in the magical-seeming glow of the physical building as a desirable object, and by the oft-told, simple narrative that tends to glorify the owners of the building… and it’s way more complicated than that. This installation begins to get at the multifariousness of the 40+ people who have lived & worked at the Dirtpal over the past 14 years!

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In some aspects, this felt like a reunion — though we didn’t all live at the Dirt Palace at the same time, of course — and this was actually the first time I had really met a couple of these people. I was struck by the honor and delight I felt at being able to exist in this awesome company — being able to be associated with this intense, thoughtful, & creative multigenerational crew.

Here’s the one other piece in the Dirt Palace wall that I took a picture of, “Chosen Family” by the brilliant Samuel Lopes:

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And here’s a picture from what was, in my opinion, the best project of the show, whereby a Harvard Business School associate seated at a desk offers financial advice to gallery-goers… the associate puts each question through a pneumatic tube through the wall behind them… on the other side of the wall, a child writes an answer to the question and sends it back. !

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Some close-ups of my “RIGHT” letters, which kinda get lost in the back of the diorama… construction process:

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Graphite, white colored pencil, and watercolor on pink paper:

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and… infinite shout outs from me & JR to the butches, fags, gender-non-conforming folks, & queers of the dirt palace and the hive archive (its previous, collective incarnation)! “we are everywhere, making foolish smiles”

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(n.b. all photos by me, except for: Emmy Bright took the “horses” picture & the picture of me & JR… and I am not sure who took the group Dirt Palace picture, I snagged it off their blog!)


*if your device can’t display the hover-over title text on the diorama images, the sentence is: “I feel like… sometimes… to create a truly anti-authoritarian space, … the people who know the *right* way to do things… might just have to… shut up…(question mark)?”

interim photo post

December 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

Stuff is sad (understatement) cause two good people died recently — Providence artist & musician Joe Buzzell, who I knew glancingly from around town, whose art I admired, who I always wanted to collaborate on a project with — and writer & theorist José Esteban Muñoz, who I didn’t know, but whose writing really shaped the way I see the possibility latent in the world, the potential in queerness, the crucial importance of fighting towards utopia. I want to write more about it, but I’m really busy, aah…. so here are some pictures from the past recent times cause things are also beautiful and here we are, alive.

Building 16, now that it’s over it feels like a dream that we didn’t appreciate enough while we had it….

I built some shelves

and filled them up with stuff.

I have definitely done this in my time as a bike rider:

Epic two-day ink-sort-out, dealing with all the random ink containers (30+ ?) that had accumulated after rainbow rolls that I’d never “put away” properly, for maybe the past two years…?

There’s always a container into which I scrape all the gross crap that shouldn’t go back into the good ink but also shouldn’t go down the drain, just started a new one, here it is:

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In my friend’s secret repository of slightly water-damaged paper:

I acquired all this paper (the biggest sheets here are 40″x26″, the stack is about 1.5 feet tall) WHOOPS

This building is on Public St on the south side, go see it before they put walls on/in it & you can no longer witness this epic structural situation:

I picked up some old wooden casement windows out of the trash today for the first time in a long time. I kind of swore off doing that a while ago (it’s just too tempting, there are so many, and you (I) will never really do anything with them!). BUT today was a “save for some reason” day, except now I know the reason: saving a thing and appreciating its beauty, or planning to do a project with it, is a tiny promise against death, for a little while, completely ineffective, but hopeful in its own illogical way…

the show is up!

November 6, 2013 at 3:21 am

… after four and a half relatively brutal days (and some long nights in there) of installation work. I cut a ton of pieces of glass to put the art behind, I hammered in almost 400 L-pins to hold the glass (and prints) to the wall, I began to understand why people *frame* art (cause once you frame it once you never have to frame it again!!!), I depended on my friends, especially Scott, for help & support… I felt more professional than ever before, and also very much like a force of chaos in the desirably-predictable space of the gallery… and not in a cool disruptive gadfly way like when AO & I were working on the Magic City Repairs project, but in the way where I was letting people down… if that makes any sense?

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BUT! It all* got up on the wall, despite (or because of?) the chaos; it looks very professional (I think/ I am still surprised by), and I really hope you will come to the….

… OPENING RECEPTION!

free & open to the public, wheelchair accessible, etc, as a public institution all places should be. Catered! food! drink! (no wine though since it’s a university? or somethin’? bring your flask if you wanna, I guess). Thursday November 7th, 4:30-7:30 pm, University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Rd, Kingston RI.

please come & join the party & check out what I spent 13 years of my life on!

People are coordinating some rides from Providence on the facebook event page, if you’re not on facebook & need a ride, email me & I’ll connect you to somebody. You can also take the 66 bus from Kennedy Plaza, it seems to run about every hour… If you can get down there, someone will probably be able to drive you back to Prov afterwards, as a last resort you can climb in the back of Scott’s van….!

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(This is the front of the postcard that I made, featuring many of my favorite tools…)

*(The only things still missing from the gallery walls, in my mind, are some photos that are necessary to give context to the paper ephemera from the Magic City Repairs project… photos which I don’t have physical prints of yet. In thinking about this, I realized that I haven’t gotten a physical print made of a photo since I stopped taking pictures with film, which is strange… but I’m gonna go to CVS tomorrow to remedy that situation, hopefully I have a chance to sneak in with a hammer & level before Thursday afternoon!)

The funny thing was, when we started to actually get all the artwork up in place, my first thought was “it’s like looking at my website, but all at once and without having to click on links”. I’m not even gonna try to figure out what that means in terms of how much the internet has colonized my brain, I’ll just leave it there… and I really haven’t processed the surrealness of having all this work, each piece of which has defined and shaped my life in its own way, up in the same physical space. It’s surreal. I don’t know what more to write about it than that — I’m still pretty sleep-deprived… !

Here’s a moment from the hanging process, this is the “recent work” wall, which is (parts of) 2012-2013, in progress… (and yes, “Queer Buttz” did make it into the show…)

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Here are some screenshots of the spreadsheets that I made to organize the many (I haven’t counted yet) pieces of work for the show, and that will hopefully help me to put everything back in its correct place when it’s time to take it down…

October 27th at midnight:07:47 AM:

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a detail of another screenshot around the same moment:

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… and then, November 1st at 2:53:54 AM:

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and here are the same documents (or a selection of the information thereon) in action, as reference documents for cutting the glass to go over the prints:

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Here’s the *back* of the postcard that got printed (the yellow/orange image above up there is the front); I’m proud of all this hand-drawn text (from the poster) used as computer text, even though that in itself was a project & a half….

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And here is the 4-foot-wide text on the gallery wall, I traced my scans of the knife-cut-paper letters into vectors & then it got computer-cut by some place out of a plastic fabric / sticker stuff… looks so cool, doing the vector work is physically difficult for me cause the tablet I have is old & it’s strenuous to hold the pen (because it’s wide in diameter, I think…)… but it’s cool to see my hand-drawn letters so big! Yay for vectors? maybe? It’s so not-fun to make them but… well… they’re useful…!?

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That’s it! gotta keep working on some spreadsheet stuff tonight! Tomorrow I teach the second class of my AS220 class (on their website it’s marked as “sold out” for now, but there will be another one in January 2014!). Thursday the opening! Then hustling to finish up Craftland stuff! and to move my woodshop stuff out of Building 16… and you know, just to get everything done… whatever…

feelings of love, & fear

October 24, 2013 at 3:43 am

Last night & tonight I’ve been powering through the final incarnations of the project that I was making those three-dimensional letters for. Here’s the first one, the poster for my upcoming show (which will be printed by the URI printing services!):

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So I think it was worth many hours of adjusting objects tiny amounts while squinting through the viewfinder???!!! Big thanks to photographer Matthew Clowney for helping me out with photoshop adjusting some lighting levels, sharpening, and making the pencil text more legible! and also huge gratitude to Scott for putting up with a giant door/table, tripod, and light stand (a.k.a. a mic stand that he let me borrow) in the middle of our shared studio for 48 hours…

Tonight I’m feeling exhausted by computer work / sitting at the compy all day doing layout — last night I was feeling SUPER energized & in love with all the tools I use and even feeling psyched about the digital tools — camera and photoshop — which I always feel like I am just starting to learn how to use. So — that excitement continues, but is always ready to flop over into overwhelmed-ness by all the different things you can do with digital tools… sometimes it’s nice to have a tool that just does one thing?

Here are some moments in this process that I had never done before, and which felt pretttty confusing / scary at times:

… initial thoughts towards text arrangement…

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… got all the elements I had initially planned for in there, but it looks pretty barren & empty… hmm…

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… some of my tools were on the table, what if I start putting the tools in there too? oh, that’s better. okay…

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… at some point I realized I had to modify the chipboard holding up these little letters so that the light could shine through them…

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… which gives me a new understanding of the term “drop shadow”…

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… here’s the studio while I was shooting / adjusting / shooting / adjusting / etc. it really was pretty impossible to move around…

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… and then here’s the second setup, for the postcard design, on which photoshop / layout is almost done. this camera & object setup went a lot faster, unsurprisingly! you can see how chaotic the table had become…

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It was really fun to make a mess like this for the camera; it was crucial, I guess, to be doing it under time pressure so I had to bring it to a conclusion instead of fooling around; it made me want to be doing stop motion animation or something? or building dioramas of buildings to draw them? or just making lots more three dimensional letters? We’ll see… not right now, now I have to get the actual art ready for this show!


Here are some photos of the aftermath of the talk / presentation I did at the RISD Museum on Sunday:

A table of tools, including some of the drawings / watercolors I made of the Allens Ave warehouse demolition process this summer:

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Erik Dardan & Scott talk in the background of poster process material spanning 11 years:

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And this is for evidence of my “digital workflow” — scanning some of the three-dimensional letters to make them into the text for the back of the show postcard.

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This is my 2005 (!) powerbook, with the bottom third of the screen non-functional, but luckily still choogling along, since my newer computer can’t run the ol’ crappy scanner (and I do love this old compy). These moments of going back & forth between digital & physical, in somewhat (very?) inefficient ways, strike me as totally hilarious and also a nice hallmark of living in ‘the future’, the real future, which feels terrifyingly and authentically science-fictiony… There’s never a clean jump into the future, we’re always dragging our old rapidograph pens and film line cutters and proportional scales and rusty 1970s pickup trucks and ninety-year-old buildings and crappy scanners that haven’t completely broken yet into the future with us… And we’re using them right next to our unimaginably high-resolution digital capture devices, at the same moment as we check in with our constantly-interconnected, instantaneously-updated, internet personality profiles…


There’s one more spot left in my Transparent Colors & Hand-Cut Stencils advanced silkscreen class at AS220! Starts October 30th, the awesome Jen Hall will be the T.A! Come hang out with us & learn some intense / cool screenprinting techniques!

constraint; delight

June 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm

The colors in the prints coming out of the “hand-cut stencils and transparent colors” class keep getting more & more complicated and interesting.

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This is partly due to the students in the class being bad-ass & willing to explore possiblities… but ultimately I think it’s because the project we do is governed by a limiting constraint:

“Two layers of transparent ink, printed on lighter paper, create a third color where the layers overlap. Working through hand-tracing and hand-cutting rubylith stencil film, use these three colors plus the paper color to translate a photographic image into a silkscreened image. Optional: use variations in ink color or transparency for atmospheric or dramatic effects. Expand to a third transparent color if your image demands it.”

As the classes continue, I accumulate a reference group of prints (and test prints!) made with the same constraint, but different compositional / lighting / color strategies — visually demonstrating more possibilities than I (or anyone) could come up with on their own. These provide interesting examples and models for emulation/modification…

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[Buck’s final print, final version, on lighter paper: this print became part of his show at Candita Clayton Gallery, visible till July 1st!]

The constraint allows us to focus on small variables, as opposed to exploring the admittedly infinite possibilities of silkscreen, and learn what those variables have to teach us. I include myself in that “we”; I’m definitely learning as much as anyone…

Katie Bedrosian’s final print:

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Multiples!!

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Here’s Jen Hall’s final print from the first class, which I finally got a chance to photograph:

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This one steps into the territory of three transparent layers; Jen decided that she needed one extra color to create the sky gradient *and* the shading / complexity in the elevated shack…

Lara Henderson’s print, which she worked on as part of the second class, also contains three layers: she wanted both a high-contrasty-shadow effect, and a subtle low-contrast folded fabric effect, and both of those couldn’t be achieved with just two layers. HOWEVER it’s not done yet! Possibly next week (so I hear)! When I can hold a copy of it in my (hot little) hands, I will write a further post & possibly ask Lara to write a little bit about her process & decision-making for it, it was really interesting to be part of that conversation.

If you’re limited to this one medium for creating your transparencies, if you can’t turn to halftones or cross-hatching or key layers to describe things in your image, if you can’t use the computer to help simplify whatever is going on graphically… maybe you feel out of your area of expertise, or like your hands are clumsy in a way they haven’t been in a long time, or like the marks you’re making are strange and unaccustomed. I would like to posit that those moments of seeming clumsiness and inadequacy, and the work that results from them, can be instances of delight and discovery possibly more powerful than those that stem from tools you feel like you already know how to use. Pushing our ideas through a material or a process that resists somewhat, that pushes back, means that evidence of the creation of the thing becomes inherent within it, that the process and the form are integral components of the finished object. I’m trying to find very specific language for this, and not get overly metaphorical… don’t know if I’m succeeding… ?

Some more pictures of humans holding prints:

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Jen Booth, from the first class.

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Katie Bedrosian & Buck Hastings, from the second class…

… maybe it will be you, in the third class???


Unrelatedly (or maybe relatedly, in terms of color/light/spatial worlds): I was psyched to capture this moment of cat in window inside building inside print inside frame inside Emmy‘s house… the print is by Dan McCarthy… the cat is “Stinkeye” aka “Baby Bunny” aka “Walker Mettling‘s Swiffer”…

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“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

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How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!

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I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

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The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…

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…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:

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Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:

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2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:

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3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:

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4. …and then fill in the final gap:

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5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:

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Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:

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And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:

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2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):

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3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):

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One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


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Full text of the poster:


so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world


In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?

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