Friday, October 26, 2012

Intalgio Project 2 Update

I'm working on the 3d geometry for the "virtual landscape" of my print project and an ocean simulation because I'm interested to see how I can translate it through this process. I might add some text element and figures, especially since I'm required to use at least one line technique, I haven't really decided what I'll draw on the plate where I use those techniques. I'll be rendering out the 3d scene in passes, probably a combination of flat diffuse + ambient occlusion and another for the reflections, then they'll be printed onto transparency and exposed with a UV point light onto photosensitive film that has been applied to the surface of the copper plates. The multiple pass print process is very similar to modern compositing in the digital workflow; layers are added cumulatively, affecting the preceding state of the image, colour and transparency are modified to achieve the desired effect when overlaid. I'm amused by the idea of using a 3d application like Maya or Softimage to create render passes which I will use to produce physically existent plates and pass physically through a press with and onto real material, the same way I would digitally composite the layers in Photoshop or After Effects. There's something very funny and interesting about using modern technology to ultimately produce matrices to use in a final process that was the cutting edge technology in image generation 500 years ago, rescued from anachronism and obsolescence by the kind of innovations that make this possible and our continued interest in methodology, of course.

I'm still trying to figure out how to convey the idea of a users engaging in the process of creating the new "urban" or post-urban space, though I think the digital environment on its own is interesting enough to satisfy the requirements of the project.

"The history of city growth is, in essence, man's eager search for ease of human interaction. Our large modern urban nodes are, in their very nature, massive communications systems."
-Webber, M. 1964. Urban Place and the Non-Place Urban Realm

"Invisible spaces now dominate, as the city of the modernist era is replaced by the non-place urban realm and outer space is superseded by cyberspace." - Bukatman, S. 1993. Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction.

Oil Painting 2 update

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Intaglio Project 2 Planning

The prompt for my second project for Intaglio printing class is simply "Architecture, cityscape and the urban environment" and it needs to include at least one line technique (drypoint, engraving, etching) and at least one tone technique (aquatint, photo-etch, sugarlift, whiteground) to produce an edition of 7 consistent prints and 3 "states" or proofs that are all different. We've had demos on most of the techniques involved except photo-etching, which is of course the one I want to focus on.

Conceptually I started thinking about what is interesting to me about "architecture, cityscape and the urban environment" (which are things I thought about a lot during my "Metacities" project last year) and more so than the physical forms of the architecture of the city, it is always the experience - what it means to be in those spaces, the way the individual exists and interacts within and shapes the city/environment, that presents interest to me. The choice people make to live in certain cities or just a city in general, the choices they make in collectively shaping the city socially and physically, what is it that draws us to certain places, that we think we can get in one place and possibly not somewhere else?

I thought about living in London, the bipolarity of modern architecture and a new culture growing symbiotically out of a city far older than colonized North America, the experience of constant, everyday reminders of newness and novelty and change dichotomized alongside the permanence of fixed history and tradition. The opportunities available there included access to some of the "best" museums and galleries in the world, venues that house not only important historical work but present the newest big shows and exhibitions, it's a stop for every touring musician and band, it felt like a place of exposure, where artists, musicians and designers can potentially receive very real attention and establish themselves - cities are referred to as "centers" of art and culture, the separate but connected locales of a world stage, nodal points where these things are cultivated. 

There is a desire tied to the idealized City that promises the individual the forefront of progress, witness at the event horizon of novelty and change where more new options are available, and I remembered William Gibson describing cities as "vast, multilayered engines of choice":

"I walked through my hometown, imagining it a city. What I was imagining, I now see, was an increase not in size but in number of choices. Cities afforded more choices than small towns, and constantly, by increasing the number and randomization of potential human and cultural contacts. Cities were vast, multilayered engines of choice, peopled primarily with strangers. You never know whom you might meet in the city. In a small town, you’re less likely to encounter people or things or situations you haven’t encountered previously.
As a boy, I took myself away to cities as quickly as I could and have lived in them ever since. When I travel now, I travel mainly to cities, and I travel to return to those I know, taking a deepening pleasure in the serial experience. The idea of visiting a fascinating city only once saddens me, and I seldom have a city I've come to know without wondering if I'll see it again. But in our ageographical existence, I am never entirely not in London, entirely not in Tokyo.
The Internet, which I think of as a sort of meta-city, has made it possible for people who don't live in cities to master areas of expertise that previously required residence in a city, but I think it's still a faith in concentrated choice that drives migration to cities." -William Gibson

The "ageographical", virtual existence established by technology like the Internet is something I have grown up with, it is taken for granted that from anywhere with wifi I have a form of access to data representing happenings in all other places. Gibson dreamed of the vast array of opportunity offered by existence in a city (as people still do) but there is now a form of equalization facilitated by the information age through the mass dissemination of "culture" or spectacle and geographical location is no longer the prime determinant of what we are exposed to (albeit exposure on a 2D screen is something completely different from "lived experience" but I won't get into that). The migration to cities is not obviated by the connective digital landscape but supplemented; services like Google Maps and social networking and mobile devices overlay a user-controlled experience onto the cityscape, we're probably all familiar with finding out about things and where to go in the real city online - "word of mouth" is still fundamental but the "mouth" is more and more a virtual one.

Google "Project Glass" augmented reality head-mounted display

I also grew up with an idea that was seeded into the collective unconscious largely by Gibson: an immersive virtual reality that seemed only just around the corner in the 80s and 90s. If the city is a vast engine of choice then the virtual city is an infinite one. It was only a matter of time, given the exponential technological advance, before we would all be strapping on headsets and literally plugging in to a fully sensory experience of a virtual world that would drown out consensus reality completely. I don't know what anyone reading Neuromancer in 1984 imagined 2012 would have been like but we're still mostly staring at flat planes, struggling to keep building our physical cities, nevermind constructing the new urban landscapes out of photons and data, no one has uploaded their consciousness to the Internet and properly abandoned the world of the flesh as far as I know, and experiments like Second Life are pretty much the most we have to show of the embarrassing state of the virtual worlds initiative. Still, I feel like the trajectory is still there, even if technology isn't, and beyond our experience in the real city, many of us seek the advancement toward the collective, ageographical, user-developed digital architecture of utopian cyberspace.

With this project I want to imagine what could have been or what could still eventually be, a sort of homage to the halted dream of the new urban landscape, which is a modular virtual one we can influence at will and control at the true rate of novelty. The creation or visualization of "spaces", whether they are architectural or city-like or not is a constant in human creative ideation and is a fundamental meditative healing act in many traditions - I see a lot of similar psychological inclinations linking projection of virtual worlds and Mahayana purelands. As the pursuit of experience of spaces which offer us what we want continues into this kind of territory, it becomes less about the physical structure and materiality of the city's presence and more about the effects we wish to evoke, functionality will take a back seat to the activation of numinous symbols and the human psyche will become the true foundation upon which the post-urban environment is built.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

sketchbook cuts

sketchbook bits from August. watercolor, ink.
Blurry photo of my first oil painting, it's a steep learning curve...

Friday, October 12, 2012

In drawing class this week we had to look at some figure drawings by "masters" in books and in the Medieval and Renaissance exhibitions at the local museum of fine arts and produce copies and reinterpretations. I'll scan or photograph these better when I get them back from my instructor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Life Drawing

Life drawing sessions should be long enough that there's time to get properly warmed up and then hopefully get into the zone where the drawing becomes automatic. I like to enter that space where I'm drawing faster than my conscious mind can process what is being done until after it has been done, interpreting visual stimuli and engaging motor functions at just the right level to keep the conscious mind fully occupied, too fast to be able to consider the act before doing; it's like removing a barrier.

Dominique Pétrin Palazzo II

Palazzo II is the exterior counterpart to Pétrin's "Gala" in situ treatment of the ARPRIM space, a visually arresting silkscreen makeover of existing surfaces.



Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is a Canadian experimental music and performance art collective. They present two distinct versions of their work, one conceptualized as a large scale theatrical performance art project and one recast as a touring rock band, and describe their style as “Noh-wave”, a pun on Nôh theatre and the No Wave style of experimental underground music. Their first theatrical work, a drag rock opera called 33, premiered at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times theatre as part of the 2012 Rhubarb Festival, while their rock band show has appeared at several venues in 2012, including the All Tomorrow’s Parties and NXNE festivals.

Managed to see their performance of "33//渦"it was one of the coolest things I've seen in a while.

Intaglio Printmaking

I didn't really know what intaglio was before starting this course, screenprinting was full so it was either this or lithography for a printmaking choice for the semester, it's been fun and interesting so far.
The basic process is to cut a thin sheet of copper to a desired size that functions as the plate or matrix that will be used to produce prints, bevel the edges with a file and polish the plate with steel wool, degrease the plate, apply contact paper to the back, coat the plate in a "ground" which is usually like a kind of wax that has to be melted on a hot plate, though it can also a liquid or another process altogether, like an ink solution applied by airbrush. Once the wax ground is dried, it can be etched into with markmaking tools, then given an acid bath (we use ferric chloride rather than an actual acid at school), which corrodes into the metal exposed by the drawn lines, providing a negative surface for ink to adhere into. There are also various cleaning steps that need to be carefully observed, as well as the use of solvent-resistant gloves and a respirator mask.

Etching a design into the wax hardground covering a copper plate

After the marks have been made and the ground/resist material removed, the plate is given a vinegar bath and the paper cut and soaked in water to increase its absorbency (I think?). Then the messy stuff begins; ink is selected and mixed with various modifiers and manipulated until it reaches the desired consistency.

Inking workspace
Ink is applied to the plate with a putty spreader and pushed around so that it fully saturates the depressions, then excess is removed with scrapers, newsprint, starchy material called tarlatan and the surface dusted with a light brushing of talc, the plate must be inked and wiped for every print so it can be a fairly long process, not to mention cleanup if you make as much of a mess as I did.

Pulling theoretically identical prints from one matrix on Rives BFK paper

Ink is transferred to paper by way of a massive printing press, a template is used to properly align the plate and paper which is especially important when the project calls for multiple passes or if several plates are being used. This project was just one plate and simple linework etching techniques, this week I've been learning about alternative methods like aquatint, mezzotint and lifts which are generally used to produce tonal, textural effects, the next project will be much more complex.