The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sometimes Things Don't Work Until They Stop Working

I've been tweaking and refining a submission for the 6x6x2014 anonymous small works show, and have hit nothing but roadblocks and failures. My first post explains a bit of what I set out to do, creating a QR code image from a Meister Eckhart quote that takes the viewer to random pages of text relating to the quote. My next post talked about all the problems I encountered when, after nearing completion, it first failed to be visible and then failed to function. I was close to scrapping it, but if I could figure out a solution, it may become the beginning of another leg of my Meditations series, and be integral to another future project I have in mind. So I decided to press on and keep tinkering.

I was reluctant to undermine the conceptualism of the original drawing method. The graphite transfer acts as a mediator between my hand and the work (mirroring the mediator of the screen between the viewer and the work), harkens back to the manual reproduction of medieval scribes (who might have originally transcribed those very words), and also alethically conceals the finished product from me as I reveal it. But for the sake of the experiment, I had to try to isolate what went wrong. So I began trying to thin and refine the letters using charcoal. I didn't want to use a direct, additive procedure, which felt like cheating, but it at least shared the carbon base of the carbon paper used to transfer the image.

This, as it turns out, did absolutely nothing to help the scannability of the object!
...Which is actually good news, because it meant that the additive process that I thought might cheapen the transfer method was indeed unnecessary. 

My next (and perhaps last) idea was simply to shade in the white letters a touch to help the black/white contrast of the pixels. I used the charcoal again, but this time just lightly dusting the letters. And sure enough, Eureka! It's finally a functioning QR code!

The more I thought about it, the more I actually became quite satisfied with the solution, in light of the project's already alethic proclivities. The negative space actually only becomes functional when, by a counterintuitively additive process, it is brought into closer alignment with the positive, in a way actually negating the negative space. The image is readable only when it becomes less readable. That seems to me to be the only proper usage of a positive mark making tactic, anyway. Ao, bringing the piece more closely into a state of negation is the only way for it to become functional (furthermore, the destinations, if you try it, tend to be confoundingly apophatic in terms of shedding any light on the subject matter of the quote, which, is itself about unknowing!)

These, of course, are all subtleties and technicalities buried in the process of the piece's creation that will not necessarily be intelligible to the viewer. I recognize that, but it feels very important to me that the piece has a certain integrity in the way it is made, that it holds together conceptually from beginning to end regardless of it's perceptibility. It's a "They probably won't ask, but at least if they do I have a good, solid, honest answer" sort of thing.

And so, after teetering on the brink of becoming trash, the piece is revived with a small, additional layer of conceptuality. As is the case with a lot of work, it is often only when it is at the brink of falling apart does it really begin to hold together in interesting ways. This is just a mild example of that.

So that's two pieces down for this show. Maybe a third is to come... It depends on how much time and willingness I find to nurse another disaster back to health.

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