"This project has been a radical departure in that I have created interconnected but distinctly different iterations of source imagery, each experimenting with a different form of production, dissemination and viewer interaction."
Digital media are creating new possibilities that raise questions for artists. Conventionally, unique objects made by the hand of the artist are most highly valued, but the contemporary cultural mainstream equates mass consumption with success and desirability. So where does that leave visual artists in the digital age?
As technology becomes more accessible, digital media are gradually being accepted as means of producing, distributing and displaying art. An example is the advent of print-on-demand services, which provide templates that can be personalized, resulting in a high-quality, printed book that can be ordered in any quantity. It’s a valuable tool, but it wasn’t developed with artists in mind. They need to determine which aspects of the technology can be tailored to their craft.
The creative process of a visual artist traditionally ends with the production of the art. Once it leaves the studio, the artist steps back and they are not directly involved in how it’s displayed and distributed. The artist isn’t a part of how the public interacts with what they made.
Prof. Marlene MacCallum and her collaborators wanted to identify ways artists can gain more creative control of the relationship between their artwork and the viewer. They explored production methods as an integral component of the creative cycle, including digital alternatives to the traditional art gallery or museum.
Until now, Prof. MacCallum’s artistic process has involved the creation of hand-printed, hand-bound artist’s books and prints.
“This project has been a radical departure in that I have created interconnected but distinctly different iterations of source imagery, each experimenting with a different form of production, dissemination and viewer interaction,” said Prof. MacCallum.
During the project, Prof. MacCallum created a series of works inspired by living in Corner Brook’s historic Townsite area. From 1924-34 the pulp mill built 150 homes to house the mill management and skilled labourers. She photographed eight homes, each the same model as the one she lives in, as a way to explore the paradox of conformity and individualization that happens in a company town.
The result was five unique art projects, all based on the same imagery but using different methods of production and dissemination. Prof. MacCallum created a custom printed set of offset lithographic plates, a limited edition artists’ book, open edition on-demand ink jet prints, a collective community pinhole camera project and a collaborative artist’s book with Prof. David Morrish, visual artist, and Lisa Moore and Jessica Grant, Newfoundland authors.
This project brought together Canadian artists looking for new ways to share their work and American artists with expertise in the distribution of artist books. In the long term, the findings will contribute to the scholarly debate about traditional and unconventional forms of artistic production and distribution. It will also serve as a base to develop collaborative networks that will use the artist’s book as the context for joint exploration and production.