Sunday, June 27, 2010

From A Lucerne Project Sketchbook

Gel medium transfer of xeroxed, damaged photo. White oil pastel. Watercolour.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here is the first book for the Lucerne Project. Click on the image above to play a short slideshow. The book consists of eight pages, each 6.5 " high by 11" wide, in an accordion fold that opens out to be 89" wide. The method of making the book was as follows:
  • Trawl the internet for publicly-available photos of Lucerne that people have uploaded to the web.
  • Print out small jpegs.
  • Xerox the jpegs and enlarge by as much as 1000%.
  • Ink and print the xeroxes onto light grey printmaking paper.
  • Write a short phrase suggested by each image.
  • Edit the phrases slightly so that they connect to each other.
  • Print each phrase onto the corresponding print.
  • Glue the pages into one long strip, with the division between each page scored so that they can be folded up accordion-style.
Already I can see how this method might be a way of producing a narrative about people I've never met, in a place I've never been, while still retaining a poetic quality to the combination of image and text.

Monday, June 14, 2010

10 things I know about Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne is in Switzerland.

It is next to a lake, which might be called Lake Lucerne. I can’t remember exactly.

It has a very old covered wooden bridge across a river.

It has hosted a jazz festival for at least fifty years.

It has a museum with a lot of Picasso’s art in it. I think Picasso might have made some large-scale steel sculptures for Lucerne in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

I think there might also be an annual classical music festival, thought I’m not sure.

I have a vague recollection of the contemporary artist Urs Fischer having a connection with Lucerne.

It is surrounded by the Alps. I think.

It is one of Chicago’s twin cities.

And the tenth thing I know about Lucerne, I now realize, is that I only know nine things about Lucerne. Naturally this will change over the course of this project. If you asked people from Lucerne to list ten things about Newcastle (the place in the UK where I was born and raised), I bet they would know even less. So there’s a point here about the gaps in our knowledge of the world, even with the apparent interconnectedness of our digital universe.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

First damaged photos

I trawl the internet, searching for photos that show the streets of Lucerne, buildings in Lucerne, people in Lucerne. The choice is as much determined by accident as the process of converting them to prints. The images can be standard tourist shots of people posing in front of monuments and ancient edifices, or shots of buses taken by automobile fanatics, or random pictures taken by people during street fairs.

I print out tiny copies of these photos, and then enlarge them again and again on a xerox machine, often by as much as 1000%. I stop when the graininess threatens to dissolve the entire image -- when the 'damage' to the photo is so great that it almost destroys it. What I am left with is always a detail that is different from the original.

I then soak the xerox in a mixture of gum arabic and water, and roll the xerox with a mixture of etching ink and setswell compound. The ink sticks to the toner, but not the white areas. I print these inked xeroxes onto paper, like so:

Or onto wood panels, like so:

The print on wood panel also has some oil pastel added to it. I will proceed with this method until I have created dozens of these prints. At some point I will start to think of text to add to them. The personal narrative is not clear yet. It is contained somewhere in the casual detail, the unfeigned expression, the shy glance, and the brooding presences of the ancient structures. I will keep working until I hear that narrative and can express it somehow.

What is The Lucerne Project?

I make art based on personal narrative, using 'damaged photos'. I use my own photos, or found photos, and enlarge them on a photocopier until the image starts to break down, thus 'damaging' them further. Interesting details and shapes emerge from this process. I then print the images using a process called paper-litho transfer. I combine the prints into artist's books, and these form the basis for work in other media. All the time, I am looking for combinations of image and text that suggest a personal narrative.

Facebook 1, accordion fold book, 16 damaged photo prints+text

Often the personal narrative is my own, based on memories of growing up in a mining town in the north of England. Sometimes I use the personal narratives of other people. The Lucerne Project is an extension of this. The project starts from the fact that Chicago, USA, where I now live, and Lucerne, Switzerland, are twin cities. I asked myself the question: how would I make a personal narrative about people I've never met, in a city I've never been to?

As I explore answers to this question, I will post the results on this blog. My preliminary method is to take publicly-available photos of Lucerne, or taken in Lucerne, print them using the 'damaged photo' method outlined above, and write narratives suggested by the resulting prints.