Mediating between publics

Danielle Rego, Domus, 1 October 2013

Transforming a vacant 750 square-metres warehouse space in the Salford district of Manchester, England, Maurice Carlin’s latest project Performance Publishing is a site-specific piece that mediates between analog and digital modalities of production and exhibition.

An extension of the artist’s previous work including The Self-Publisher, 2009-present and more recently,Corrupted Images, 2012; Performance Publishing, 2013 explores the space between print, place and performance by examining the artist’s process of making and the act of publication, respectively, as both public endeavors. Carlin’s interest in the act of publishing and more importantly how information is produced, transmitted and disseminated (physically and digitally) within contemporary culture is focused on a new form of spatial practice. This practice is considerate of how one experiences and engages with contemporary art in our ever-expanding global world, i.e. the distance between object and individual. For Carlin, this space is contested and through the act of publishing he is able to mediate between these two disparate realms.

For the past three months, Carlin has set up his studio in a former furniture warehouse in Salford, England as a space for creation and dissemination. His work, derivative of the physical space of the warehouse, is comprised of detailed rubbings of the warehouse floor surface in a specific yet undetermined manner. The prints, multiplying exponentially over the course of a three-month duration, vary in appearance by color and tone based on the imperfections of the below surface. Laid out on the floor in a grid-like pattern, Carlin applies his detailed rubbing technique on hands and knees, dragging with a squeegee, layers of CMYK ink over the surface of large A0 sheets of paper. It’s a manifold process whereby the artist gradually applies ink over the surface of 400-plus sheets of paper on the interior floor, adding color in direct response to the building based on personal observations and prompts by the artist that note something specific such as who was in the space, a sound from outside or an impression on how the ink layer altered the image. It is in this way that areas of concentration develop according to surface demarcations and depths, varying from more contrasted and dynamic images to thinly overlaid sheets as individual colors respond differently to the ground floor, with some prints having just one layer of ink, and others having up to as many as 15 to 20 layers.

Carlin’s technique, borrowed from stelae printing developed some 2000 years ago by the Ancient Chinese, and arguably the first ever form of publishing, references this historical form of printmaking in addition to more contemporary models of printing such as DIY publishing projects, which brought mobility as well as an extended audience. In China, this form of printing was administered via stone or brass rubbings that produced abstractions of images and/or text such as laws and decrees. In Performance Publishing, prints are derived from the physical characteristics of the space itself, using the ground floor as a relief. The floor is measured, analyzed, documented, reproduced and disseminated via Carlin’s adapted process that mediates between production and exhibition. Individual pieces of paper begin to assemble on the floor to create a new spatial environment – one that is no longer unified and sterile but instead textured and layered, full of meaning and history.

Aptly titled Performance Publishing, Carlin creates a platform by and through which information/media is created locally and then transferred globally via webcam. The work, which consists of Carlin’s artistic process and the physical prints themselves, can also be viewed within the space of the gallery. Local art enthusiasts and passerbys alike who are interested in viewing the artist’s process can enter the space and see the work from a different perspective, perched high above the space on an upper mezzanine level in the warehouse. Alternately, the performance can be viewed remotely via strategically placed webcams that focus on both the individual rubbings (positioned by Carlin himself) and the overall composition of the space. A chat feature on the website enables Carlin to interact with participants and observers directly, answering questions and opening up a dialogue about the project and related themes and ideas. For Carlin, this negotiation between early information technologies, rubbings made in Ancient China with the most recent one – the digital information age, is something that he highlights and contrasts throughout the project.

This constant negotiation between analog and digital production and the relationship to the physical space of the warehouse in Salford to disparate places and spaces where people are experiencing the work is of utmost importance. Combining antique methods of production and current-day technologies and modalities such as our ever-connected social world, Carlin compresses the physical space of the warehouse and the digital space of the internet in addition to the distance between producer and observer. This interplay between the two realms (physical and digital) and their spatial effects on the viewer makes for a compelling format of process, time-based publishing. Carlin’s use of the webcam allows for simultaneous production and publishing, and in this way, the physical distance is minimized as participants, such as a writer like myself in Los Angeles can be remotely experiencing and documenting a project taking place in England.

Mediating between these two publics or spaces – the real and the virtual – warehouse and website, creates interesting contrasts, comparisons and binaries in which we can begin to understand the project outside the context of a localized site and into an expanded spatial practice. In this way, the warehouse operates as a site for both production, connecting the project to its physical site and reproduction, transmitting the project to remote sites. The prints themselves, physical objects or tracings reflective of site, take on diverse meaning independent of site and context once they leave the physical space of production. These composite prints made in reference to a specific locale conjure up imagery from topological drawings and terrain maps to digital scans, photographs, and abstracted paintings. Consequently, our perception and experience of the work as observers changes based on these shifting environments, and our own experiences and references. This translation from one environment to another – physical to digital, becomes a performative act that Carlin both orchestrates and mediates effectively through the performance of publishing.

Maurice Carlin will be exhibiting a selection of the digital scanned prints from Performance Publishing as part of a group show titled “Self-interruption” at Jack Chiles Gallery in New York City from October 20-25, 2013.

You can read the original article here.