the dust of the future: a look at maurice carlin’s performance publishing: regents trading estate

Joanne McNeil, The State, 23 September 2013

The way a series of art editions tends to work is that the plate is demolished after the last print. Maurice Carlin thinks of the warehouse Regents Trading Estate as his plate. It will expire. Excavators and wrecking ball cranes are scheduled to arrive in 2016.

Now as part of a three month residency there, Carlin is scanning the space. The scans make up a patchwork of sheets spread out on the floor. This project is like balancing a footprint on top of a shoe. The copies are camouflage right on top the original. “Performance Publishing” obscures as it represents, a dual-process of imitation and occultation. And anyway, on my laptop screen, the paper and the floor are made up of the same pixels. As the title suggests, it is a performance. It is also recorded live. I can periscope in from across the Atlantic. Connected by camera to a destination 3,000 miles away, I watch Carlin in two windows—the right is a panorama of the warehouse; beside it is another livestream view of the back of Carlin’s head while he drags paint against one of those sheets on the floor, creating a relief-print of what is underneath.

To scan is to glance hastily. My colloquial use of the word ‘scan’ as a noun—a copy—comes from computing, but in Carlin’s practice, making these prints is ancient. Rubbings from stone inscriptions trace back two thousand years, beginning with the Han Dynasty in China. One by one, using handheld scanner, Carlin uploads images of each completed sheet to create an infinite scroll on the project’s corresponding website. Despite the very analog way he created them, on the internet the images appear born digital. They look like geophysical surveys, rather than poor renderings of reliefs of the floor in a warehouse in Manchester.

In the livestream Carlin, a spectral blurry figure, paces around the room in the panoramic view before kneeling down with a squeegee to create another scan. I drop by now and then, for visits of five minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less. I could never visit so often in physical space; no way would time, transportation, and personal affairs permit it. But travel by browser window enables different structures of access. The cameras also let me keep my presence secret. I am a fly on the wall for each of these initial studio visits. That makes it easier to observe the artist’s labor that goes beyond making art — that is to say, the pacing, the checking email, the staring into space. The websites says I am one of two anonymous people watching the livestream, but there are no other bodies in the room, so it is almost like seeing the artist alone.

It is now mid-August, the second month of “Performance Publishing.” I have two laptops set up, one with the livestream page in full view. Instead of switching browser tabs, from my work back to the studio, I look with my eyes left to watch what is happening in the warehouse. Watching someone else alone at work makes me more conscious of my own workaday actions. If this performance happened years ago I could watch it like it happened now, but I wouldn’t be able to chat with the artist. So after weeks of lurking, I finally send Carlin a message. He greets me, the absent participant, and says there is a “bad covers band” playing nearby. All I can hear is the chime of each new chat message. Carlin says the sound of the warehouse is what stood out first, “I started to hear the space, it’s huge with flat surfaces everywhere so completely echoey, and you don’t really notice this till it’s quiet, it’s been like that most days, I enjoy it when it gets to that time, but you can hear the slightest sound, so sounds that buildings probably make all the time are amplified X 10 here..”

The sound of the warehouse, like the face of the artist, and space behind the camera, is one of those things that the livestream image does not convey. I can, however, see quite clearly the squares of relief-prints on the floor that are continually accumulating. Those sheets echo the textures underneath, amplifying and abstracting details we would not see with our eyes—even in person—like cracks and concaves. The sheets cover the textures of the floor, and represent that texture. Details that are normally unseen are made ultra-visible by Carlin’s project as he masks the actual floor surface.The next time I visit, the warehouse is covered in Carlin’s CMYK relief-prints. The representation appears to totally cancel out that which it is representing. But that is just another example of the camera’s incomplete translation of the setting. There is floorspace uncovered, it just isn’t on my screen. One day, the right-hand camera is set to rotate around the warehouse and I can see how much remains uncovered.

In person, we exchange words with speech. These words disappear in air or are captured as fragments in fallible human memory. The website for the “Performance Publishing” livestream does not archive the video, but it saves the conversations in the little chatbox on the page. The performance will end but the discussion about it will remain. The echoes of the warehouse will be forgotten except as side note in the commentary. Carlin is publishing not just the textures of the floor but his candid thoughts about his process.

Taken as whole—the livestream, the chat, the prints, and the website—we see the artist’s sleight of hand. Viewed on or offline, something is always missing from the larger picture. This handmade work that appears digital, and the mimicry of machines by way of ancient printmaking, is a comment on the very nature by which physical and digital worlds are interwoven and interdependent. The dust of the future lies underneath the relief-prints Carlin created. When the warehouse is gone, fragile paper and immaterial images of it will persist.

You can read the original article here.