How can artists use new technologies alongside traditional print processes as part of a contemporary practice?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art

Abstract

My research topic centres around different reproductive technologies and their interactions, looking more specifically at how print-making can be employed to reappraise this subject. It is my intention within this project to challenge an established narrative in which newer technologies displace older ones, and to instead propose, through both the example of my own work and written reflection on the subject, a more complex series of circumstances in which hybrid forms are continually produced through interaction and amendments. To do so the fixity of opposing terms such as craft and digital technology themselves need re-examined, or least considered in relation to their respective merits.

By combining new digital techniques alongside more traditional processes, I wish to reflect on the ways in which new forms can be produced from their combination, layering and juxtaposition. A central part of this proposal is based around deepening my understanding of technical processes, and the ways in which these can be harnessed to support artistic creativity. Technical areas that I have identified as being of importance to this project include screen-printing, woodblock-printing, CNC routing, 3D Printing, digital printing and vacuum forming. This would involve the expansion of my knowledge relating to physical processes and the materials at my disposal, but also developing my fluency with CAD and 3D modelling software.

Looking beyond such materially-based methods of experimentation, I am also interested in articulating how these processes are located within broader discussions around technology and its role within society. Forming a contextual backdrop to our own considerations of this subject are contemporary anxieties around machines replacing human labour, as well as ongoing, ethical debates around the ecological impact of different types of production. As a result, there are several critical discourses which could be said to inform the topic, ranging from art history and design theory, to sociology and the historiography of computer science. Critical thinkers that I currently envisage having a direct impact on my attempts to conceptually frame the topic include Glenn Adamson, Walter Benjamin, Marie Hicks, Tim Ingold, Esther Leslie, Sadie Plant and Richard Sennet. Moving between these sources my intention would be to trace crucial changes to the hierarchical position of the reproduced copy, and the role skilled labour has up until this point played in producing it.

Previously, examples drawn from science fiction have provided another important prompt from which to consider the question of technology and its effects, constituting an imaginary space within which a series of anachronistic elements can be brought together as a holistic form. This is an influence that I would continue to draw upon, not least because it offers a method to overlay issues of gender, ecology and automation, which I feel are intimately linked to the topic. To do so, I will refer to notions of futurity as they are speculatively treated by such authors as Margaret Atwood, William Gibson, Pamela Zoline and Ursula le Guin.

People

ORCID iD

Rachel Adams (Student)

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Hothouse 
Description Hothouse Hospitalfield, Arbroath 26.4 -30.10.2019 Hothouse is an outdoor installation situated at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath. Set within the grounds of a stately home, the project takes its title from Brian Aldiss's 1962 dystopian science fiction novel where a future earth has been overrun by vegetation and plant life.  In extreme contrast to its pastoral setting, Hothouse consists of three large cubic structures covered in digitally printed mesh patterned with circuit board diagrams. This design across these blue, translucent structures, forces a comparison between root and digital systems that govern both the natural and manmade world. The cubes are based on fruit cages used in both industrial and domestic agriculture to protect produce from birds. In each one sculptural forms lurk inside. Two of the structures can be entered by the audience, whilst the other contains a series of small sculptures, echoing a the regular lines of a gardeners' raised bed. In another, plastic palm leaves grow from metal pipes above head height, creating a surreal version of a nineteenth-century glasshouse. Mushrooms pop up from the floor of the other, this space is suggestive of Japanese shiitake farms. Each aspect of the installation situates itself between work and leisure, using a variety of print processes sculpturally across analogue and digital technologies. This exhibition will be discussed in the chapter 'Fungal systems: Mushrooms and Global Connectivity'. Focussing on the mushroom as a metaphorical motif for global systems of work, this chapter explores the interconnected nature of world-wide systems of production across leisure and work. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Artist's talk to the attendees of the preview of Hothouse, discussing the research surrounding the project. Artists talk to the Friends of Hosptialfield program. Artists tour as part of the Summer Weekend at Hospitalfield House. 
URL http://hospitalfield.org.uk/whats-on/commissions/rachel-adams/
 
Title Lowlight 
Description Lowlight (2018) Bloc Projects, Sheffield 6.10 - 27.10.18 Lowlight was the sister exhibition to Noon, exploring many of the same themes. Here, connections to Art Nouveau glass were made explicit in a series of works where the method of laser-cutting, screenprinting, and heat-forming plastics was employed to create a cabbage lampshades. The mint green and semi-transparent shades, echoing the vegetal forms of the decorative objects of René Lalique, Emile Gallé or Tiffany & Co. were put alongside works directly related to the history of computing. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact A public conversation between the curator Dave McLeavy and myself took place in the gallery at Bloc Projects in October 2018. 
URL https://www.blocprojects.co.uk/exhibitions-events/2018/lowlight-rachel-adams
 
Title Noon 
Description Noon (2018) David Dale Gallery & Studios 15.09 - 20.10.18 The exhibition Noon considers the linked systems that govern both the natural and manmade world and the possibilities where the two intersect. The artworks exist at the collapse of boundaries between sculpture and print, natural and synthetic, digital and analogue, craft and industry. Reimagining the 'white cube' gallery space as a 'white room' of technology, this installation draws on the history of computing, using printmaking techniques within a sculptural installation to explore the connections between the repeating systems of work and the natural world. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The exhibition at David Dale Gallery featured on the widely viewed online platform Artviewer. Images and accompanying material from the exhibition were published as part of the publication Garden, published by David Dale Gallery in 2019. A film-screening of Phase IV, a 1974 science fiction film directed by Saul Bass that played an important role in my thinking around the project, took place in the gallery space during the exhibition. 
URL https://artviewer.org/rachel-adams-at-david-dale-gallery/
 
Description AHRC RTSG Travel Grant
Amount £393 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 03/2019
 
Description AHRC RTSG Travel Grant
Amount £303 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2018
 
Description Devolved Early Career Research Award
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 03/2019
 
Description Postgraduate Research Expenses (PRE) Grant
Amount £400 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2018
 
Description Dundee Contemporary Arts 
Organisation Dundee Contemporary Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Continued and sustained work at Dundee Contemporary Arts Print Studio. Producing artworks which are then used as part of the broader research. This should provide increased visibility as a research institution for Dundee Contemporary Arts in the field of print, fabricating technologies and artistic research.
Collaborator Contribution Providing mentoring, fabricating and production support as well as research input. In-kind contribution of production facilities and artistic materials for four years. Expertise and knowledge are given in a sustained and useful manner.
Impact Artists in Print: Day Long Symposium March 2019. Artists in Print was a day-long event celebrating all things print as part of DCA's 20th Birthday festivities. Providing an opportunity for artists, academics, theoreticians, and historians to consider the issues around print and contemporary art in Scotland, the day comprised of a series of artists' talks and chaired dialogues. Presentations by artists Claire Barclay, Scott Myles, Tessa Lynch, Edwin Pickstone, Jacqueline Butler and Helen de Main framed a number of themed conversations followed by a panel discussion. DCA Print studio has a twenty-year history of working with cutting-edge and traditional print technologies, and over the course of the day we will hear from artists with direct experience of working with the print studio, through DCA's gallery exhibition programme and Scotland more broadly. Focussing on the approach of artists with print, this was a rare opportunity to hear how practitioners think about using print processes in innovative and inventive ways, connecting to its social histories, collaborative processes and technological materiality.
Start Year 2017
 
Description SGSAH 
Organisation Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Active member of the SGSAH community attending events and participating in projects.
Collaborator Contribution Financial support of a 3-month residency with Studio Pavilion, at House for an Art Lover, Glasgow. Financial support of material costs for the exhibition Stoop Stoop Stooping is Stupid. In-kind support through workshops, events, away trips, and doctoral training programs.
Impact NA
Start Year 2017