Recording Print: Collaboration and Social Exchange in DCA Print Studio 1999 - Present

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sci


My research examines Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Print Studio environment and practice, considering the role that collaboration and participation play in the conceptual development of prints. Using methods of participation in and observation of the studio's projects, and analysing its archives, I will ask whether a socio-linguistic approach may illuminate the collaborative nature of print.

Although artists at DCA, particularly those new to print, often voice how valuable print collaborations are to the development of their practice, the conceptual and technical development of printed works is often ephemeral and undocumented. Print has evolved over centuries with language and dissemination in mind, yet the dialogues, processes and subtle language of production that form the scaffolding of print often remain a mystery, hidden behind studio doors. Print's unfixed positioning between skilled craft, design, art and graphic processes, means it sits uneasily in written historical accounts of unmediated and inherent meaning. It is a practice of intermediates and transitions, of collaborative creation: it is both action and documentation. Printmaking, particularly in its social and participatory aspects, has often been omitted from key discussions in contemporary art practice and theory.

Collaborative print practice has a linguistic structure, not only in the material development of a system of signs and indexical relationships, but also in a social sense. Observable socio-linguistic phenomena in the print studio environment include experimental dialogue, transfers of knowledge, techniques, behaviours and rituals, and the co-development of idioms to convey concepts. This research will highlight the language of print and ask: to what extent does the linguistic aspect of print intersect with its social life, its materiality and its performativity or practice?

The 'social' or 'anthropological turn' in contemporary art has left production largely unexamined and undocumented. My research addresses this neglect by using social and linguistic perspectives in relation to print, and applying anthropological ideas of gift exchange and reciprocity to the practice of collaborative printing. I contend that print is a generous, social and democratic practice. My research will consider what an anthropological approach can reflect of these creative encounters, asking - can it illuminate the production that has too oft been neglected?

Situating my research within DCA's studio environment, using case studies of selected print collaborations, I will blend methods from art and design history and cultural studies with anthropological and ethnographic approaches, developing a site-specific methodology. Using participant observation, interviews, technical records, my own archives of these exchanges and wider DCA archives, I will highlight the critical importance of this largely unseen strand of DCA's creative programme.

This project makes a significant contribution to the theoretical debates on print and helps address the omission of print practice from wider critical discourse. The partnership with DCA will enhance understanding not only of the Print Studio's work environment, but also of the relationship between print and participatory dynamics more generally. This is an opportunity to explore the significant impact this creative environment has had on the wider practice of numerous artists. This output will better illustrate the value of such facilities not just to artists in DCA's programme, but across Scotland and beyond, making a significant contribution to the inclusion and understanding of print in art historical narratives.


10 25 50