exhibition in cloud proposal (franca & rachel)

Exhibition in Cloud: Prototype is based on two ideas – the accessibility and distributive power of being able to mass manufacture and reproduce objects and data using technology and exploring the concept of prototype as an art practice and design process.

We approached the task of Exhibition in Cloud: Prototype by thinking of ways to link our experiences in Germany with the idea of ‘mass (re)production’. Throughout history, technology has always challenged art on the question of authenticity/aura such as the introduction of engraving press ( from hand scribe illuminated manuscripts to penguin books), photography (from painting to film photography to digital photography) and now 3D printing.

However, what we both strongly agreed on was not to use high-tech just for the sake of using it and therefore started with exploring ideas of mass production and distribution from history to present day. We felt it was important to bring in a sense of historical context to these new technologies, so that we can examine them critically.

As our art practices tend towards personal history, we wanted to do a project that was influenced by our experiences, ideas and perceptions of Germany. Germany is a country famous for engineering that played an important role in the development of mass manufacturing and production. At the same time, German mythology is tied with ideas of Schwarzwald (the Black Forest), the “mother/land”, Wilde Luete (moss people), Germania, kobolds etc. that is specific to German identity. We are interested in the connection between German folk culture and her modern history, how both are inseparable from each other where mythic images provide the background of a greater German narrative. This is becoming more and more important with each year, as the next generation onwards will not having living memories or direct contact with people who survived WW2

We have chosen lead, and then later tin as one of our mediums for the work. Lead is historically one of the first mass manufactured materials – it was used to develop the gutenberg typesetting press, as well as lead bullets used in war. Lead was also used in Germany in their first mass manufacture of toy soldiers. Liquid lead heated over a stove, and poured into rubber molds was one of the ways children learned to make and remake (for the material was reused)  toys.

Later we decided to use tin instead, for health and safety reasons. Tin is also another widely used manufacturing material that is still in use today (especially in Croatia, which uses it during the new year for predicting the future). Also we felt that the contrast between a heavy solid metal and the idea of a ‘cloud’ was very interesting.

Our initial concept was the idea of building a waffle-press printer that would be our version of the Gutenberg press.  Each “type” would be a unit that could be moved into position on an interlocking grid. The idea behind it was to use illustrations as a font. These illustrations would be a mix of Germanic myths images i.e. hansel & gretel characters, history i.e. representations of the Berlin Wall as well as our personal experience that made up the trip i.e. lavender flowers.

One of the ideas we had was to create a font and upload it into a website where people can type into a textarea and make their symbolic own maps. The font will be linked to the keyboard like an “map” out East/West based on the letters-type where A = kassel-shape B = lavender C = german soldier etc etc so

West         Wall          East
qwer           ty             uiop[]\
asdf           gh            jkl;’
zxcv          bn            m,.?

Where people can reinterpret it however they like. These maps will be uploaded to a server, and connected to each other and the user can go back and “walk” through their own map as well as other people’s. This idea was inspired by SNES games such as Zelda, where the game maps are made up of pre-made units linked together repetitively.

However we felt materiality of the press was important for us, since we are inspired by lead and tin as traditional materials for mass manufacture and we also really liked the idea of a solid press. Finally we decided on a compromise between both the press and the web-map idea. Instead of making a press, we would make toy-stamps instead and also upload the font as a free-to-use.

Our final idea is to create a font based on the number of characters used in the English alphabet. We will create 26 different designs that will include characters from history and folklore as well as landmarks from our experience in Germany. We will built stamps out of tin based on these illustrations. People will be able to “map” their experience/idea of Germany by stamping these characters/ landmarks on a wallpaper which will cover the wall space of Aarson gallery.

These stamps will made like old-tin soldiers/collectible toys, and we are also exploring the idea of using them as chess pieces. Each figure will also be a stamp and therefore can leave a mark on the chessboard after each move.

We have two possible ideas on how to make the figures. The first one is to make the shapes ourselves using clay and then put it into liquid rubber to make inverted moulds. The second option is to use Maya and CNC the moulds out (each stamp will be about 3.5 inches high). These blueprints will be uploaded to Thingmatics, so people can manufacture it themselves too. A website will also be made so people can download the font for free under creative commons, and perhaps we will showcase other things people can make with this font as well or even add their own symbols/pieces from their own country to create a global myth+history.


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