Image from TWEETBOX, courtesy of Limerick Printmakers
Art reviews and news from Chris Hayes, champion of Limerick’s bid to be European Capital of Culture
During the process of writing today’s article I’ve checked Twitter dozens of times, Facebook even more, took at least one selfie for Snapchat and browsed past countless others on Instagram.
Boredom is different than it used to be – the apps have made us busy, rest involves a surprising amount of production. It’s not surprising then that many artists today are drawn towards newer forms of image making and communication, wherever they may find them.
TWEETBOX is the latest Limerick Printmakers exhibition, in the Belltable, 69 O’Connel Street, which runs until Monday February 29. It’s an exhibition of two-halves; firstly, a collaborative artwork by Noelle Noonan and Catherine Hehir, which is titled Escape Shift; secondly, the TWEETBOX project, which involved a selection of the students, alumni, and lecturers, of the Crawford College of Art and Design and Limerick School of Art and Design. The title TWEETBOX was chosen as a kind of play on words between the social media app Twitter (who’s icon is a bird) and a bird box which was intended to act as a symbols for movement, flow, and migration.
The most Twitter-ish, social-media-esque aspect of the exhibition is the volume of work presented – two of the Belltable’s large walls have been covered floor to ceiling. Yet, TWEETBOX is in many ways, more a showcase of the range and variety of printing techniques, and the allure of an individually designed and handmade object, than an interrogation of the cultural meaning of digital images and the pervasive influences of networked technologies. The layout of Escape Shift could be described as a collection of multiples – prints overlap and juxtapose by not existing on the same surface. The list of printing techniques involved is long as the artwork appears complex. On the other side of the gallery, each of the bird boxes have been made from printing on flat, raw cardboard, which was then folded into their structure. The images have been translated onto the material, and the material bent and twisted into shape. There is a blunt physicality to each object, and that is emphasised by the ways in which the printed images warp around the edges of each box. The use of industrially manufactured materials – most notably cardboard – and newer, automated production methods, such as laser cutting, are useful supports for the more traditional printing techniques, which arguably take primacy here.
In recent years there’s been a lot of excitement around artists who thread the line between the digital and the physical; creating artworks which either exist online or specially move from a digital file into a physical object – and often in ways to reflect the ways network technologies have mirrored or altered real social structures. Yet, for those artists who don’t know how to code, who don’t exclusively use technology, and don’t take internet culture as the context behind their artwork, the influences of technology are often still apparent and profound. Whether it’s painters who work from photos, sculptors who use a new array of digital fabrication tools, writers who blog online – and every and any artist who has seen more art in a browser than a gallery, whose identity is represented equally by an online personae as it is a “real” one, the effects of technology can be seen in artworks, as well as felt by audiences whose perceptions and expectations have been influenced also. The TWEETBOX project is an example of artwork totally immersed in traditionally physical printing techniques, yet confidently involving technological tools throughout.