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Archive for September, 2009

SHELFLIFE #25A: WASTE TEST LETTERPRESS

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It feels like I’ve been working on this new book forever. Par for the course, I guess. FORE took me 10 years to finish. A year after delivering the first two volumes, I’m still waiting on politics to deliver the final volume of BUT THEY DON’T BLINK. WASTE is different, though. It’s a different sort of forever–a forever from another place.

I wanted WASTE to be all about potential energy. It’s a collection of scrap illustrations and studies for sculptural work I’ve done or am presently working on. I forced a ridiculous tale of explosive potential atop a curated set of 12 sketches, xeroxes, stamps and collages. “Not enough,” I thought to myself. “This has gotta be a more outlandish game.” So, I begged for and stole some lumber. I got a cheap, used 10-Ton bottle jack. I got some scrap steel.

Two sleepless weeks after collecting things and 4 or 5 months after pulling the story together, I’ve built my own letterpress on which to print the book. I tracked down scrap canvas in the form of sail-maker scraps, military tarps and painter’s drop-cloth (could still use more of any of this if anybody’s holding…). The canvas all gets laser-cut into specially shaped pages. The story gets pressed on ’em. The pages get grommeted together and a lot of waste delivers on its potential.

I’ve not yet decided on the edition size, but I know it’s being split up 75%-25% between two flavors. One’s gonna be a bit more expensive and use special ink. The other’s plain-jane jet black. That said, the amount of time it seems it’ll take to generate each book means it’s looking like this sadly isn’t going to be an inexpensive edition. Each hand-pressed, 12-page, 11×17, laser-cut, canvas book will likely be between 100-200 dollars. The caveat here is that the book can also be made to “do things.” More on that when I launch the edition in November…

Here are the very first proofs off of the woodblocks for the first two pages. I’ve never used a letterpress before, so I have no idea what I’m doing, but it actually seems to have worked–even on this crappy utrecht newsprint. A bunch of grumpy whiners on printing forums seemed to imply that using anything larger than a 9×12 block in a homemade press won’t work. To the whiners out there–fuck you. It works. Build the press frame out of steel and use a more robust jack along with a platen design that considers pressure application to your target-size block.
waste by visitor first two page proofs

SHELFLIFE #24B: DISMAY

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I’ve been pained for a few years now by how superficial and almost categorically devoid of experimentation and innovation fashion has recently become. Tonight was FNO09 here in New York. The only schwag I left the evening with was a concerned knot of dismay in my gut.

There have been unrepeatable moments in even the recent history of fashion where technology, crisis, artistic innovation or synaesthetic translation have stimulated sincere and radical excitement in designers. The explorations of cubists, constructivists and futurists; streamlined hyper-minimal simplicity; the spiritual, moral, urban and financial decay of the late 60’s thru the 80’s; the realization that one could selectively and individually abuse consumers thru conceptually arbitrary pricing; exclusivity-smashing situationist runway performances that exploited an unrehearsed city as a catwalk; the commodification of unfashionable concepts as unwearable couture; the palpable translation of sound into clothing that then fedback into clothing to inspire sound. Anyone with even a vague memory of or interest in fashion since the 30’s can almost instantly place any of the aforementioned moments.

Then we roll up onto days like today–days that do not bode well for the creative future of fashion. Dumbing down the love and the craft that once made your work so enviable in an effort to see it grace the racks of Target is not fashion. Hiring the most immediately delicious genre-DJ of the week to really pack ’em in is not fashion. The caché you built by the drugs you did with who and where is not fashion. The celebrity trunk your publicist crammed with the contents of your showroom– guaranteeing a few choice tabloid snaps–is not fashion. Your hip photographer and his Yashica T4 click, click, clicking away at those t-shirts, jeans and tights is not fashion. The artists who once defined couture and now acquiesce to playing mannequin are not fashion. Streetwear is no longer fashion. Workwear isn’t fashion until it’s produced by some newer, faster, more durable and nano-autonomous process.

Confusing mere clothing with fashion is just as backward as confusing design with art. Art and fashion are serious mantles to grab at–ones I don’t think I’ve ever really touched. While I’ve designed lots of things and made lots of stuff, I’m not certain that I’ve yet made any art and I’m pretty sure I’ve never generated any fashion.

Couture is fashion. Concept is fashion. Conscious and unconscious stumblings into and around the ludicrous and the sublime are fashion. It’s time to stop confusing style, marketing, reach, design, cred and practical utility with fashion. Fashion is a wardrobe of impractical dilemmas excavated in secret at great temporal, emotional or monetary cost that can only be made sense of by the caretaker of the wardrobe–be they the inventor or the consumer. I for one cannot wait until that’s in vogue again.