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On a Sunday afternoon in 2012 while searching through Twitter, Robert Montgomery’s girlfriend came across a photograph of a tattoo reading “THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE BECOME GHOSTS INSIDE OF YOU AND LIKE THIS YOU KEEP THEM ALIVE” on the arm of a 22-year old hairdresser from Culver City, California. Just the Thursday before, Montgomery had an exhibition opening in London in which a sculpture of this text was displayed. The visitors took photographs of the textual sculptures, which they then posted on Facebook and Twitter to circulate around the web, eventually to appear on the computer screen of this woman, and then on her forearm, and then back into the Twitter feed. Over the course of three days, the text’s medium expanded from one to four – a light-based sculpture became a digital image, which became a tattoo on someone’s body, which itself became a digital image. Commenting on this sort of immediate mass-circulation of his work, Montgomery says that “it proves that first, [public installations] are a good medium for poetry, and secondly, the Internet is a really good medium for poetry” (Kaczor, 2012).

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Montgomery’s texts travel through many mediums and occupy far more locations than on the streets and in galleries. The artist uses the Internet to promote his site-specific works, and has a heavy presence on social media sites. Through these digital outlets, the artist’s texts travel into various communities of people all over the world, communities far beyond the reach of the contemporary art audience and far beyond the reach that a billboard would have in the streets of London (Simpson, 2012). His words transcend geographical and temporal location.  However, the photographs on the web are often unlabeled in circulation. The artist’s name isn’t always mentioned when his photographs are shared. His signature doesn’t appear on a tattoo. The location of the texts’ original installation is rarely specified on social media sites – they are not even given on the artist’s web page.

The artist’s digital presence acts in a way as a foil for his presence on the street. The artist’s public billboards are untitled and anonymous, so most of the public that interacts with these works does not know of Montgomery or his artistic mission. This anonymity means that the texts must stand on their own; they must contain an element of the universal, despite language/translation boundaries, so that broad audiences can relate to and understand the texts. This is also true for his works’ placement on the Internet – without cataloging from a gallery or museum, the text and poetry gain autonomy from the sphere of the art world and gain agency through their circulation.

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Through digitally collecting his global yet site-specific artworks on his website, Montgomery could in theory create a virtual map or tour of the world through his installations. He has not yet done so. The photographs on his site are not labeled with a title and do not state the location in which each text was installed; this lack of geographical designation distances his words from their context, yet they still retain impact and meaning.

Montgomery’s position as editor of Dazed & Confused Magazine provides further access to the artist’s creative and thought processes and also provides other mediums of communication and display for his text. Montgomery describes himself as a street artist, a title exemplified, if not exacerbated, by his contextually changing public identities as artist, poet, publisher, writer, Facebook user, Instagram user, and fashion designer. Montgomery’s presence within a variety of social and artistic spheres provides for him a wide and heterogeneous audience, and his use of the digital space capitalizes on the vast outlets for communication now provided by the Web.

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Kermarrec sites that the social dimension creates tremendous new opportunities for information exchange over the Internet, as exemplified by the exponential growth of social networks and collaborative platforms; Robert Montgomery has capitalized on the rise of social networks, using them as a means of promoting his art, sharing his poetry, and tracking their impact and reach (Kermarrec, 2013).

 

Montgomery’s Digital Presence

Website: http://www.robertmontgomery.org/robertmontgomery.org/ROBERT_MONTGOMERY.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ROBERTMONTGOMERYARTIST/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/robertmontgomerystudio/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MontgomeryGhost?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Montgomery’s Contact, as provided on his website: lucyjnewman@gmail.com

 

References:

Kaczor, Eva. (2012). “Up and Coming Artist: Robert Montgomery.” Art Berlin. Berlin: Germany. http://www.artberlin.de/kuenstler/robert-montgomery/

Kermarrec, AM. 2013. Towards a personalized Internet: a case for a full decentralization. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 371, 20120380.

Nuvolari, Jacopo. (2012). “Preposterous/Robert Montgomery.” In 1883 Magazine. http://www.1883magazine.com/art-exhibitions/art-exhibition/preposterous-robert-montgomery

Simpson, Ashley W. (2012). “Word on the Street: Robert Montgomery.” In Interview Magazine. http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/robert-montgomery/#_

 

 

 

LoverBoy

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I immediately recognized the blue stack of paper that stood on the floor of MUMOK’s winter exhibition To Expose, To Show, To Demonstrate, To Inform, To Offer: Artistic Practices Around 1990. I was expecting to see this work, Felix Gonzales-Torres’s Untitled (LoverBoy) 1990) here – I first learned about the artist a few years earlier while studying the political and social art of the 1990’s and remembered the artist’s key role in the New York art scene during this time upon entering the exhibition. During class, I found myself desperately wanting to see one of Gonzales-Torres’s stacks in person. I was regardless excited in my hopes of seeing the object, but was unsure whether this was due to my respect for the work or desire to own a piece of it.

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The stack was standing in the middle of the room next to another larger, similarly-colored block whose edges were lined with lightbulbs, but there was no museum text visibly accompanying the two objects. My collegiate and independent studies led me to believe that I was closely familiar with the sculpture and its meanings, an understanding literally quantified by my physical taking from it. Yet when I encountered this object, I felt unsure of both my knowledge and my, and walked around the stack of paper and got as close as I possibly could without touching it. Although I knew by wishes of the artist that I was allowed, encouraged, even, to take a sheet of paper from the top, I was still reluctant to do so, nervous that I would get in trouble for interfering with or vandalizing a precious work of art. So, instead of taking a piece of paper from
the stack, I left the object to look for MUMOK’s permission to engage with it.

 

IMG_6808.jpgDietler and Miller acknowledge the close relationship between consumption, power relations, and the shaping of identity (Dietler, 2010 and Miller, 2010). Untitled (LoverBoy) obtains many of its many of its meanings and metaphors through its depletion and consumption – each participator’s collection of the sculpture constitutes his or her role within the its biography. The fact that this consumption takes place within the museum highlights the power relations between the museum as rule-setter and its visitors as behavioral conformists. For example, most museums do not allow viewers to touch or even stand too close to its objects, and the rule-breaking behavior suggested by Untitled (LoverBoy) the authoritative, or at least dominant, role of the museum in forming the ways in which individuals interact with objects one-sided determination of object display and interaction within the art institution (Macdonald, 1998).

After my folded sheet of paper and I finished walking through thehibition, I returned to Untitled (LoverBoy) and took a second sheet of paper to give to one of my good friends who also admires the artist as a Christmas present and souvenir from my time in Austria. We both keep the sheets of paper hung in our bedrooms. Many of my friends have asked me why I decided to hang a large blank sheet of paper on my wall among postcards of other art objects. To answer this question I must explain the work of art and its metaphors, and through this explanation Untitled (LoverBoy) enters the mind and potentially life of yet another person.

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References:

Dietler, M. (2010) Consumption. In D. Hicks & M. Beaudry (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies (pp. 209-228). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Guggenheim. Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Collections Online. New York, NY. Guggenheim Museum. http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artists/bios/793/Felix%20GonzalezTorres

Keats, Jonathon. (Aug 30, 2012). How Felix Gonzalez-Torres Continues Making Art 16 Years After His Death. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2012/08/30/how-felix-gonzalez-torres-continues-making-art-16-years-after-his-death/#4734628963d3

Macdonad, Sharon. (1998). THe Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture. Lonton: Rootledge. 

https://www.mumok.at/en/events/expose-show-demonstrate-inform-offer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Future of Letterpress

The letterpress was incredibly influential, from its creation to today. However, it is outdated and impractical in comparison to mechanized printers of today. In comparison to electrical printers, the letterpress is slow, labor-intensive, and unnecessary. While there is no future for the letterpress in printing books, I believe there is an emerging and niche market for works made by a letterpress.

In our day, being unique is both praised and sought after. Being different is highly valued and everybody wants to stand out in one way or another. For this reason, I feel that the letterpress is not dead—that it is, in fact, making a comeback. As we saw in class, brides are turning to the letterpress as a means of printing their wedding invitations and letterpressed greeting cards are popping up in stores. People like options and choices, and the letterpress offers many choices that traditional printing today does not. Letterpress printing will continue as a viable commercial form because it allows for the personalization and customization that today’s consumer so appreciates.

This being said, I do not expect the market for letterpress printed objects to explode. I believe that it is currently, and will remain, a niche market for consumers who are aware of the printing process, value its artistic qualities, and have the ability to pay for it.IMG_5255

The Linotype as Revolutionary

A linotype is a massive machine that, when turned on, confronts its user with hissing, whirring, and clanking made by the various pulleys, bars, and levers that make up the machine. And if the noise and the complex parts aren’t daunting enough, the linotype also has a hidden compartment of molten hot lead prepared to squirt at the pull of a lever. To the average person today, the linotype looks like a terrifying appliance not to play around with; however, during its prime years, it was an incredibly powerful tool that increased the efficiency and accuracy of the letterpress. The linotype is, in actuality, very similar to the original method of hand-setting type; however, the linotype contains features that assure its dominance over previous methods of hand set type.

In hand-setting type, a worker would place individual letters, or movable type, into a bed on which the type would be pressed. While the actual printing was quick, the process of hand setting was incredibly time consuming. The letters were small, placed in individual boxes, and required being spelled backwards and upside down.

The linotype greatly eased the process of hand setting in many ways. First, a keyboard was introduced to the machine, so instead of searching through a box of letters, all a worker had to do was press the keys on the board and the letter would be placed on a bar in the order in which they were typed. The linotype further arranged the letters in the order they were typed in, leaving no room for errors such as misplacements or upside down letters. Similarly, when a line was complete, the machine would make a cast of the entire line in the hot lead from the machine. This prevented any further mistakes that could occur in the printing process, such as pieces popping out, falling down, or becoming jumbled. The linotype allowed a worker to type multiple lines a minute, where previously, speed was measured in how many minutes it took to set a line.

While the linotype can be considered to be an extension of hand-set type, it should not be thought of as an equal. The linotype is more accurate and much faster than previous methods of hand-set typing, and should be considered a great advancement in the history of printing.

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Handwriting to Letterpress: The Communication Revolution

Try to imagine what today’s world would look like if every book, document, and paper had to be hand-written instead of printed. This is the exactly how the world existed prior to 1452, the year the printing press was invented by Gutenberg. Today, the original process of printing via the printing press seems time consuming and labor-intensive. However, the printing press completely revolutionized communication and information exchange, and the world today would be a completely different place were it never created.

 

Before the invention of the printing press, books and documents were made by hand. This meant that every page of every copy of every “printed” object had to be physically hand-written, ink on paper. This process was incredibly time consuming and, because of that, lead to the production of very few written documents. Not only was the hand-written process of printing time consuming, it was also very expensive and was hence a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.

 

The printing press involved individual letters that were hand set into a plate, forming the body of the text. After a page was completed, the page could be printed an infinite number of times. While the initial hand-setting was slower than handwriting, the ability to copy the page over and over again led to the printing of far more documents than before. The printing press made the reproduction of texts and images extremely easy and sparked an explosion of written text.

 

The rapid expansion of printed documents meant that more people could get their hands on text and written work. This, then, lowered the price of those documents so less wealthy people were able to afford them as well. Literacy rates rose as people suddenly had the potential to own their own copies of text. Ideas could be shared more rapidly and with more people than ever before. The printing press was a remarkable invention that truly revolutionized communication and literacy rates.

 

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