top of page


Our collaborative texts use metaphor, poetics, history, cosmology, and science to triangulate a deeper understanding of the role of graphic expression to society at large. These texts represent the core of our conceptual and philosophical concern, which continues to be shaped and broadened with the creation of each new work. 

  • SZ040 — Carrier Shell: Image in/of/on/and the Built Environment
    1082 words ¶ ¶ Carrier Shell: Images on/in/of/ and the Built Environment ¶ [ Original format: 2021, 4-color Indigo printed booklet with 8 tip-ins in a mylar sleeve on the cover, 6 x 9 inches, first printing 100; Published by Sparkle Taffy and Sonnenzimmer; Exhibition History: Carrier Shell: Images on/in/of/ and the Built Environment, Sparkle Taffy, Camden, CT ] ¶ What relationship lies between humanity’s graphic output and our built environment? One doesn’t need to look far to find commonalities. Both rely on the careful ordering of material into form and on surfaces. But these are superficial qualities. The built environment augments the natural world to suit our needs and comfort. This has been beneficial in the development of humankind. The benefits of images are often more cerebral and harder to define in such physical terms. ¶ Generally, whereas buildings attempt to contain, images aim to reveal. Yet they are neither opposites nor co-conspirators. ¶ Buildings are essentially large containers. Images contain things, too. Yet what they contain is symbolic, often bigger than their scale. Perhaps the most striking difference is that images don’t hold meaning “inside” themselves as a building does. The meaning is stored in you, the viewer. We are the proxy storage units for an image’s content. Not just the images we’ve seen, but all images ever created, past, present, or future. That’s a lot to hold. ¶ Perhaps the built environment protects us in our most vulnerable moments, so we can maintain such precious cargo—our inner images, our collective history, our meaning. As we nestle inside buildings, meaning nestles inside us. ¶ Shelter is a primary need for humans. We are inextricably linked to our containers. So, does it follow that the built environment is our true exterior? Are we merely damp and fragile snails granted an occasional leave of absence? ¶ The carrier shell, a befuddling sea snail with unique behavior, permanently affixes discarded shells from other creatures onto itself. The arrangements are intentional, often beautiful, but their use is unclear. The metabiomorphic assemblage emits strange visual poetry, creating a gestalt somewhere between dominance, fear, and decoration. Ultimately, it seems to be uncanny proof of self-perception—a psycho-visual tuning of the creature’s exterior. ¶ Are there any correlations in the human domain, in our built environment, to the behavior of the carrier shell? Times Square, New York City, United States of America; Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow; Russia, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia; the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt; Taj Mahal, Agra, India. ¶ Some of the world’s most iconic constructions seem to have some commonalities with this behavior: repetition, self-reference, and accumulation. These structures are so iconic, that you may even be able to pull them from memory. ¶ Choose one from the list and picture it in your mind. ¶ Save it for later. ¶ We’ve explored a few metaphorical threads linking image and the built environment, but is there something that concretely links the two, a liminal space, so to speak? Perhaps the written word is the conduit, a coaxial, architectural structure that is both image and building combined. ¶ Like images, words store meaning. Like buildings, they inspire movement (of our eyes, mouths, tongues, and bodies). Words usher us forward, the point rarely being to stay put. Affecting movement away from themselves, this is the dominion of written words. ¶ Language doesn’t need script. However, once a script is formed, it must perpetuate its own existence to continue to be inscribed. Its structure is only activated if we pass through it, and when we do, a dimension is created. This dimension is a collapse of many possible values. It exists alongside other dimensions but is independent of them. For a dimension to exist beside others, its physical rules must remain consistent, imposing some kind of locality, from entropy to focus, a picture. That event has its own spatiality to the body, a complex system, yet it is quantifiable. Structure, as a dimension, is volatile. It bends and blends, and can act flat while having other properties. ¶ If we understand that the built environment is not only self-made, but a structural relational pattern for our perception to be in relation to our bodies and the bodies of others, then perhaps we can overcome the urge to step in, step up, or be atop. For domination or subjugation make little sense when the purpose is to bear witness. The total overlap of multiple dimensions inhabited by a body moving through space is to witness the very structure itself. ¶ Images are the facade of meaning; we are interior. ¶ Many of us privilege our visual field and equate it with an objective reality and truth. However, our retinal models of this shared traversable plane are incomplete at best. We don’t see everything. Our brain rapid-fire guesses to render a seamless image. Our area of focus is quite limited. Our highly developed brains simply fill in the gaps with saccadic masking and inference. ¶ This ability has been an effective tool for accessing and sculpting matter, exploring this planet, and beyond. Vision has given us agency to expand as a species, mastering the materials of our planet to better our lives. ¶ In doing so, we’ve filled our world with man-made objects. I sit here, typing on plastic keys, hands resting on a metal table, feet in my foam flip-flops atop a concrete floor, in a two-story brick building adjacent to a concrete street that connects miles of roadway traversing this continent. Literally, every object in my periphery was constructed by humans. For many of us, our visual process is not only human-centric guessing, our visual field is packed with objects created for the betterment of our existence. This charged reality, this picture, dictates our patterns of thought. ¶ If I put a table in the middle of a room, when people enter the room they will walk around it. Do we think about structure only when we are in motion? If you picture a table in your mind, can you walk through it or does it move with you? Now place your inner image of the Taj Mahal on the table. Imagine a slight drizzle begins to fall. ¶ In construction, there is always the idea of a foundation—a sealing from the “earth.” Pour a foundation, and upon that we construct. But when we need to construct something immediately, against the elements, we start from the top-down, fashioning a barrier to place above us, making us the thing between the earth and construction. — Carrier Shell: Images on/in/of/ and the Built Environment was authored, designed, and by Sonnenzimmer, and co-published with Alexander Valentine of Sparkle Taffy. Originally this text appeared alongside Nicole Bouchards’ essay Another Kind of Resource, and Bouchard’s and Milo Bonnaci’s collaborative monoprints, and Bonnaci’s drawing. This publication was launched in a collective effort, on the occasion of Carrier Shell: Images on/in/of/ and the Built Environment - Nikole Bouchard, Milo Bonacci, and Sonnenzimmer at Sparkle Taffy, New Camden, CT, October 9 - November 9, 2021. Editing assistance by Lauren Weinberg. Photography by Nathan Keay; This text follows the ongoing inquiries of Sonnenzimmer’s Graphic Arts Future. — ISBN: 978-1-7340734-3-0
  • SZ038 — Vertical Slice
    706 words ¶ ¶ Vertical Slice ¶ [ Original format: 2019, multi-color screen printed accordion fold booklet with magnetic, self closing clover, 4.5 x 6 inches, 40, signed and numbered, Publisher/ Sonnenzimmer, Exhibition History: Weinberg / Newton Gallery, Chicago, IL ] ¶ The back of your mind is the front of your soul. They’re different, but they touch. ¶ Neither is image or object, but both understand boundaries. Understanding a boundary is a step toward knowing a shape. ¶ Knowing a shape with your eyes is different from knowing a shape with your hands. Feeling an object’s weight is knowing gravity. If gravity is the curvature of space-time, then the force you feel when holding an object is time. Weight is time moving vertically. ¶ Holding a bag, you feel your own resolution. Gravity pulls on every cell, making your shoulders slump and your eyes drift. ¶ The outside world filters in through shapes. We hear through tunnels. We see through caves. The horizon is a foreshadowing of our own histology. It gets stuck in your eye. ¶ The eye is a curious instrument, mostly tucked away in your skull. Only a fraction touches the dry, stinging air. Ironically, the portion of your eye revealed is in proportion to the amount of time that you sleep. ¶ Our sense of space is our space of sense. ¶ This dichotomy is a collapse, a forced perspective. Yet in it, we dwell well. Mostly moving forward through space because that’s how we’re built. ¶ But why have we evolved so front-heavy? Why must we have a front at all? It seems limiting, even illogical, when we exist in the round. ¶ Our “highest” senses strapped together would seem to cast doubt on the expansiveness and shape of the real world, pointing our attention in just one direction at a time. ¶ The concept of arboreal locomotion posits that evolution of our forward-facing eyes enabled better visual perception of three-dimensional space. So a single vantage point and depth seem to be connected. One cannot experience depth without the simultaneous understanding of a fixed point in space. A single location implies other locations, yet space is continuous and porous. ¶ Gravity has been a constant external factor in the development of life on Earth. It is the silent editor of all shapes. The size of cells is directly related to the amount of gravitational force on Earth. [ 1 ] ¶ We all eventually reach some impending shape. The starfish, a pentagonal creature, emerges from a nonpentagonal basic form. [ 2 ] ¶ By observing a single star with two telescopes placed in different locations, scientists can detect the radius through differentials of the light transmitted to the individual instruments. An object’s shape travels with light. Yet no one would argue that the light emitted from the star is the star. The image inside the telescope is not substance, tangible, touchable; it can only be perceived. All images are like this. They do not exist in such physical terms. You cannot eat them. ¶ In the Navajo tradition, sand paintings meticulously created on the ground are called iikaah, “the place where gods come and go.” [ 3 ] These graphic works are part of healing rituals in which participants enter an image, sitting on it to be cured. This momentarily closes the gap between image and object. They are different, but they touch. [ 4 ] ¶ The aperture of a snail shell, the inherent distortions of a map. An image matrix, rows and columns, rhymeprose on a miniature landscape garden. ¶ — Vertical Slice was authored, designed, screen printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanshi, on the occasion of Return to the Everywhere at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, Chicago, IL, Januaary 24–April 4, 2020. Editing assistance by Irma Nuñez. This text follows the ongoing inquiries of Sonnenzimmer’s Graphic Arts Future. — ¶ [ 1 ] “Gravitational Biology.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2019, ¶ [ 2 ] Jenny, Hans. Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibrations. MACROmedia Publishing, 2001. ¶ [ 3 ] Pipes, Alan. Foundations of Art and Design, Laurence King Publishing, 2003. ¶ [ 4 ] Shiren, Kokan. Rhymeprose on a Miniature Landscape Garden, ca. 1300.
  • SZ036 — I’m Not Trying To Change Anything, I’m Just Changing"
    4431 Words ¶ ¶ I’m Not Trying To Change Anything, I’m Just Changing ¶ [ Original format: 2019, Edition of 250, 4-color screen-printed cover, digitally printed books, screen-printed LP, 12 x 12 inches, Publisher / Exhibition History: Sonnenzimmer / Public Works, Chicago, IL ] ¶ The impulse of communication. I’m not trying to say anything; I’m just saying. The impulse of play. I’m not trying to play anything; I’m just playing. The impulse of building. I’m not trying to build anything; I’m just building. The impulse of feeling. I’m not trying to feel anything; I’m just feeling. The impulse of destruction. When you look away, I know. The impulse of appearance. I’m not trying to fake anything; I’m just faking. The impulse of change. I’m not trying to change anything; I’m just changing. The impulse of order. I’m not trying to arrange anything; I’m just arranging. ¶ Weakness Concentration A spiderweb Water drops The melody of aluminum foil Making it flat ¶ As we formulate personalized views and definitions for our split identities, stuck between our anthropometric physical selves and digital avatars, the screen is where these poles briefly commingle–surrounded by omnipotent charged objects. ¶ This wave of technology offers new social bonds, not only between ourselves and others, but ourselves and ourselves (i.e. the digital accumulation of our identities). These new connections are not inherited by a normative narrative, but are defined by an incestuous creation of new ones. They bypass our outdated ideas of recognition, making our postnatal lived selves already a mythology. ¶ We can only imagine how humanity’s relationship to itself will unfold in the liminal space manifested by the duality of happenings (metaphysics) and defined outcomes (computation). Yet this is not a battle between us and technology. We are technology. Our built “technology” is just more of it. ¶ Perhaps it’s not so much about negotiating humanity within all of this, but finagling our existence within and adjacent to the rigid framework of computation. If we are transitional technology, will we accept that we are no more than wind, river, or an eraser? ¶ When holding an apple loosely, do you feel the gap between the cup of your hand and the fruit? Is that feeling as intense as a “bing” sound triggered by an incoming e-mail? Can you even locate a gap between your skin and the skin of the apple? Is this feeling as precise as the gesture used when scrolling down a mobile phone? Both are at once perceivable and phantom. ¶ If the human condition is tied to thinking with our hands, the impending kinesthetic haptic interfaces will agent a new state—an effervescent surface between ourselves and ourselves. ¶ There is a gap between your skin and the apple. This is the “bing” of spatial neglect. [ 1 ] Clasping the fruit, take note that this space will soon be defined by math and owned by someone. All space will be mapped through a history of movement—one that isn’t yours. Once the valleys between mapping you, the prediction of you, and the framework of you have collapsed, you will finally be able to move freely, all possibilities defined. Thanks to infinity, it will be finite. After all, infinity is collapsed into a single character, ∞.[ 2 ] This collapse will find all Futurisms prostrating into a plane. No matter how utopian, angelic, divine, mythological, or rational they may be—calibration awaits them all. ¶ As digital screens continue to eclipse our visual field, we remember that they are just another reflection. [ 3 ] As they evolve into haptic, kinesthetic interfaces, we will be able to touch the shadow of a tree on a grassy slope, yet feel a pineapple. ¶ In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, deep inside the Earth, immobile captives are chained facing a cave wall. They are led to believe that the shadows cast in front of them form the only reality. When one captive escapes to the outside, they are overwhelmed by what they find: full-bodied and colorful objects. Shadows were mere approximations of this tangible world. Enlightened and inspired by this newfound knowledge, they return to their counterparts to share and set them free. Inside the cave, the enlightened describes their findings to the others. Chained, confused, and ignorant, the captives deem their would-be savior mad and promptly kill them. ¶ Our current visual field is, of course, also an approximation. As the contemporary tide between an incoming new visual perception and the memory of perception is overexposed, what might our collective reception yield? With all space owned, mapped, and quantified into a knowable plane, our screens will eventually merge with the physical world and they will become a traversable whole—physically and metaphorically. When you can touch any image and that experience can render the sensation of any object, touch and image will have reached a new found hyperconnectivity. Will they merge into a new state altogether, or just be redundant? Can redundancy survive computation? Can redundancy even survive evolution? If touch and vision are two sides of one coin, what happens when the coin is removed? Are we facing an imageless and unfelt future? ¶ For now, we may be transitional technology, but we are also in transition. Our bodies are the most recent testing ground for a deeply rooted human condition to manipulate, forge, and reassemble, but it’s taken time to get to here. Early humans were forced to reach out to their immediate surroundings, nature, for sustenance. A mix of hunting and gathering kept us fed and dictated our diasporic migrations. Soon though, we not only picked from nature, we began to actively manipulate (cultivate) it, bending it to our will through the domestication of plants and animals, using repurposed and rearranged resources (tools) to aid us. Nature had shifted from provider to renewable resource. Simultaneously, we changed our physical environment through building: reconfiguring nature’s shapes to suit our own particular needs. We explored the macrocosmic and microcosmic applications of structural reconfiguration, harnessing and recombining the very building blocks and processes of nature. Cities were raised; rivers were reversed. On a microcosmic level, chemistry led us to the first believable reproductions of nature and ourselves, through painting and later photography. This encounter quickly forged the graphic arts as the battleground for self-perception as individuals and society. Our harnessing of nature was getting tangibly close to our person. The creation of the picture plane, our representation of ourselves, became the meeting point for humanity’s self-value, the pinnacle of enlightenment, both the representation of the search for meaning and the search itself. Obviously a dead end. We’ve now shifted our attention to our personhood, identity, and our own bodies. The “given” is now being reshaped and reassembled, harnessed to suit our spirit. What happens when human nature surpasses the human body? ¶ Our social collectivity is also reorganizing itself. The superstructure is currently under construction. The warp and weft of our social fabric have suspended cooperation. To understand this unraveling, we must dismantle the inner images we carry. ¶ Remember, the warp and weft are always at odds. ¶ To accrue new insights, we must comprehend the phenomenological overlay between our outer and inner images, how this fabric swaddles our collectivity, revealing its vague form, only to discard it. ¶ What if discarding our inner billboards, counter displays, screensavers, postcards, refrigerator magnets, and memory sticks means a new collectivity could exist–one beyond projections and storage? ¶ As you enter this thought garden, mind the gaps; mind the weeds, but do take a moment to sit and say hi to the milkweed and the coneflower. Close your eyes. Enveloped in darkness, this state is an image and an object. Both are you. ¶ Clasp your hands: this is only an illusion of connection. You are already whole. With your eyes still closed, imagine that you’re an apple. Which part of you is the stem? If I tell you the stem is your leg, do you feel upside-down? There is an orientation in our inner images. They reflect the laws of the natural world, yet they operate in a separate plane. ¶ Picture a mirror. ¶ Do you see your own reflection in it? My imagined mirror has a brown wooden frame and a vague reflection of a room with no discernible features. I think I see the ceiling, and maybe the wall. The mirror is straight ahead of me, but I’m not reflected. My prototypical “inner” mirror ignores the very essence of its mirror-ness. But it’s not the mirror that doesn’t function. It’s me. ¶ There is an orientation to my inner image. There is observation, but no observer. ¶ [ illustration ] [ sand ] ¶ Let’s move into the physical world for a moment. ¶ Look: a tree. ¶ [ illustration ] [ or mirror ] [ centered ] ¶ Place your inner image of the apple there for now. A shadow is cast on a grassy field. ¶ [ illustration ] [ contention ] [ acceptance ] ¶ A reflection appears on a nearby pond. ¶ Our visual field is crowded with many representations of a single object as if light renders discrete versions of reality each time its path is disturbed—simulacra removed from objecthood. These real and virtual images reveal something about the nature of perception, objects, and light. If light manifests simulations of physical reality (images) each time its path is disturbed through blocking, reflecting, or refracting, then our visual field is not only determined by light but equally by light’s limitations—what it can and can’t do. ¶ [ illustration ] [ presence ] ¶ For a moment, let’s think of light as simply energy. Energy doesn’t care if it produces an image or not. Images are simply a side effect. Our visual system evolved to take advantage of this phenomenon. Vision is not inherent to reality; it was just advantageous for us—and many other species—to develop for survival. If imaging is a side effect of energy that we’ve evolved to utilize, then the real and virtual images that light creates reveal more about our own visual system than about light itself. ¶ Images are not a property of light per se. They are a limitation of light that we are privy to perceiving, due to our adaptations as a species. Its ramifications are too stark, too innumerable, too ingrained in all fibers of human development to unravel. However, what we can digest is the development of our own tendency toward imaging, how images connect with physical reality, and how they are linked to our inner lives and inner images. ¶ Our visual system emerged to take advantage of energy emitted from the sun. “Light” renders objects perceivable without us touching them. When this light is disturbed—reflected, blocked, refracted—a secondary “imaging” of reality is projected onto the first. Our visual field is covered with meta-images. ¶ [ illustration ] [ rationale ] ¶ Human images and our graphic impulses function much the same way. At some point in our development, an intellectual threshold was met, someone made the first mark, and we as a species realized that images can be used as traversable simulations for collectivity. Like our visual system, in a relatively short time span, human images have evolved from stenciled hands-on cave walls to the refinement of perspective in the Middle Ages, to the development of photography in the nineteenth century, to the mechanization and proliferation of images soon afterward, to the motion graphics of today, and the impending virtual and augmented reality of tomorrow. Our graphic precedents evolved hand in hand with our development. ¶ [ illustration ] [ convention of depth ] ¶ At the beginning of human image-making, the point, line, and plane were the most basic elements of image construction. [ illustration ] [ the eye of nothing ] ¶ Some time later, photography surpassed the capabilities of these elements, for a more realistic or “elastic” depiction of reality. ¶ [ illustration ] [ check back later ] ¶ However, as a society, we have not abandoned graphic expression; we continue to utilize points, lines, and planes for their precision in creating letterforms, and ability to depict abstract concepts more precisely than the specificity of photographic representation. ¶ Our contemporary graphic landscape takes full advantage of photographic rendering, graphic forms, and fluid motion for a supercharged and super-packed condensation of layered representability. Our simulacra are more believable and more ubiquitous than ever before. After all, right now, there are over eight billion screens on Earth, half a billion more screens than human beings. [ 4 ] Video and motion graphics are increasingly integrated into our devices and our social graphic web. ¶ [ illustration ] [ prosthesis ] ¶ “Moving images” merely take advantage of our limitations of vision to simulate fluid motion. Truly moving human- generated images do not yet exist. All video and computer motion graphics rely on a rapid-fire succession of still images, which trick our eyes into perceiving motion. ¶ [ illustration ] [ soot ] ¶ With human graphics evolving, it seems inevitable that the point, line, and plane that defined our most archaic graphic expression may be evolving too. If the point, line, and plane were developed to simulate form in space, to create an image, a static simulation of reality, moving images do the same with the added dimension of time. Not surprisingly, all screen-based motion graphics are merely multicolored lines redrawing a scene line by line from left to right, at a speed our eyes cannot detect (60x a second). While Euclidean postulates may still be intact, it’s clear that our image-making is increasing, and the nature of those images has fundamentally changed. ¶ Our visual systems take advantage of the limitations of light, so it seems fitting that our graphic expression takes advantage of the limitations of our own vision. And with that, perhaps motion graphics are slowly becoming a new base unit of graphic expression, surpassing the point, line, plane—an upgrade. ¶ [ illustration ] [ tile aisle ] ¶ Motion surpassing stasis seems logical. But, what are the ramifications of a graphic web, a graphic social fabric defined by both a contemporary and primordial multiplicity? Fragmentation? Multiple collectivities? Or worse yet, no grounding at all? ¶ No matter what the medium, for ideas to transfer through graphics, from one to human to another, they rely on the negotiation with a collective “inner image.” ¶ a tree. bark. a dog. dog bark tree tree bark dog ¶ Our inner images have an orientation. There is fluidity; there is a suspension. Yet there is no distance, no physical laws. Graphics are where our inner images and real images commingle. Unlike these inner images, physical images must obey the rules of nature. Yet something funny happens when our human-made graphics greet the physical world. They create a third space between our interior selves and the external world, a collective environment, a spider web with raindrops. ¶ [ illustration ] [ hearth ] ¶ Imagine a rainbow in an open field stretching over the tree from before. Rainbows are caused by the sun’s rays refracting in moisture—often rain—suspended in the air. Always opposite the sun, the center of the rainbow is called the antisolar point. Rainbows are merely partially obscured full circles (themselves images of the sun). Their iconic arch shape is caused by the sun’s rays being partially blocked by Earth. ¶ One by one, remove the individual colors of the rainbow until only a single red band remains. Let the single red band fade slowly to black. A simple black line over the open field. ¶ All rainbows are of the same angular size (how large a sphere or circle appears from a given point of view); only the position of the sun and their surrounding context makes them appear larger or smaller. Let the sky and field fade away until you are left with only a simple black arch. Take note of the background color of your inner image. Mine is white. ¶ Much as the creation of human-made images, inner or outer, takes processing power, images rendered by computation and visualized on graphic user interfaces require processing as well. In the virtual space, graphics are split into two categories, pixel-based and vector-­based. “Pixel,” short for “picture element”, denotes the smallest element making up an image. When seen in combination, these colored squares form a larger seamless image. Vector-based graphics connect a series of points, lines, and curves on an X/Y axis to produce hard-edged images. These images are scalable without losing any detail or resolution, as the lines and curves are dictated by math rather than individual building blocks. Like a map versus actual land. ¶ Vector-based graphics were first widely used in the Semi-­Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE): a system used by the United States government during the Cold War to create a virtual visual representation of the entire airspace of America, powered by what was the largest computer ever built. Combining radar and telecommunications data, SAGE produced a virtual environment on interactive displays. [ 5 ] In effect, vector graphics were developed to create a simulation of the sky. Despite its militaristic genealogy, there’s something poetic about this notion—scalable graphics defining something as scalable as the sky. ¶ Pixels are somehow more rational, more object than sky. In pixel-based graphics, the more pixels that make up an image, the more detailed it is; the higher the resolution, the larger the image’s data. Low-resolution images are made up of fewer pixels, and often look “pixelated.” This means the pixels making up the image are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. ¶ Data size aside, a curious thing happens when digital images interface with the physical world. Comparing two of our black rainbows of equal size, one printed at 1,000 dots per inch (dpi) and the other at only 100 dpi, you’ll notice a striking change. The lower-dpi rainbow (on the left), while occupying the same amount of visual space as the high-resolution image (on the right), is “longer” due to its stair-stepping makeup. Imagine how much longer traversing its jagged linear path might take. ¶ [ illustration ] [ phantom limb ] ¶ In this case, the “same” image produced with fewer dpi is somehow “more.” It confronts my own personal ideas of resolution. If more detail takes more data, yet less data takes more time to traverse, what are the ramifications in the physical world? Does it then take more processing power from the viewer to “perceive,” a simple energy displacement. In essence, there is a breakdown of values, perhaps a threshold of reversal where the virtual and physical zip between logics. In the virtual world, no two points are further apart from the other. Their coordinates might indicate distance, but it doesn’t take the computer “longer” to “get to” one point or another. Our physical images and the world they represent play by a different set of rules. ¶ The camera obscura. ¶ If rainbows are simply phenomena of light, let’s think of the camera obscura, which produces an equally fascinating phenomenon. In the camera obscura, light travels through a tiny hole in a darkened room to ­produce an inverted image, a simulation, of the adjacent scene. ¶ [ illustration ] [ please ] ¶ The camera obscura mimics the way in which our pupils and retina work before the incoming images are “processed.” Being inside a camera obscura is as close as many of us will ever get to a sub-ocular experience of image. ¶ [ illustration ] [ tease ] ¶ With this corporeal knowledge in mind, we pose a simple question. Small openings allow focused light to seep in, creating an inverted simulation under the right physical circumstances. Do the pores of our skin and the darkened interiors of our bodies do the same? Imagine your body filled with thousands of inverted projections of the world around you, light entering and twisting through each pore. Now imagine traversing the vector of the pixelated rainbow, as images manifest through your pores to your innards. Keep in mind that your body and the social network in which you exist are fundamentally in flux. Do this, and we are getting closer to the nature of images, human-made graphics, and their relation to humankind. ¶ 100,000 dpi is the theoretical maximum resolution of images. Anything higher would force the light waves refracting from individual points of the image to interfere with one another so that the image loses clarity. In 2012, scientists were able to achieve images printed at 100,000 dpi through a technique involving colored gas emitted from microscopic metal deposits. [ 6 ] These images are so small that, in theory, the average person could fit every photo they’ve ever taken onto a single playing card printed using this technique. [ 7 ] ¶ [ illustration ] [ field coup ] ¶ Our simulations are reaching an unprecedented level of detail, pushing the conceptual and physical limits of perception. The physical and the virtual are now becoming indistinguishable and symbiotic, adding a complex layer to our coveted rationality. ¶ [ illustration ] [ bass ] ¶ The superstructure is currently under construction, yet our inner images remain intact. ¶ In the eighteenth century, poets, scientists, musicians, and painters struggled to find common ground on how to understand the natural world. They seemed to feel a postindustrial existence was an evident future. The rationalists thought to grasp nature through proving concepts and theses. The empiricists were firm in the belief that we were born into nature and our senses are true, thus measuring observation through experiment is the only burden to carry. Romantics believed that only by looking at nature in unison shall there be harmony going forward. ¶ The graphic knowledge of that time, so tied to the development of printing and the availability of energy and paper, is a history of violence. The knowledge factory itself is problematic, but if we pass our eyes to the aftermath, to the tree stumps left in its wake, we hear faintly in our imagination the guzzle of gas, the sounds of heavy machinery, the shouts of workers. Even after a tree is harvested, its concentric rings, grown a year at a time, still tell us something. A song? A warning? A chemical release? It should strike us that a dead tree is still communicating with us. ¶ [ illustration ] [ memory ] ¶ The daze you experience looking at the dendrographic circles is a temporal gap between then and now. Scan freely the spiraling impression, liberated from yourself, there is only to realize there is nothing further. ¶ In this moment, there is no expansion and no removal from a relative point in space. All possibilities are accessible, there is no future, just space. What if graphic notation is the counter of relative reference, staring at you from the other side? A bridge maintaining the tension between reversal and forthrightness? ¶ Girdling, or ring-barking, is the removal of a strip of bark from the entire circumference of a tree trunk or branch, dividing the tree from its nutrient sources. It is a violent way to thin forests. The tree still gets water, so it can maintain itself for a while before eventually dying off. Grafting is a “more” gentle way to introduce a laceration into a branch, to insert another species into it. Forcefully binding them together will create a hybrid species. ¶ [ illustration ] [ ilk ] [ ilk branch ] ¶ The sign reads “Under Construction.” ¶ The American octagonal “stop” sign wasn’t always red. It wasn’t always an octagon, either. It was initially a yellow square. Its first recorded use was in 1915, in Detroit, Michigan. [ 8 ] As national and local highway agencies pushed for standardization, the octagon shape emerged as the most effective for indication. Its now-familiar graphic impression helped prevent uncertainty and confusion, then and now. Ubiquity and specificity are interchangeable. ¶ These two examples, girdling and the stop sign, involve an intervention followed by the implementation of a sort of pangraphic decision. An all-encompassing intrusion through the means of graphic involvement. ¶ [ illustration ] [ reboot ] ¶ The celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere at which the observer is the center, and in which all objects lie. The center is inherently static. Step outside the center and into the fabric, into the objects, and the flow. Graphic intervention can have a fatal outcome, but stasis is more depleting. Graphic conventions foreshadow the future because the future is only space. Graphic responsibility comes with graphic conventions. Look down, look up, look inward, look out. Welcome to the great planes. ¶ — I’m Not Trying to Change Anything, I’m Just Changing was authored, designed, and published by Sonnenzimmer and was produced on the occasion of the exhibition I’m Not Trying to Change Anything, I’m Just Changing at Public Works Galery, Chicago, IL 2019. The publication was partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. ISBN 978-1-7340734-0-9¶ — [ 1 ] We are not using this terminology in the medical sense. Spatial neglect is also known as a syndrome that follows a stroke on the right side of the brain. People who have experienced this sometimes fail to be aware of objects to their left. ¶ [ 2 ] An example of the capacity of the graphic state, namely a single glyph holding an infinite state into a finite one. ¶ [ 3 ] Images on screens are redrawn between 50 and 60 times per second, in essence, pumping out the same image thousands of times in what we register as a single impression. ¶ [ 4 ] Shawn DuBravac, “How Many Screens Are There in the World?” (January 27, 2016), Accessed February 4, 2019. ¶ [ 5 ] Wikipedia, s.v. “Semi-Automatic Ground Environment,” last modified March 2, 2020, 05:02, ¶ [ 6 ] Duncan Geere, “100,000 DPI Image Tests Limits of Resolution,” Wired UK (August 13, 2012), ¶ [ 7 ] Tim Barribeau, “Researchers Print 100,000 DPI Image, Nearly the Highest Possible Resolution Scientifically Feasible,” Popular Photography (August 14, 2012), ¶ [ 8 ] Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubenstein, “The Stop Sign Wasn’t Always Red,” The New York Times Magazine (December 9, 2011),
  • SZ035 — Coneflower
    1616 words ¶ ¶ Cone Flower ¶ [ Original format: 2019, laser printed, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, Publisher: Sonnenzimmer ] ¶ The archaic is archival is primi- tive is universal is transferra- ble to the per- sonal. ¶ Listening and Machines. ¶ Photosynthet- ic properties are close to the generative form of screen print- ing. ¶ [ image ] ¶ An average tree has 200,000 leaves. You might be just a leaf. A branch. A bird on a branch, looking at the sky. ¶ An understand- Ing of time comes from feeling distance. ¶ [ image ] Macro to micro —being a space, being the force. ¶ Liquid - flat - ob- ject - flat - ob- ject ¶ [ image ] ¶ Navigate chaos as a form of gratitude to- wards the universe. ¶ Pigment under- standing comes from your body. You mix color with your hand. ¶ [ mirrored text ] ¶ Material sur- face properties are your collab- orators. You are not printing over them, they are carrying you and your ideas of self-real- ization through actual- ization. Creation comes from two sur- faces interact- ing and touch- ing. How you touch materi- als is in direct relation to how you make your Images. ¶ [ image ] ¶ [ text white on black ] ¶ This is not a poem, but what I SEAS. ¶ This is not a poem. ¶ Screenprint Silk Silk screenprint Serigraphy Mitography ¶ Screen printing is an agglomerative story of contributions and one of great pauses. Many argue that the “conceptual” origin of the process, a stencil-based application for printing, can be traced back to ancient stenciled cave paintings. Others trace the origin to the production of medieval playing cards via the pochoir technique [ 1 ] or to the Japanese kimono production of Ise-katagami. [ 2 ] Certainly, the development of the process has been a meandering journey with no clear throughline. In more recent years, the first patents for the screen printing process (as we know it today) emerging around 1870-ish on, that journey has continued its meandering trajectory, swaying between mechanical and chemical approaches to the process alongside a race for patents, presses, and ink. For that reason, it’s no surprise that the name of the process has fluctuated as much as the process itself. ¶ Those reading this are probably aware that the process has been called many things over the years. I’m sure some of us still call it by different names. So, I suppose the real question is who stands to benefit from the usage and coining of these different names? One way to triangulate an answer is to question how formally naming something connects back to a colloquial oral tradition. Once a word manifests itself into written form, does it still maintain a direct line to the object it describes? In the case of screen printing, in my opinion, any name has a hard time holding its ground. After all, the process possesses a visceral-haptic-visual power in its unnamed Gestalt, one that supersedes bookish adherence to terminology in seconds. In screen printing the ink is so vicious, the application so thinks, the senses of seeing and touch collapse. More than most print processes, you can “feel” the ink by just looking at it. ¶ Poetic understandings aside, the name that makes me cringe is serigraphy. Derived from Latin and Greek, it translates to “to draw/print with silk.” [ 3 ] Whenever I hear this word, my inner punk alarm clock just goes off. I become suspicious of the motive of such a declaration. Why use it, when you can just say screen printing. The attempt feels perpendicular to the accessibility and directness of the medium. When I hear screen printing I feel something. When I hear serigraphy, I feel nothing—except the cringing inner punk alarm clock, beep beep. For me, the inherent properties and advantages of many graphics techniques lie in the foreshortening of the space between your reaction and your knowledge. Graphic glory means that the space between reading and seeing, feeling and thinking collapse, thought worlds melt into a reactive bodily condition. This real-time overlap results in a mesmerizing state of being. We are bouncing off the walls of the graphic impulse. To position that space away from the viewer,—isn’t that besides the mechanics of it all? So forgive me, when I snoot, snot, and ruffle myself into a punk frenzy. ¶ While we are talking about this whole Greek and Latin thing, we might as well look at a lesser known term that followed the same logic, one that you may not have encountered yet, namely mitography. It was Albert Kosloff (1911–1993), educator and printer, who coined the term during WWII. [ 4 ] ¶ “Mitos”, a Greek prefix, meaning threads or fibers, and the suffix “graphein” meaning to write or print (so “writing with fiber”) form this term. For me, mitography is a much more comprehensive and concise word than serigraphy, if it weren’t so off-putting in its intellectual zeal. Before immigrating to the U.S., Kosloff held a screen printing demo at the Amerika Haus in Berlin around 1920. Mind that in 1920’s screen-printing was still in its infancy. [ 5 ] The Velvetone Poster Company of San Francisco (1913), for example, was struggling to perfect the ink viscosity, yet printing presses were already being built despite the lack of ink supply. [ 6 ] Kosloff, who eventually settled in the Midwest and taught at Roosevelt High School in Chicago, was known for his experimental approach to materials working to close the gap between art and industry. Just take a look at Mr. Kosloff’s publications: Celluloid Etching (1940), Mitography, The Art and Craft of Screen Process Printing (1952), The Art and Craft of Screen Process Printing (1960), Ceramic Screen Printing (1962), Elementary Silk Printing (1964), Textile Screen Printing (1966), Screen Process Printing (1964), Screen Printing Electronic Circuits (1968), Photographic Screen Process Printing (1968), Screen Printing Techniques (1980), Textile /Garment Screen Printing (1980) and then let’s return to the term mitography. It seems to me that Kosloff’s word choice was routed in deep material observations and explorations with a clear grasp that the medium was extremely versatile. His understanding of the process goes beyond a specific material, such as silk. Kosloff chose “fiber” as the root of his terminology, and that choice is telling. With so much attention historically given to the stencil as the “important” factor in screen printing, I feel we’ve been swayed from the real innovation. Clearly, stencils date back to millennia, there is no innovation there. A stencil is a stencil is a stencil, but the adherence of a stencil to fiber, that is the innovation. Perhaps screen printing’s inherent power is not about the stencil at all, but the uncharted properties of a “graphic filament” (you read it here). Kosloff was onto something! ¶ A “graphic filament” allows for permeable structure (the screen), one that is both there and not there, that allows transferences of the form (through shaping ink), yet doesn’t obscure it (when things are going well, anyways). So mitography, all greek and Latin aside, gets to the heart of the process’s inherent power, in both concept and application. ¶ The term Serigraphy, on the contrary, was intended to separate the process from more industrious uses. It was invented by artist and printer Anthony Velonis (1911–1997), [ 7 ] and popularized by curator and print scholar Carl Zigrosser (1891–1975). [ 8 ] While the attempt to divide the ocean of print between industrial and artistic production was successful to some point, let’s not forget, it also reinforced the divide between creation and service, art and design, etc. Far worse though, it made us illiterate to power structures behind the production. And perhaps that is the deepest disservice at the core of it. ¶ Call it what you will, the process in question has an indescribable appeal and use in the contemporary landscape. Etsy shops are full of screenprints and computers used to purchase from them are full of screen-printed components. If you find yourself navigating the oceans of print, confused or conformed to the shapes given by names. I offer a new term (: ¶ * > :: [ Source Exposure Art Screen. ¶ What you SEAS, is what you get! Many holes make it complete. ¶ — Cone Flower was authored, designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi on the occasion of the course Screen Printing: Improvisation and Control at Ox-Bow School of Art, Summer 2019, Saugatuck, MI. This is not a poem, but what I SEAS by Nadine Nakanishi, was originally printed in Power Washer Zine, No. 6. ¶ — [ 1 ] “Vibrant Visions: Pochoir in the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library,” Smithsonian Libraries, accessed January 10, 2020, ¶ [ 2 ] Elaine Evans Dee and Thomas S. Michie, eds., Kata-gami: Japanese Stencils in the Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1979). ¶ [ 3 ] From Latin: sēricum, silk; from Greek: graphos (something) drawn or written, one who draws or writes. ¶ [ 4 ] Mathilda V. Schwalbach and James A. Schwalbach, Silk-Screen Printing for Artists and Craftsmen (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1980). ¶ [ 5 ] “Albert Kosloff,” Who’s Who in Screenprinting, accessed January 10, 2020, ¶ [ 6 ] Guido Lengwiler, A History of Screen Printing (Cincinnati: ST Media Group International Inc., 2013). ¶ [ 7 ] “Interview with WPA silkscreen artist Tony Velonis (1994),” Library of Congress, accessed January 10, 2020, ¶ [ 8 ] “Serigraphy,” The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art, 1st ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • SZ031 — Shape Song
    1828 Words¶ ¶ Shape Song ¶ [ Original format: 2018, Edition of 25, 1-color screen-printed book, Cast plastic with screen print transfer, sourced envelopes, 6 x 8.5 inches, Publisher / Exhibition History: Sonnenzimmer / Hatch Show Print, Nashville, TN ] ¶ Graphics and music derive from the same source. Whether it’s paper, a screen, or even projected light, ¶ all graphics are bound to a surface. ¶ Music, though often associated with invisible waves flying through the air, is bound to surfaces as well. After all, sound originates from the vibrations of surfaces—think of a large gong or vo- cal cords. These vibrating surfaces disturb the air pressure around them, forming sound waves. These waves are only “heard” when inter- cepted by tiny hairs—receptors—in the eardrums of humans and animals, which send signals to the brain to form discernible “sounds.” Music can be described as the organization of sounds. So, does it follow that music is also the organization of surfaces? surfaces? surfaces? surfaces? ¶ When a moving object travels faster than the sound waves it produces, it breaks the sound barrier, resulting in an aural event called a sonic boom. The sound waves produced omnidirectionally by the speeding object that can’t keep up, squishing together into a single large wave at the front of the object. This “shock wave” produces an extremely loud cracking sound. surfaces? surfaces? surfaces? surfaces? Surfaces? If graphics and sound both derive from surfaces, is there potential for a physical or conceptual corollary to the sonic boom in our perception of graphics? Is there a graphic shock wave? A graphic boom? Graphics travel by waves too—light waves that reflect off surfaces and eventually catch our eyes. ¶ When light is slowed through refraction in controlled environments, nuclear technology can accelerate particles beyond this slowed light speed, creating a glowing blue light known as Cherenkov radiation. The mechanics of this phenomenon are similar in nature to a sonic boom’s. ¶ Yet it’s not the speeding light waves that carry a graphic’s meaning. It’s more the cognitive process of decrypting its lines, shapes, and colors through our visual lexicon. So, what hap- pens when the mean- ing that a graphic car- ries changes faster than the fixed image it’s bound to, ¶ or when graphics change too quickly for us to keep up? ¶ Don’t our contemporary digital networks and graphic user interfaces already allow graphics to do such things? If a single image can be in two places at once, its fixed meaning must travel faster than the surfaces it inhabits. If you visit your grandmother in Ohio and your cousin in Istanbul on the same day, you are most likely moving at a faster speed than they are. Logical puzzles aside, this graphic phenomenon is nothing new. Since the proliferation of print and the mechanization of the human graphic impulse, we are in a constant state of multiplicity, like wearing a bib of mirrors. In fact, it’s not unheard-of for the same graphic to carry two different meanings mere millimeters apart. The Nuremberg Chronicle (Germany, 1493), one of the earliest surviving printed books merging movable type and images, is famous for using 53 woodcut cityscapes interchangeably to represent 101 different important places in the Holy Roman Empire. It used several portraits interchangeably as well. [ 1 ] Though print technology was new, the author, publishers, artists, and printers responsible for these decisions must have intuited that the meaning of an image is interchangeable depending on context. Their execution demonstrated that the ideas of Paris and Venice could be represented by the same woodcut without confusing the viewer. In this case, the semiotic of the graphic literally shifted from Venice to Paris in just a few pages. ¶ Was the visual explosion that followed the birth of print around the fifteenth century a sustained anomaly akin to the sonic boom? Perhaps, like sound, graphics only “exist” once they are processed or perceived. ¶ If two trees fall in the woods, landing on top of one another perpen- dicularly, do they make a picture? Only when observed can these fallen trees suggest to the viewer an x. ¶ Sonic booms are continuous, yet they appear as singular events. So, what could a conceptual graphic boom look or feel like? Is it equally continuous, only spiking when perceived? Is this broken graphic barrier we’re hypothesizing merely the sustained cognitive dissonance we experience when we sense a discrepancy between reality and our graphic landscape —between our experience and its representation— ¶ [ Branch depiction, each branch represents one book of the edition that has a sculptural branch ] ¶ knowing Paris and Venice can’t possibly be the same? ¶ Per haps graph- ics create microrealities once perceived. Maybe in this microre- ality, for a sonic sec- ond, Paris and Venice are the same, and thus the graphic barrier is broken. In the publication Café Avatar, we argue that human graph- ics are camouflage used to transmit knowl- edge. The cosmic tension felt when Paris and Venice are coded using the same camouflage, the same woodcut, eventually meets a threshold in our pro- cessor. If our graphic landscapes generate multitudes of realities deriving from our contemporary tendency to exist in both a corporeal realm and the extended graphic skin provided by our interfaces and digital networks, when does the threshold break? ¶ It could be said that the written word transformed human interaction from an orally to a visually oriented society. Spoken words conjure shared concepts for the speaker and listener. The transition to written language was a shift towards passive storage, made possible by a graphic interface-—words. This storage was an evolutionary merger of humans’ innate graphic and verbal impulses. Following the birth of print, this passive storage for knowledge increased significantly. Printing enabled the rapid multiplication of access points to this stored knowledge. Thus, knowledge, a fixed entity, literally traveled faster than ever before. Where sound waves have crests and troughs, perhaps a conceptual “graphic wave” might look like this: ¶ Meaning Meaning Meaning Symbol Symbol Meaning 1.0 Meaning 1.0 Meaning 2.0 Symbol Symbol MeaniMeaniMeaning 2.0 SymSymbol ¶ Unlike sound, meaning/knowledge can change faster than material properties, and as the graphic symbol speeds forward, inhabiting several meanings, something funny happens: this conceptual wave collapses, creating a cognitive anomaly felt by anyone observing the access point. ¶ Multiplicity was not the only addition the mechanical age brought to the graphic landscape. The aesthetics that the printing process and its related material imposed dictated how our information looked and felt. The matrices of print—carved and etched surfaces covered with ink and pressed upon paper—shaped how we conceived of the world as well as our collective knowledge. Artists learned to exploit the surface of wood, copper, and other materials. Our visual culture was forged by the limitations of the properties of these surfaces, the dexterity of the artist’s hand, and the machines that aided them. ¶ If the mechanization of the human graphic impulse allowed us to store and access knowledge from far greater points, simultaneously connecting our stored knowledge to a form-language determined as much by machines and material as by human hands, what has the digitization of the human graphic impulse brought? ¶ If written language shifted storage of knowledge from the human brain to the graphic interface of words, and printing gave that knowledge exponentially more access points through exactly reproducible images and text, the digitization of our graphic impulse has shifted the storage of knowledge from graphic carriers to bits, electrical charges, which can not only create graphics autonomously but learn and adapt. With each further abstraction or iteration of knowledge, do we risk corrupting meaning? Are we not living through an intense and sustained graphic shockwave? ¶ “Cymatics,” [ 2 ] a term coined by Swiss scientist Hans Jenny, describes the study of the visual patterns that appear on the surfaces of substances when they are vibrated by sound waves. These symmetrical visual displays have been studied since the 1600s. Simply put, the invisible vibrations we experience as sound waves manifest in materials. Sound organizes these materials based on the properties of the material vibrating and the vibrations emanating from the agitated surface that creates the sound. ¶ The way the images appear during the cymatic experience of surfaces vibrating seems to point towards an inherent cosmic geometry within the sound wave itself, yet looks are deceiving. The patterns created by vibrations derive from active and inactive areas of the resonating material surfaces and how the incoming vibrations affect them. For example, Ernst Chladni’s famous figures resulted from sand accumulating in nonvibrating portions of the resonating plate, called nodes. So, the images appearing in his cymatic experiments are less a visualization of a sound than of the interaction between two materials: the surface creating the vibration, and the surface vibrating. If sound is created by surfaces, perhaps cymatics are an example of nature’s graphic impulse: an autonomous graphic language describing these two surfaces interacting. ¶ And if nature is talking, we should probably listen. In Café Avatar, we posit the connection between manmade graphics and those found in nature on the skins, fur, or feathers of animals, or in the coloration of plants. “Graphics are animal. Graphics are vegetable,” we state in the publication’s introduction. We argue that the natural world has utilized graphics far longer than we humans. ¶ This train of thought led us to theorize that graphics are not just innate in living things but that an autonomous graphic impulse can be found in matter. If graphics create micro realities, perhaps this replication/duplication/reflection is the metaphorical essence of matter itself. If an electron can be in two states at once and only chooses a state once “observed,” perhaps this choice is the graphic impulse. Sure, it’s a stretch to connect our tendencies to condense human knowledge into an observable, tangible form to that of a cat who is simultaneously alive and dead. ¶ But what about a dog? ¶ Imagine a simple line drawing of a dog. Now bark at the imagined drawing. Does your imagined drawing bark back? Which is more like a dog: your bark or the imagined drawing? Now draw a dog, and imagine the sound of a bark. Which is more like a dog? In both cases, we would say that the physical manifestation is closer, your bark and your drawing, meaning you are a closer replica of a dog than your imagination can ever be. ¶ [ Photograph of Sonnenzimmer’s Kitchen ] ¶ — Shape Song was authored, designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi on the occasion of the exhibition Shape Song at Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery, Nashville, TN, 2018. This text follows the ongoing inquiries of Sonnenzimmer’s Graphic Arts Future. — ¶ [ 1 ] Schedel, Hartmann, et al. Nuremberg Chronicle. Anton Koberger, 1493. ¶ [ 2 ] Hans Jenny, Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration (Basel: Basilius Presse, 1974).
  • SZ030 — Glimpse and Glance on the Ice Rink
    2007 Words¶ ¶ A Glimpse and a Glance on the Ice Rink. ¶ [ Original format: 2017, 2-color screen-printed text, 4 offset-printed plates, 4.25 x 11 inches, Exhibition History: grayDUCK gallery, Austin, TX, Contributors: Anthony B. Creeden, Jessi DiTillio & Julia V. Hendrickson ] ¶ This interview was conducted between Anthony B. Creeden and Sonnenzimmer (Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi) via email in November and December of 2017. The conversation was initiated in preparation for their simultaneous exhibitions. ¶ Nadine: For us, if art questions gesture, and design questions format, print is the skin in between those two—challenging materials as well as pictorial expectation in the rendering. ¶ Similarly, you accomplished this new material technique of egg tempera on muslin for your latest body of work. The paintings are very physically flat, yet visually dimensional. I assume this content—authorship of the gesture that you are questioning through the flattening of surface qualities—was a very personal moment. ¶ How do you feel about that flattening? ¶ Anthony: I like the idea that print is a “skin” between gesture and format. As an image-maker I’ve had to question painting’s uniqueness among modern forms of image-making quite a few times. If painting were also a “skin” between such things, what would its mark be? To me, that mark—its fingerprint, you might say—would be its surface. The indexical trace that a brush leaves behind leads one to imagine a ghostlike presence of an artist’s hand within the work. This isn’t always the case (obviously not all artists paint their own work), but it does distinguish painting from the indexical nature of something like a photograph. ¶ In a similar sense, print, textile, and film have their own fingerprints: I’ve begun to notice things like the mottled surface of old lithograph prints, the diffusion of color within dyed textiles, and the relationship between light and projected films. Inherent in their production is a distinct “tell,” or mark left behind, that becomes a pictorial expectation of sorts. The absorbency of muslin combined with the translucency of egg tempera has allowed my paintings to be built up with dozens of layers of paint and yet remain physically flush to its own surface like print, like textile, and like film. At least that’s how I look at it personally. It’s able to remain distinct as a “painting” in many ways, and yet oddly absorbs familiar traits of other image-making forms. This idea is why a bunch of my work tends to reference science fiction or ghosts. One piece, in particular, is John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982. In that version of the film we, as the viewer, only experience the alien as an imitation or emulation of someone it has physically contacted earlier. It’s a pretty good metaphor (maybe a mascot) for what I feel like doing in the studio these days. ¶ In an earlier publication Nadine wrote: “For me, type was pure image. A drawing by a four-year-old, a typeface by a master, a painting by Rubens—they were all pure image.” [ 1 ] This tendency to recognize and welcome the structural similarities among things that are generally described in superficially different terms seems vital to the images you both make. Ideas around interchangeable skins or digital avatars seem to reference a potential slippage between vision and language, pictures and words. ¶ Do you feel a renewed sense of formalism is at play? One that continually sheds its skin, maybe? ¶ Nick: For me, it goes beyond formalism. I hesitate to say it goes “deeper” because I’m not sure it does. It’s more superficial. I think our main conceptual concern has been to reconcile all of our visual work (printmaking, painting, graphic design, performance, etc). In doing so, we’ve hit some awesomely murky territory. In our most recent publications that have aimed at supporting our more intuitive visual work, we’ve been chewing on the idea of the “graphic impulse”—the basic human tendency to decorate or articulate with images on substrates. I think for both of us, this notion puts the written word, drawings, websites, and billboards in the same category. They’re all reflective of the graphic impulse and their form often carries deeper significance than what they superficially advertise or aim to do. The mastery of the graphic impulse and its reception has reconfigured society. For us, human graphic output seems to be an almost living organism. We’ve called it a skin, but it maybe it’s more than that. ¶ Now that human graphics are combining with artificial intelligence and our graphic interfaces are backed by insane amounts of processing power and are typically outfitted with a camera, our “graphics” are starting to look back at us, which is a bit strange. With the work in Café Avatar, we wanted to toy around with the notion of the avatar, a virtual graphic stand-in for a person. The work is playful, colorful, a little silly, but the connotations aren’t, necessarily. We wanted to imagine a space where our avatars hang out when not in use, as a jumping off point to explore a vacuum where figurative work and abstraction can cohabitate “naturally.” Café Avatar is a liminal space where bored almost-humans await their calling. Sure, they can shape-shift, but does that matter in the RGB void? ¶ Reading Rothman and Verstegen’s essay that you shared, [ 2 ] I was struck by their diligent and respectful rebuttal of the anti-Arnheim sentiment in contemporary (well, 1990s) art criticism. I wasn’t aware of such distrust of his ideas, but I get it. The semiotics they discuss so blatantly privilege language. That notion really musters up the bad taste that I have from a certain strain of intellectualism around art-making. Language and images are different. Framing art through the structure of linguistics misses the point entirely. While I know a lot of these discussions are valuable, I can’t help but think that this approach has cut off the art discourse from a would-be audience and influenced a generation of actual artmaking to address the concerns of language, rather than of visuals. I’m all for intellectual debate and investigation, but I think it can be done in terms of visual thinking. ¶ How has the contemporary art discourse shaped the work you make? Do you ever struggle with formal intuition because of a nagging voice in the back of your head? ¶ Anthony: Absolutely. I assume we all struggle with that voice in our head. To be honest, one should have to check that voice from time to time. An intriguing part of contemporary discourse today, at least to me, would be where artists find a need to hedge their bets between irony and sincerity in their work. Visual language, especially in the digital-image world, has started to point toward and question what the anonymity of an online culture made up of billions of people might mean to their ideas. Concepts tend to feel undercover, elusive, and the images feel coated with an ambiguity about its intention. Nowadays it’s really hard to tell if my friend’s talent for creating and posting memes on Instagram is potentially an art practice they’re trying out…or not, like in some “post-studio” way. If not, maybe they should; what they’re posting usually has a subversive ring to it, which kind of works. In terms of an economy within the language of art, you can’t beat a meme or an emoji: they’re too elegant. It’s bonkers to imagine where a painting will fit into that world sometimes, but kind of irresponsible to not do so. And my painting studio isn’t in a vacuum, I’m always online looking at or listening to one thing or another. A contemporary practice around egg tempera painting is pretty anachronistic; it’s a bit unforgiving as a method and fragile to work with—temperamental—but more sharply, it’s holistic. I feel attuned to the studio because of its constant need for me to be mixing and measuring things daily and knowing that the paint will spoil if not used quickly. That’s usually why my work is not packed with images sourced from online but instead tends to reference and insist on the artist’s hand, the mark, and the studio as being present. ¶ I’d be interested to know your own thoughts on formal practices these days. I keep thinking about this phrase that Jim Elkins wrote: “The opposite of a glance ... is a glimpse: because in a glance, we see only for a second, and in a glimpse, the object shows itself only for a second.” [ 3 ] He also argues that even if it takes three hours, he would stand in front of a painting until he caught that glimpse. A viewer like Elkins is extremely rare, and making work for viewers today—the majority of which will be online—might need to exist somewhere between a glance and a glimpse. ¶ Do you both find formal intuition has sped up? Is there a need to make work that asks people to slow down and to be stared back at? ¶ Nadine: I feel like a viewer like Jim is not rare when you survey a wider cultural setting. Especially where pictorial statements are anchored in other cultural frameworks. I experience that most people are in touch with the notion of that space between glance and glimpse. Our senses rely on the navigation of the impulse surfacing from the image or object (glimpse) and the impulse itself (glance). This phenomenon is not beholden to experts formulating language or having time. But, I do feel that as we have more planes to navigate images, for example augmented and virtual and online identities, the signifier of work is split into more realms. The “mark of the genius” is now split into more than one “surface.” So, by that logic, viewing is also “polyspectoral” (yes, I made up that word), like perhaps how a fly sees? Images are now more ephemeral, removed from their physical carrier. They are now more in line with oral traditions or mythology. So maybe it’s not so much that formal intuition has sped up, it’s more that the pictorial demand has to answer to an oral tradition instead of a written one. ¶ Nick: There definitely seems to be a return to formalism within capital “A” art. Of course, it never left many other artistic fields. I guess our world has grown more graphic through the increase of devices and screens, so it makes sense that people are moving towards this way of communication. We’re increasingly “speaking” in the terms of the medium at hand. So yes, I think more art is being made to work in the realm of strictly visual interactions, which is the same thing as formalism or “communication design,” I guess. ¶ Regarding the “glance” or “glimpse,” I’m a glance person. If something can’t give over information quickly, I lose interest. To me, images are fast-talking oracles. Not that they shouldn’t be revisited or you can’t spend time with them and get more from them, I guess I just generally believe that images give their essence at light speed, because they are working within the realm of light. ¶ — A Glimpse and a Glance on the Ice Rink. was produced on the occasion of simultaneous exhibitions Sonnezimmer’s Café Avatar and Anthony B. Creeden’s Cacti and Semaphore, grayDUCK Gallery, Austin, TX, 2018. The original publication was designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi. The publication features an interview between Nick Butcher, Anthony B. Creedan, and Nadine Nakanishi. The original publication features essays by Jessi DiTillio and Julia V. Hendrickson. ¶ — ¶ [ 1 ] Nadine Nakanishi in Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi, “Dawn Brings the Dew,” Graphic Arts Future (Chicago: Sonnenzimmer, 2015), 2. ¶ [ 2 ] Roger Rothman and Ian Verstegen, “Arnheim’s Lesson: Cubism, Collage, and Gestalt Psychology,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65, Issue 3 (June 2007). ¶ [ 3 ] James Elkins, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing (New York: Simon & Schuster: 1996), 207.
  • SZ029 — Café Avatar
    2853 words Café Avatar ¶ [ Original format: 2017, Edition of 250, 3-color screen-printed cover with thermochromic ink, Risograph interior 8 x 10 inches, Client / Publisher / Exhibition History: Sonnenzimmer & Perfectly Acceptable Press / Sonnenzimmer / University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN; grayDUCK gallery, Austin, TX ] ¶ Graphics are animal. Graphics are vegetable. ¶ Before humans learned to exploit the capabilities of our graphic expression, graphics long served the natural world. Plants and nonhuman animals used graphics for millions of years before we got the hang of it. They do so with the camouflage found on their exterior skin, fur, feathers, and scales. Whether using their markings to hide from predators and prey, or to attract mates, the result is the same. Their bodies generate complex graphic patterns and colors to transmit to the outside world. Graphics transmit. ¶ Human graphics function much like a skin of an animal or plant, though they are generally removed from our person. Our graphics—stretched across flat substrates like book pages, screens, and billboards—form a web of expression that transmits collective human knowledge. But instead of blending into their surroundings, they act as a sort of “reverse camouflage,” with content revealed rather than obscured through their shape and color. This graphic membrane binds humanity. This skin envelops us and acts like a network transmitting our collective consciousness. Graphics are the exterior to our exteriors. They allow us to think together as a society “out here.” ¶ “Out here” is relative. It’s hard to pin down exactly, but we are predisposed to understand its value. As sentient beings, we are aware of ourselves and how we appear “out here.” As we come of age, we instinctively learn that others perceive us. The flow between our internal selves and our external image is coaxial: two separate data sets with a single endpoint. But being “in here” and “out there” at the same time creates a cognitive tension. Perhaps our graphic compulsion, the instinct to express ourselves and communicate through mark making is an attempt to close this gap. ¶ When referring to graphics, we include a full range of visual expressions: drawing, painting, computer graphics, logos, symbols. Graphics are any intentional visual manifestation of purposeful action. While we include written language in the graphic universe we’re exploring, plenty of space has already been devoted to the role of the written word in the evolution of humanity. However, our efforts here are not to upend the hierarchy of word vs. image but to equalize the two with their own categorically succinct existence. The written word’s mechanical origin, the graphic impulse, has been historically neglected. Our academies and universities still rely on upholding the superiority of word over image. Yet, print scholar William Ivins Jr. argued in his important book Prints and Visual Communication that the printed picture, not the printed word, brought humanity into the modern era. The perfectly repeatable pictorial statement, as he called it, made possible by innovations in printing (first with woodcuts then engravings, photographs, and now digital images) have done more to spread knowledge of mechanical innovation, science, and the study of nature than their text-based descriptors. Ivins argues that the continued advancement of the technology of images allowed for the spread of information that is more precise than wordy descriptions, which are easily misunderstood and mistranslated. A picture is worth a thousand words, yes, and perhaps a thousand impressions of a single picture is worth exponentially more. ¶ Images and words are connected through their graphic carrier, but on a visceral level, they function quite differently. Because we process words so quickly, it’s easy to forget that they are merely a string of subordinate symbols that, when combined, form a dominant symbol connected to a fluid lexicon. For the literate, at a certain point in our development, words stop appearing as a group of shapes and become a singular entity. We see the whole word at once and quickly retrieve its meaning. In essence, written and printed words are graphics first. Yet the presumption of the superiority of words over images has shaped much of modern thought, worldviews, and ways of being. This misunderstanding has left us unprepared for the extremely graphic future. ¶ This superiority of the word can be traced to the Age of Reason when rational thought came to be considered the ultimate vehicle for humanity to reach its righteous intellectual homeland. ¶ In 1766, the German writer and philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing wrote an influential essay titled Laocoön: On the Limits of Painting and Poetry, which decisively articulated the neoclassical division between painting and poetry and introduced inter-arts criticism during a time in which many were distancing themselves from classical Renaissance ideas. Some might argue that this essay marked the beginning of a modern point of view, one that aims to uphold the rational over the irrational. The existence of graphics is rational (they are useful to communicate, way find, etc.), but their physical form, creation, and prowess are not. Perhaps images are irrational by nature. In his text, Lessing wonders whether master artistic production should serve beauty or the search for truth. Comparing the marble sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons (42–20 BCE; disputed by Lynn Catterson) to Virgil’s poem The Aeneid, Lessing makes the case that, contrary to the ancient belief that ut pictura poesis (as painting so is poetry), the fulfillment of the artistic medium is to recognize its essential limitation. While the “fine arts” can convey an immediate impression upon the recipient, their spatial nature differs from poetry’s sequential and thus temporal nature. Lessing, the way we take it, put poetry above painting. Poetry does not have to be concerned with beauty, Lessing suggests, as it can convey meaning through partitioning reality without disrupting the readers’ senses. Something of beauty, on the other hand, has to strike you all at once, in situ. ¶ Frank Egbert Bryant, an American scholar, equalizes words and images somewhat in his book On the Limits of Descriptive Writing apropos of Lessing’s Laocoön: ¶ If descriptions of objects are not equal to paintings in intensity and universality of impression, neither are narratives in the same respects equal to the drama when represented on stage nor are descriptions of music equal to the actual performances. In each case, the reason for the weakness lies deeper than the fact that words follow each other in time order. It is found in the element of symbolism in the instrument of expression. ¶ Description, because it uses symbolism, generally does no more than to convey the essential truth of the object portrayed. It arouses in the mind of the reader, not the sensuous image that the writer saw, but another image like the former only in that it has the same essential characteristics. ¶ I think we have now determined the principal differences between description and painting. The advantage of the latter is found in its power of denotation. A few lines give more exact sensuous information than a page of description. A few bold strokes will give to all observers the same line, but they are not likely to suggest for anyone a finished picture or more of a picturesque detail than they really present. The reverse is true of description. The power of the latter lies in connotation. Since every word calls up associations, a few well-chosen descriptive epithets and phrases may suggest a picture that seems as complete and life-like as reality. [ 1 ] ¶ So, written (and spoken) words conjure images. But what is it that images conjure? It’s quite difficult to articulate, and perhaps that’s the point. ¶ Poetry and painting aside, in the long view, perhaps the graphical evolution of the written word was that they were merely a temporary collective meeting ground for communication. Remember, we were an oral society first. Was the hierarchical advantage of the written word over images merely a short blip in the evolution of humanity. Perhaps our rational search for “truth” was the butterfly-effect beginning of the binary language necessary for computation (“truth“ implies “falsity”). Perhaps written words were destined to be binary commands (and that destiny certainly seems to be unfolding in front of us). If there is some semblance of truth in these meandering thoughts, then it makes sense that our graphic-based realities are unfolding anew. Graphics are returning to their irrational, even spiritual, origin. Are we returning to some unsettled understanding, are we entering a truly graphics-centric ecology? ¶ Our graphic social skin has always moved in tandem with our technology. The industrial revolution helped usher in mechanical norms and the beginnings of a structural monoculture beyond just machinery. It spread products, kickstarting the global marketplace and graphic norms. The digital revolution put the structures of monoculture and its graphics in our pockets and changed the nature of our graphic skin forever. Graphics are now handheld, fluid, moving, receptive, and they have unprecedented reach. They wiggle when we touch them and those reverberations can be felt across the globe. With an impending virtual reality and augmented reality, our graphics will soon be inhabitable. This begs the question: If the graphic impulse is animal, and graphics are a skin, if we enter a new skin, do we become a new animal? Are we there already? ¶ The human-animal is most certainly midstep in a journey to the unknown. Take the current discussions of racial and gender identity. They are clashing with our outdated government documents and social norms. Perhaps it is because our physical bodies are not the singular point of reference when it comes to identity. A Nielsen Company audience report of July 2016 [ 2 ] revealed that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media. Our identities are increasingly attached to our digital profiles, freeing our conscious selves from physical form. “We“ are no longer bound by a physicality. And consider that over 50 million Americans, that is more than 15 percent of the population, live with autoimmune disease, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. [ 3 ] Many people’s bodies are rejecting the physical world we’ve created. At the same time, we’re more closely aligned with machines than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8.7 million Americans use assistive devices. Add handheld devices, self-driving cars, virtual-reality headsets, surgical self-regulating medical implants, and the outsourcing of cognition through artificial intelligence, and it’s clear that our personal physicality is no longer defining humanity. Take “fake news.” Misinformation is nothing new. Our graphic expression has been defined by manipulation for centuries with warring religious decrees, modern advertising, etc. But now, are we not increasingly choosing which reality we’d like to inhabit, rather than existing in a single social fabric? To recap, our identities are decreasingly defined by our personal physicality, while our physical bodies are simultaneously rejecting the tangible world. We are more closely aligned with machines than ever before, and we seemingly pick and choose which version of reality to inhabit. ¶ Perhaps our bewilderment in this changing landscape of ethics, morals, etiquettes, and mannerisms could be shaken if we started to understand that our habitual being cannot be isolated from a graphic nature—that we move in a graphic world and that graphics move in tandem with our humanity and are more than just ads, pages, screens, websites, and logos on soda cans. They are a part of our physical nature, one step removed from our person, yet irremovable from us. Maybe it wasn’t the spear that separated modern humans from our primitive past but graphic expression and its ongoing refinement. Perhaps we are born with an avatar. ¶ This is a substantial question for us to tackle together. If we don’t ask ourselves how our humanity and our graphic expression are interconnected, we will hand both over to trolls, programmers, corporate disclaimers, and, lastly, to automated platforms, thus ultimately serving the computational forces at hand. Perhaps wars can only happen when everyone wears a uniform, or fights under one flag (see vexillology). Our graphic social skin is at a fragile crossroads. Through our personal devices we’re increasingly living in a graphics-centered world, yet we are further removed from the production of said graphics and the frameworks they exist in. This discrepancy is no small thing. ¶ Shifting graphic paradigms are nothing new. While technology continues to shape our graphic social skin, other factors have been at play from their inception. Cultures have always influenced one another through interactions of trade or proximity. We borrow graphic convention from one another, unknowingly introducing elements of the worldview that bore them. For example, the historical influence of Japanese woodblock print on the birth of modern European painting. The highly condensed space and flatness of form of Japanese popular culture prints gave European painters access to a picture plane freed from the constraints of “realism.” [ 4 ] ¶ Yet when new graphic conventions are imposed rather than imported, whole ways of thinking can be lost. Take mapmaking for example. Cartography is a fundamental graphic statement. It is the reduction of the physical world to a discernible graphic counterpart for wayfinding. When the Europeans forcefully introduced their methods of map-making, based on mathematics, to the native people of the Americas and beyond, they began a process that eroded the natives’ social graphic fabric, and thus a collective understanding. These encounters eroded a way of seeing and thus a way of being. ¶ For a long time, scholars have disregarded the pre-encounter mapping from these nations. The hubris to think these forms of mapping weren’t a sophisticated amalgam of thought and form amounts to self-deception. In Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use (University of Chicago Press, 1998), editor G. Malcom Lewis’s research makes it clear that the First Nations had highly developed forms of mapping. Using oral and ephemeral maps that combined topography with cosmography, they notated spatial territories along with the temporal. Time was communicated in the forms of how long it took to achieve a task. Maps were intertwined in cultural settings through deictics (this refers to words and phrases such as “me” or “here” that cannot be fully understood without additional contextual information). In these maps, two thought worlds were often combined through, not only graticules but also dance or memory. ¶ When the newly arrived explorers and imperial cartographers translated the native maps into their conventional terms of scientific mapmaking to assimilate this information for their usage, they stripped them of their proper significance. We make the argument that not understanding their graphical expression coincided with a cultural fate that would be held against the tribes not only for negotiating land deeds and defining geographical borders—this ultimate innate insensitivity would construe an impasse, a cultural gap which laid the groundwork for genocide, one that we still have to address as a nation. So, when we, not just scholars, look at a one-way translation, we should remember these moments of encounter. We must also look at this in the context of the changing graphic landscape of today. If we give over our forms of graphic expression to the self-­driving impending monoculture, what do we stand to lose? ¶ Graphic expression is animal in nature. Our graphics are irremovable from our person. They hold with them a worldview. They bind us. They condense our collective human knowledge. Without graphic expression, that knowledge is lost. With graphic expression in flux, knowledge is in flux. As our world becomes more graphic, our finite knowledge is spread thin. ¶ Graphics, once a carrier of knowledge, are now outweighing the lived reality. So this begs the question, where do our avatars hang out when they are not in use? Will their digital footprints inadvertently trample us? Welcome to Café Avatar, where your work/life balance is currently on hold. Welcome to Café Avatar where you interview yourself. Welcome to Café Avatar where your dark thoughts are a patterned wallpaper. Welcome to Café Avatar where mocha is a color and shape. Welcome to Café Avatar, where singularity is a double-edged sword. Welcome to Café Avatar, where memory of natural sound is forever a glitch. Welcome to Café Avatar, where no favor is quantifiable. ¶ — Café Avatar was authored and designed by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi on the occasion of the exhibition Café Avatar at Cress Gallery, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN, 2017. This text follows the ongoing inquiries of Sonnenzimmer’s Graphic Arts Future. The book was co-published by Sonnenzimmer and Perfectly Acceptable Press. ¶ — [ 1 ] Frank Egbert Bryan, On the Limits of Descriptive Writing apropos of Lessing’s Laocoon (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Library, 1906), 35. ¶ [ 2 ] “Television is still top brass, but viewing differences vary with age,” Nielsen, accessed January 10, 2020, ¶ [ 3 ] “Our Mission,” American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, accessed January 10, 2020, ¶ [ 4 ] Colta Feller Ives, The Great Wave: The Influence of Japanese Woodcuts on French Prints (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974).
  • SZ021 — Graphic Arts Future: Corporeal Knowledge
    2416 Words¶¶Graphic Arts Future: Corporeal Knowledge ¶ [ Original format: 2017, 3-color screen-printed and vacuum-formed cover, multi-color Risograph, and laser printed interior, 8.5 x 11 inches, Publisher / Exhibition History: Sonnenzimmer / Facebook ] ¶ Idea as spoken language ¶ What are graphics? ¶ Everyone’s got screens now, and these screens are basically just graphics. Graphics are everywhere. Everyone’s in two, three, four, or more graphic interfaces all day long. We have a graphic tendency as human beings. In nature, there are graphics, too. Plants and animals have graphics. They camouflage themselves with their skin, feathers, or external materials. Their graphics mimic the outside world. How are our graphics, even though they are not attached to our bodies, related to this? What’s the bigger function? We think about graphics as external and “away” from us, but we are born with an urge to make graphics, to deal with them. Even if you just read a printed or handwritten page, this is a graphic interface outside your body that we use to communicate with each other. What is that stuff? Where is it going? How do graphics shape the world? Soon, so many people will be immersed in a virtual reality. We will be immersed in a total graphic interface. Someone is going to make that interface. It’s not a small thing that we are willing to give up our external world for a predesigned one. Why are we so anxious to design such a system? Why do we have this tendency to create and immerse ourselves in a fully graphically rendered world? Graphics allow human beings to think together, ¶ beyond our own skins. They are camouflaged knowledge. A warning sign is camouflaged knowledge. Knowledge from “in here” that we agree on and have to give shape “out there.” It’s bigger than just signs and labels and typefaces. ¶ In November 2016, scientists announced that they had discovered a new organ, the mesentery. It’s something like a stomach lining. It was depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508 but ignored for hundreds of years. It went undetected because it seems many in this field assumed everything in the body was categorized correctly. It turns out you can still discover things that are right inside you. We misunderstood it for centuries. ¶ The same thing goes for graphics; maybe they’re not what we’ve previously thought. ¶ They are liquid; they are a membrane; they come with us as humans. ¶ We’ve always accepted the idea, in human evolution, that the use of tools is the thing that differentiates us from the animal world. But what if it’s our externalized graphics that set us apart. What if our tools were first rendered as graphics? When you see the image of Homo sapiens’ evolution from an ape, what if it wasn’t a spear he was dragging, but an avatar? ¶ Idea as poetry ¶ graphic impulse is animal graphics are a skin when we enter a new skin do we become a new animal Idea as prose ¶ What are graphics for? ¶ The impulse for graphic expression is not unique to humans. Animals and plants use graphics, too. They do so using their exteriors. Many species use their skin, feathers, scales, or fur to camouflage themselves from predators and prey or to attract prey. Their graphics help them blend in, distract, signal, or appear as something they are not. While we may not consider this “expression,” the result is the same—the arrangement of color and form for a clear goal. Our graphics function much the same way. They are also a sort of skin. We use exterior substrates as membranes to distribute information, converging color and form to communicate ideas. Our graphics are a sort of camouflaged knowledge, transferring information to onlookers through an agreed-upon set of symbols such as written language or images, applied to a surface. ¶ Language is generally viewed as inherently separate from images. Yet written language and images are both part of the same “graphic tendency.” The impulse for creating and distributing both is the same: self-expression and social exchange. Written words are merely the graphic distillation of oral language: symbols for sounds that carry meanings or abstracted pictograms (in nonphonetic languages). Our graphic images also carry meaning, or sometimes just feelings. ¶ Combined, these graphics are our social skin. They are an external membrane giving shape to our collective consciousness. They bind us. They are the exterior of our exteriors. They allow us to think together out here. ¶ Our world is growing more graphic. ¶ Digital print technology is making it easier than ever to cover every surface imaginable with graphics (car wraps, hydro printing, direct-to-garment printing, etc). This tendency is growing in tandem with an increase in personalization. Digital print technologies allow for consumer-friendly platforms for creating and uploading images that are ready for application to myriad surfaces. Simultaneously, people are spending an increasing amount of time engaged in graphical user interfaces on devices like computers and smartphones. Screens are purely graphic. They are our modern social skin, and this graphic skin is growing increasingly interconnected, fluid, and interactive. Our graphics are becoming liquid. They react when you touch them. We’ve grown accustomed to it. For digital natives, this is part of their social fabric. For the rest of us, it’s a compelling and endlessly entertaining, and rewarding plane to exist in. Though not yet commonplace, virtual reality will soon immerse us in a fabricated graphic world. The graphic skin will soon envelop us. However, the architects will not be some supernatural force, but our fellow humans, or perhaps in the distant future, artificial intelligence. ¶ Does our historical collective graphic tendency foreshadow the future? Print scholar William Ivins Jr. made the case in his influential 1953 text Prints and Visual Communication that an “exactly reproducible image,” his term for the printed image, was more ­influential in spreading ideas and shaping the modern human than the printed word. He argues that without detailed descriptive images, science and technology would have been limited in their spread. This championing of graphic pictorial statements is rare but feels right when considering our contemporary fascination with graphics. Weren’t printed graphics (image and text alike) a sort of proto-internet, collected knowledge distilled to a plane and disseminated en masse? Isn’t the internet just a “physical” model for the collective nature of humanity? If the internet is a physical model, and it’s inherently connected to a graphic interface, once we step into the graphic interface and our collectivity submits to this new state, will humanity emerge as something new? If graphics are a skin, a collective social fabric, what happens if we immerse ourselves in this new one? ¶ Idea as a shape ¶ The human with new skin ¶ My physical body is less important, though my physical needs remain. My earthly looks are replaced by my own creativity and digital craftsmanship (though both are limited to a programmer’s creativity). When I choose how my avatar looks (and perhaps feels), I’m not sure if my personality truly wins out in my choice of mate or friends, or if I will simply choose those who also choose what I like. Will my taste siphon me into a distilled tribe of agreement? Will society as a whole splinter into various virtual “worlds” we choose to cohabit? Hawaii-land, Biker-ville? My job is relegated to computer terminals. Can I work for Facebook in Hawaii-ville if I’m at home in Dyersburg? And what about the manpower behind this technology? Who will service my virtual world in the physical one? Will a worker fix bugs for my virtual world in their virtual world? As we splinter as a society, as I tighten the screws of my likes, turning them into a “livable” world, will I emerge in a new tribe of like-minded avatars with our own codes and symbols, or will I shrivel away as solo shell in a mainframe on the fast track to a very foreign space? ¶ Either way, we’re starting over again. ¶ The human with born skin. ¶ [ As of Jan. 2017, this is fiction. ] My apartment’s utilities are constantly being cut, due to my landlord not installing the self-regulated heating readers that are linked to the central weather-forecast agency in my region. I have to do a workaround to get service again: Call the hotline, await a pin via phone, and reinstall my account. I have to do this fifty-minute procedure twice a week if I want electricity. I might end up looking for a new apartment because of this. I have wanted to switch jobs for a while, but it’s been a challenge due to the digital footprint of my former (politically incorrect) avatar. I can’t shake it from my records. It follows me wherever I go on the web, like an old-school ad from 2016. There is a state service that helps rectify this: the last bit of civil service that hasn’t been privatized, ironically. But it’s like filing a DBA for an S Corp, and it costs $500 a pop for one request. Anyhow, with my conflicting avatars, I can’t upload any new information to my resume page. They blocked me. ¶ At the moment, I work as an in-house ID-card printer for my local sectional neighborhood access program. I have to change the plastic pellets every half-hour so cards can be printed at any time. The architects who thought this was a good idea have limited everyone’s mobility, and people are starting to organize to protest these restrictions. It’s interesting that after a communication monopoly, a transportation monopoly is kicking in. I don’t know how long I will be at this job, as the management is trying to replace manual labor such as my position with intelligent software and substrates, which means self-regulating frameworks that can inform each other on “commands.” Dollars, quarters, and pennies were phased out four years ago. It started with the coins. Everyone was scared of viral infections being transmitted by untreated copper. They also couldn’t figure out the nano printing for the bills, which was supposed to help because the paper would self-degrade. The central bank had hoped to cut out the collection and distribution of physical currency to react faster to the Bitcoin rates. And, on top of that, my social Fridays have largely been diminished, as I don’t have access to a lot of the places where my friends meet up due to my self-segregation, not only because of my media choices but also my employment and my general profile as a person. My sleeping pattern has been greatly impacted by the environments I work in. I am surrounded by so many screens that I have to get weekly doses of Melatonin-Coppice, which are unfortunately not covered by my insurance, but I remember my grandfather, who was a veteran and suffered from PTSD, being unable to get acupuncture, so that’s the way it goes. ¶ Either way, we’re starting over again. Idea as unanswered questions ¶ Are graphics balloons? If so, what do we inflate them with? What happens when they pop? ¶ If graphics are a skin, what’s on the other side? ¶ You can move your body, and thus perception, through space. This is a physical act. ¶ You can move your perception through space without moving your body, too. This is a cognitive act. ¶ What happens when you change your cognitive and physical perception at the same time? Does the “thinking” happen inside us or outside? Images are “captured.” ¶ Graphics are “constructed.” ¶ What happens when you “capture” a graphic, or “construct” an image? ¶ If location doesn’t matter, then perspective doesn’t matter. What does that mean for the picture plane in a virtual reality? ¶ If perspective doesn’t matter, yet a figure-ground relationship is reliant on a first-person perspective, then in this new room, ideas of the viewer, the fourth wall, the nude, and still lifes (all compositional tropes) become inconsequential to the picture plane, except if there is movement. ¶ If movement is center to the experience of the picture plane but one is confined to a locale, then multiple planes are necessary to circumscribe the pictorial content. This bears the question, is this era of pictorial image related to the experiments of the Cubists? ¶ Phonocentrism is the belief that sounds and speech are inherently superior to written language. Logocentrism upholds the principle that all forms of thought are based on an external point of reference. Speech is considered to have more autonomy than writing, as it’s closer to the source. Graphocentrism unveils our tendency to value writing over speech, thus sight over sound. These binary battles of sound versus writing, or perhaps equally pathos versus logos, or even image versus word, are of old descent. These binary conflicts are inherent to graphics. A surface must be inscribed, a matrix must be established, an impression must be impressed. ¶ To understand that a helix is not only moving forward but also in some way collapsing in itself at the same time, we must understand that truth is binary by nature as well. ¶ Imagine, once again, the famous illustration of Homo sapiens’ evolution. From ape to man, the defining ­moment is the spear in hand. What if the human never had a spear, but came with an avatar of one instead? So, the inherent matrix of the spear was embedded in the avatar and could be rendered as an object from there: a graphic as camouflaged knowledge, an external graphic as the defining moment of human evolution. What if our graphic interventions in the physical world are a collective organ, a skin, inseparable from humanity? ¶ If we understand this new graphic-centered view as a sort of “volte-graphic-centrism,” how will we use these newfound privileges? When our graphic realities (our social fabric) are totally fabricated, will we subordinate our physical environment even more, as we embody this new worldview from the inside out? Who do we leave behind? Who and what do we exploit in the process? If the graphic impulse is animal, and graphics are a skin, what happens when we enter a new one? Do we become a new animal? ¶ — Graphic Arts Future: Corporeal Knowledge was authored, designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi during a two-month residency at Facebook’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters. This text follows the ongoing inquiries of Sonnenzimmer’s Graphic Arts Future. ISBN 978-0-692-85107-4.
  • SZ016 — Graphic Arts Future
    2416 words ¶ ¶ G A F raphic rts uture ¶ [ Original format: 2015, Edition of 100, offset-printed box, screen-printed book, laser printed stickers, 12” LP, 12 x 12 inches. Publisher / Exhibition History / Contributors: Sonnenzimmer / Texas State University, San Marcos, TX / Nick Butcher, Edie Fake, Julia V. Hendrickson, Todd Irwin, Daniel Mellis, Anders Nilsen, Nadine Nakanishi, Katherine Young, Alexander Valentine, Lauren Weinberg, Keefe Jackson, Jordan Martins, Jason Roebke, Mark Greenberg, Brian Labycz ] ¶ Let us reclaim the planes to skate deviations in the reins. Then break from the parenthesis to share the surf of the surge. ¶ 1. Dawn Brings the Dew ¶ Nadine: A person once told me that puns are the last thing to set in, in language development. Finally, someone was able to diagnose my deficit in moving between languages. I grew up bilingual, speaking English and Swiss-German. The benefit: You always have two pairs of cultural “slippers” ready at the time of entry. The flipside: You can never wear both simultaneously. Often, one pair gets worn out; other times, I mismatch them. It means I am never good at any one language, or perhaps I am always teetering back and forth between the two. This may explain why I gravitated toward typography at an early age. To me, the Roman alphabet—common to both English and Swiss-German—was like a carrier of freight in transit. What was inside? What was its destination? Typography always appeared as pure form to me: a language of lines, tied to a cultural context. It’s as though you’re into hip-hop and you listen to French hip-hop, even though you don’t understand French. While you know that it’s hip-hop you’re listening to, you don’t have access to the full scope of the music because of the language gap. You experience it as pure sound. For me, type was pure image. A drawing by a four-year-old, a typeface by a master, a painting by Rubens—they were all pure image. ¶ In time, I unlock the meaning of the image—which moves into the background; the abstraction of form emerges. I often experience a visual tinnitus because my visual field is constantly moving back and forth, missing an equilibrium. Though, as the world around me moves with visual velocity, my state is almost in tempo with it. Yet, within this navigational vortex is a source of refuge, where time sits still. The eye of the storm. ¶ I view the graphic arts as the handwriting of humanity. When they are inscribed through wide means, they serve as a time capsule. Like droplets of accumulation, the graphic arts are the condensation of human time. ¶ Nick: It’s increasingly apparent to me that our visual world has only three components: natural phenomena, human-made structures, and the graphic arts. I know this sounds oversimplified, even painfully ignorant, but bear with me. Natural phenomena include us humans, animals, plants, insects, earth, and the elements. Human-­made structures account for obvious things like buildings and cars, but also the microscopic chemical structures we have created, like plastics. ¶ That leaves us with the graphic arts. What are they, anyway? Visual noise, the condensation of human time? The graphic arts have had a shifting and slippery meaning throughout history. The term was first used to describe two-dimensional pictorial arts like painting, drawing, and lettering. (Note that these are all immediate and manual modes of communication or notation—graph, the Greek root, means “to write or draw.”) During the Industrial Revolution, the graphic arts came to describe skills related to mechanical reproduction. Was the writing and drawing for the mechanical age? —typesetting, layout design, printing, photography, etc. ¶ The graphic arts have evolved with us, inhabiting our latest modes of visual communication. The two can’t be separated. But what happens to the modes left behind? The established narrative of Western art history argues that “fine art” influences “graphic art,” that one begat the other and is more culturally sophisticated. I have some beef with that. When mass communication challenged the established roles of painting and drawing, were they just left to their own devices? It’s not so farfetched to see a correlation between the shift in our concept of the graphic arts and the rise of abstraction. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque used fragments from newspapers and other graphic ephemera as a formal means to an abstract end in their first Cubist collages. This development is seen as a fundamental leap toward the “non-objective” in Western art. Yet if the forefathers of Cubism hadn’t used staples of the graphic arts—printed fabric and paper—their artistic trajectory would have veered elsewhere. These works were innovative, but they didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Cubists’ innovations in pictorial arts owe a lot to the graphic arts of the day. The development of mass communication changed our access to media, and thus our relationship to form. ¶ Over the past 25 years, we have witnessed perpetual change within visual communication. The graphic arts must be changing again too, right? Graphical user interfaces dominate our multiple personal screens. Images are liquified and interactive. The means of graphic expression are now located at our fingertips. We have even eliminated the need for physical space for their implementation, by using virtual space. ¶ With our out-of-work friends painting and drawing left to roam, I wonder what will become of the mediums and methods associated with the graphic arts of the modern age. Has the vocabulary of mass communication become a nitrous oxide of nostalgia? Freed from their jobs, can these graphic arts—those related to printed matter and motion graphics alike—crack open a parallel dimension, like Cubism once did? ¶ Dawn may reveal the dew, but if you stay awake, you’ll see that the drops start forming well before then. ¶ We give you Graphic Arts Future. ¶ [ Three part illustration plate by Sonnenzimmer ] ¶ — Graphic Arts Future was authored, designed, and published by Sonnenzimmer on the occasion of the exhibition The Past is a Stranger, The Future is a Guest at Texas State University, University Galleries [1] & [2}, San Marcos, TX, 2015. The original publication featured contributions from artists Edie Fake, Todd Irwin, Anders Nilsen, Daniel Mellis, Alexander Valentine, and Katherine Young.
  • SZ015 — The Impossibility of Language of Construction
    986 words¶ ¶ The Impossibility of Language of Construction ¶ [ Original format: 2015, Edition of 50, 1-color screen-printed cover, 2-color letterpress interior, 2-color dye sublimation book cloth, 5 x 7 inches, Exhibition History / Printers: Center for Book and Paper Arts, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, IL / April Sheridan, Heather Buechler, Amy Leners ] ¶ C Impossibility o n s t r L u a c n t g i u o a n g e ¶ Act 4 • ¶ Act 1 • ¶ It’s March, near a low-lying plateau. The light is short, pink and yellow. Though the colors are isolated, perhaps lonely, the atmosphere refracts light into thousands of small figures, each revealing a full spectrum. This nicely counters the Weltschmerz that hangs in the air. ¶ We (Sound and English) approach from the distance. ¶ Sound: I haven’t felt this in years, this kind of humidity, from the snow, —| =— ————) I guess? English: Have you ||||| —————————— ever been this far north? Sound: No, never. — _ ) English: You know, you____________————— ————))))))))) have to take into account the wailing of the gravel underneath. Sound: Why’s that? English: —————— —————— _ To have a keen understanding of the surface. I’m not saying you should care about the surface, I’m saying that if you take into account the gravel underneath, you might have not only felt the humidity, but the non—material. Sound: You sound + + + + + + + + + ___________ tired English: I am ))))(((( tired. Sound: Cool. Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit.. ——— ——————————— ||||||||||||||\\\\\\\\\\\\\ don’t know... like there was a premonition. You know, like when you go into a room and you have the idea of water, yet you know it’s sand and you have to walk through it, like a ladle. English: Quite abstract, : : : : : : : : : : : : : : ____________ but I think I know — what — you — mean. ¶ Sound and English walk through the flickering plane. Everything is further than it seems. The sound is familiar and leading. Like something from an overhead air grate, making distant music with its misinforming and metallic overtones. ¶ Act 2 • ¶ It’s perennial, approaching like a season. The neighboring colors never mesh; they clog. A sum of experience with no paradoxes. Clogged not blocked. Like grain. Material, not meshing or adhering. ¶ ————————————————————— A. A white square, a backdrop. B. Three quick swaths of marine blue. C. Cover the blue with black. D. Make three x’s in grey. E. Use white for highlights in the black. F. Make five vertical stripes in purple. ————————————————————— ¶ Act 3 • ¶ deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… ¶ They walk a while. The glaring and frozen water is like a wall of solid brightness. The hue is pure and exact, an extract of turquoise. ¶ deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… ¶ English: Did you hear that? That pecking sound. Sound: I can’t hear anything. ¶ They continue towards the shoulder and again the surface makes the sound. ¶ deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... ¶ Sound: We can’t take forever. Thaw will surface and then there is no point. ¶ deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep... deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… deep, deep… deep, deep, deep… ¶ deep deep deep forms a picture. ¶ Act 5 • ¶ Sound and English continue walking, They exchange roles and drab conversation, one describing generally, one more specifically. And then they melt, quickly reemerging as Framework and Dilemma. — — — — — — Framework: ...arnish like a more eccentric language, one with certainty, this is requested. Dilemma: The dishes are done. My task is complete. My task is a truck. Framework: Thank you. Dilemma: We should unravel it. Invert it. Deconstruct it more, something, anything. A voice is a wellspring, like spring. Springing forward, but collecting dust. Framework: Wet dust is nasty and clumps together in strange ways. Dilemma: And shares a likeness... Framework: With what? Dilemma: With something I think I saw. Framework: In another location, perhaps? Dilemma: No, something even more comptabile, a note. Framework: ? Dilemma: Like sped-up pianos panned hard right? A garbage truck taking a soft left? Framework: As time passes you forget a music. only the moment remains. Music in a moment is frozen note. ¶ Act 6 • ¶ AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ¶ AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ¶ AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ¶ Framework: The afterglow of the impression always leaves me in slight distraught. The nonlin-­ ear locomotive echo echoes go-go. Dilemma: How can that be? Framework: Dunno. Dilemma: Where’s that truck? Framework: Last time, I thought it was by the levee. I like that space there, it fits so nicely around the water isle, the surface gurgles there. Dilemma: Don’t get all history—scape on me. You know that ain’t in line with the dichotomy that we are setting up, but then again, it’s really a hattrick. ¶ Act 7 • ¶ HHH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAA T ¶ ————————————————————— The past is a stranger, the future is a guest. The chair is my framework, the table is my pet. I didn’t know conviction could feel like JCPenney. ————————————————————— ¶ — ¶ The Impossibility of Language of Construction was authored, designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi on the occasion of the exhibition Simultaneous: Seripop and Sonnenzimmer that was curated by Julia V. Hendrickson, which took place at the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2015. The small book was envisioned as a play to be read by gallery viewers while investigating our contributions to the exhibition.
  • SZ002 — Field Integration
    1214 words ¶ ¶ Field Integration ¶ [ Original format: 2010, Edition of 250, 2-color offset interior, 2-color screen printed dust jacket, three 2-color screen prints, 7 x 9.75 inches, Publisher / Preface: Sonnenzimmer / Fred Sasaki ] ¶ Schaffhausen is a small town north of Zurich, bordering the Rhine river. Dyersburg is a small town north of Memphis next to the Mississippi. This is where we grew up, in townships that lie amongst these flowing bodies of water, many tributaries branching out into landscapes that are defined by their planes. Much of this ambiance is what we try to re-create in our work, a sense of place. Last year, as we visited the museum in Schaffhausen—Halle für Neue Kunst—to see the large permanent collection of Robert Ryman paintings, we picked up a monograph of the artist, Robert Ryman. In it, Christel Sauer reveals that Ryman would call himself a realist painter: “There are no illusionist elements in them and there is no allusion to any aspects outside the painting and its interaction with space and light.” This balanced approach—that everything in and around the artwork contributes to the creation of a landscape for a viewer to stand in and connect to—is very much where we come from. In this balance, there is an inherent beauty to the encounter. This is where we first discovered Ikebana’s parallels to image-making. ¶ Ikebana is the Japanese art of floral arrangement and it originally emerged as a way for Buddhists to honor the dead. However, it wasn’t only a means to worship ancestors, it also helped guide the thinking of people towards deeper connections beyond a physical form. The art form spread into popular practice during the Heian period (794 –1185 A.D.), when practitioners began to pair flower arrangements with poetry, raising the appreciation of the art form. Traditional Ikebana followed a rigid set of rules with detailed instructions going hand in hand with the creation of the arrangements, leaving behind vivid recordings as the art form spread. Over the years, Ikebana has evolved, producing many schools within the discipline along the way. ¶ Nageire and Moribana are two more modern schools of Ikebana. Within these styles, a free-form approach is stressed. Using three main branches—the Shin, Soe, and Tai—an inverted pyramid is created as the three branches spread out in different directions. To create a presence of liveliness, beauty, and balance, the artists must understand a multitude of factors, including branch strength, color balance, environmental lighting, appropriate material of the vessels, and placement within the room. In the less rigid schools of Ikebana, free poses are used for composition, expressing the changing ­patterns of life and thus the modern spirit. There is one fixed rule, however: While departed from nature, the arrangement must recapture nature’s beauty, thus “Flowers should be as in fields.” [ 1 ] ¶ Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Nageire and Moribana is that, with their reduced elements, the branches take on a strikingly graphic quality, and the compositions rely on triangulation to establish balance, making the practice quite similar to the creation of graphic images. This raised a question for us since we have primarily worked with two-dimensional images in the past: What is the relationship between the three-dimensional experience and the two-dimensional image? ¶ [ three installation photographs ] ¶ Referencing Nageire and Moribana, we set out to construct our own graphic arrangements to find out. For our arrangements, we chose to use three everyday objects: the chair, the plank, and the apple. Much like the branches in Ikebana, which come directly from nature, these objects contain their own inherent balance, due to their physical proportions and materiality. The chair balances on the floor; the plank—referencing human scale—balances on the chair; the apple is cradled by the human hand. All of these objects simultaneously derive from the same origin: a tree, a single unit. These objects also point towards the most basic of the geometric forms: the plane (the chair), the line (the plank), and the point (the apple). ¶ Using these three objects, we created several compositions, or three-dimensional drawings, as we like to call them. With each drawing, we attempted to create a balance, relying on the basic formation of triangles, the same technique used in Nageire and Moribana. Through the various compositions, the drawings take on many tones and nuances, shifting weight, hierarchy, and focus with each extrapolation. ¶ [ illustration plate ] ¶ [ three installation photographs ] ¶ [ illustration plate ] ¶ [ three installation photographs ] ¶ Creating these three-dimensional drawings were the first step towards closing in on the possible relationship between three-dimensional arrangements and two-dimensional images. Next, actual drawings were made based on these three-dimensional compositions. This integration of the compositions back into the two-dimensional plane would allow us to compare the relationship between the two mediums. ¶ If objects are balanced within a space, does it follow that the graphic representation of the arrangement retains the balance? Balance. The term itself is multifaceted, referring to both our own equilibrium and to the aesthetic harmony of elements within an image or a space. Balance is essential to our human experience. Our internal equilibrium plays a crucial role, but for most of us, it is inept without a horizon line as reference. We look towards the horizon as our external guide, our biology and external forces shaping our ­perception. A condensed version of our surroundings makes up our visual field, as objects in the distance appear smaller than their actual size, and parallel lines appear to move closer to each other as they recede into the distance. Both are illusions, as we essentially reduce the outside world to an inverted pyramid. ¶ [ installation photograph ] ¶ This condensed version of reality seems to inform the images we create, as well. In representational images, the illusion of depth is created using a rigid perspective. After establishing the horizon line, all lines perpendicular to this horizon extend towards a single vanishing point on the horizon, and objects within the image are placed accordingly. This creates a most recognizable structure. Viewing this image, we feel balanced. We recognize the terrain as our own. ¶ Through our experiments with these three-dimensional compositions and their two-dimensional counterparts, we’ve learned that the accuracy and balance of non­representational images can be evaluated using the same criteria, without the presence of a horizon line or vanishing point. Basing the creation of abstract images directly on three-dimensional objects is one way to achieve a balanced image, as the structure and balance of the arrangements are transferred into the picture plane, inherently referencing our perspective and the objects’ natural balance. However, much in line with the spirit of Ikebana, a direct copy will not suffice, as the essence of the objects’ totality must be understood. After all, “Flowers should be as in fields.” ¶ — Field Integration was authored, designed, printed, and published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi. The original publication featured a preface by Fred Sasaki. This project was supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. ¶ — [ 1 ] Tsutomu Nishimura, Ikenobo School of Japanese Art (Kyoto: Ikenobo Floral Art Institute, 1951), 59.
  • SZ001 — Formal Additive Programs
    204 words ¶ ¶ Formal Additive Programs ¶ [ Original format: 2009, Edition of 250, 2-color offset interior, 2-color screen-printed dust jacket, 7 x 9.75 inches, Publisher: Sonnenzimmer ] ¶ I. Place a grid system over your drawing. Establish anchor points. II. Focus on your anchors. III. Connect your anchor points while disassociating yourself from your original drawing. Connect them while envisioning a new one. IV. Select areas of interest. V. Isolate, observe, and compare. VI. Recognize patterns in the object. VII. Listen to the rhythm of the pattern. VIII. Expand upon the rhythm. IX. Walk through the expansion. X. Construct and explore space. XI. Find an alternative structure. Look for entrances. XII. Extract entrances. Repeat, reduce, and compare. XIII. Select two elements. XIV. Combine elements statically. XV. Use elements dynamically. Create motion. XVI. Continue motion. Move freely. XVII. Combine movements. XVIII. Increase volume. ¶ — Formal Additive Programs was authored and designed by Nadine Nakanishi. It was published by Sonnenzimmer, Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi in 2008. The original publication featured a preface by Dakota Brown. This project was supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
bottom of page