“Ghost Fork” and “March of the Sad Lady”

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by angelarovak

I have fond memories of playing with the giant copy machine as a child at my mother’s office. Such thoughts made me incredibly excited to read and inspired by Copier Art. The possibilities seemed endless! And, partially frightening, as the text asks “Does the machine have a creative soul of its own? One begins to wonder” (107). During my experiment creating some copier “art” (in scare quotes because I am not sure I would label my results as such), I had to wonder if the machine was influencing my intent. And what I discovered is that it is incredibly difficult, and would take significantly more time in planning a piece than I dedicated today. I made two pieces to explore two basic concepts of copier art, zoom and density. My piece playing with the zoom capabilities of the machine, titled “March of the Sad Lady,” proved to be the most difficult. After several failed attempts at arranging the paper in the manual input tray to guarantee the images were aligned on the page correctly, I began placing my image, moving it about, and changing the zoom. What I discovered is how difficult it is to picture a percentage of zoom on the large glass space in terms of how it will be represented on an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper. Below are my results:

March of the Sad Lady

I feel particularly bad for the teeny tiny sad lady in the middle, obstructed by two larger sad ladies, whom I was intending to be closer to the bottom left hand corner. If anything I can say that at least my efforts were successful, it does look like quite a march of the sad, automaton ladies.

My second experiment was in density, or the saturation of image. This was accomplished by using the same source material, in this case a large fork with pasta, moving it about and changing the input. We can call this one “Ghost Fork.” I was expecting larger contrast between the lightest setting and the darkest, but overall I am pleased with the results:Ghost Fork

After a few minutes experimenting, the controls of the machine became familiar, and I found myself laughing and smiling with excitement as things turned out and frustrated and scoffing when they did not. I was reminded of the instant gratification benefit of embarking on creative endeavors such as these described in Copier Art. The technology has advanced, although it appears to still be within the realm of those described in the 1980s. What interests me most is the ubiquity of the machine and how it no longer seems to have such an appeal, an aura of wonder, as it may have decades ago. Do children still place office supplies and found objects on the glass and make souvenirs from their trips to their parent’s office? The process reminds me of another long lost interest of mine, photography. Learning to use the dark room, to manipulate light and create your own saturations and zooms for your art came back to me in another rush of nostalgia. Like copier art it seems that the widespread use of such skills and techniques is fading from the general public as more digital means of image manipulation take hold. I am reminded of the introduction to Copier Art where “copier visionaries predict such marvels as instant copies of what a person sees, shot directly off the back of the eye’s retina” (18). While this still seems to be in our future, devices like Google Glass make it seem all too real.

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5 comments on ““Ghost Fork” and “March of the Sad Lady”

  1. kylebickoff says:

    You mention that what interested you most in creating these works is the idea of “the ubiquity of the machine.” Looking at both of these works, I find the ‘fingerprint’ of the machine within your creative style consciously evident. I also should note that you specifically reference the creative process you engaged in. Creating these works forces one to engage with the machine in a new, artistic way–it forces one to engage with art in a machinic, seemingly structured manner.

    Such evidence of the machinic process seems to manifest itself in both of your works. In the first image, the ubiquity of the marching, sad lady seems to evidence a certain multiplicity, normality of this robotic sadness. Such duplication in the image seems to reference a greater act of imitation/reproduction in the larger social sphere. And the key on her back? There is too much to say…

    In the second image, of course I see forks reproduced. But why? The machine that produced this food image, a photocopier, would never require such spaghetti. While food is typically a commodity to be consumed, you have turned food here into a product to be produced, and then instantly reproduced. Moreover, I think Foucault might have something to say about the vertical prison bars in the image. Is the machine caging us in? Is the machine using instant reproduction and similar techniques to shift power structures?

    I very much enjoyed these works.

  2. dparker90 says:

    I love both works, Angie! I’m interested to know how you managed to make a copy of the spaghetti dangling off the fork without making it look like it had been laid down (or did you lay it down on the copier?). I think this work is particularly subversive because it uses the department copier, a tool upon which administrative limits have been placed, to make something without a productive purpose. Isn’t there a limit on the number of copies we’re allowed to make, or something like that? And I think we have to put in a code? These rules are supposed to limit the use of the copier as a classroom and administrative aide, which makes your art all the more meaningful.

    • angelarovak says:

      Deven: You perfectly articulate many of the concerns and fears I had before starting this experiment. Primarily I was worried about “messing up” the department copier and being subject to the wrath of a whole host of people. Which is why the source material for both of the pieces is simply magazine clippings. No real spaghetti involved! I wanted to use real objects but, alas, the anxiety over mucking up the new copier prevailed. As a “lead” graduate student I have the privilege of having an abundance of allocated copies (which, presumably, is a perk of my administrative “authority”). Therefore I at least felt more free to experiment without the fear of running out of copies. And yes, we need a personal code to access the machine, and it is all very well monitored. I am pleased to say, though, that anyone that came in the room was excited by my project and there were many laughs and smiles. I did feel the need to always preface my explanation of what I was doing with “it’s for class!” which brings my actions back into the realm of acceptable academic pursuit. It might be time to rethink how “administrative limits” might actually be inhibiting productivity and creating more waste than not.

  3. […]  (for the full post see “Ghost Fork” and “March of the Sad Lady”) […]

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