LAUNCH & TALK
Duncan Forbes (Director, Department of PhotogaphyV&A) in conversation with Antony Cairns
For more than ten years Antony Cairns has been working between analogue photography and different technologies of printing and reproduction, investigating the ways in which the photographic image can live on the page, screen or other supports. The original material, the archive of images that Cairns has produced, has been entirely concerned with modern cityscapes – black and white photographic works made at night, using available light and often resulting in images that range from ‘hard to read’ to entirely abstract. In a way, however, these images have always only been the starting points for his own experiments with technologies of reproduction and circulation: whether as handmade photo books; silver gelatin printed directly onto aluminium; traditional techniques like the collotype; or the use of electronic ink - the substance used in the screens of the first generations of e-books like the Kindle.
Computer_Punch_Card_Selected_Artworks_Computer:_Listing_Paper_Edition brings together 72 versions of the latest and most complex iterations of this practice. While retaining the same original photographic source material, which remains black and white images of cities like London and Tokyo at night, this time the support brings colour and an element of chance into the final image. Each individual image in this series is printed out across a grid of used IBM computer punch cards, varying in size, colour combinations and complexity, which are then pinned to a backboard. The small (8.3 x 18.7 cm) punch cards that make up each finished object were an early system by which computer programs were fed into generations of computing machines in the 1970s, through a combination of printed binary codes and punched holes – both of which are still visible on the cards used here. As such, like my previous projects with EI Tablets and electronic ink, these works continue my investigation into outmoded or defunct technologies from both their aesthetic and practical points of view. In this case Cairns is interested not only in the specific colours and combinations of colours of the cards, which produce their own abstractions, adding to those of the original images, but in the ways in which the sequences of printed numbers and the process of pinning them together replicates the essence of digital technology in a totally man-made and man-altered way. Having worked through this idea across many examples of different sizes and scales, from simple 24-card composites to large-scale versions of up to 330 cards, this artists book reproduces documentation of each complete image.
The reproductions are printed onto original custom made computer listing paper. The book is designed so that it can easily be unbound to become 18 panoramic artworks of 4 images/pages.
Each book is printed on an inkjet printer on custom computer listing paper:
242mm x 280
4 pages spreads - folded into 76 pages
Bound with metal fasteners with Japanese opaque acetate