I did a studio visit with artist Michael Mandiberg on Monday. He’s currently a research fellow at Eyebeam, where he’s been making a lot of work using a laser cutter. He’d set a bunch of that work up in Eyebeam’s main display space, so it has the look and feel of a solo show. We had a good conversation – particularly about that process of adopting a new technology into your practice – how you negotiate your way past a certain wariness or over-reverent approach to the technology whilst you’re working out what it can do (and more importantly, what it can do for you…).
Michael’s been doing a lot of work with reference books – laser cutting through them with words that add a sometimes brutal comment on these once state-of-the-art information retrieval technologies (a dictionary cut right through with large block letters saying “SPELLCHECK” for example). We talked a little about reaching the stage with the work where he can loosen up the relationship between these cut texts and the material they are carved in – I think I called it “choosing your words less carefully”. Thinking about my own work too, I believe that that initial wary exploration of new tools that I described above can lead us towards solutions that tend to the tautological – the very self-conscious mode of deployment of a new piece of kit, or software, within a workflow is reflected in what we do with it. The results can be over-determined and mannered so that the technology’s presence can dominate too much in ‘the mix’ – not allowing the viewer to see past it. It was interesting in seeing the progression of Michael’s work to watch him work through this – watching the laser become more smoothly integrated into the work, as he learned about its (im)materiality.
I had my video camera with me and at the end of our visit Michael agreed to record a brief tour of his work which you can see on Vimeo here. It’s a little grainy in places since it was a very ad hoc shoot under existing light, but you’ll get an idea of Michael’s work. You can also see more at mandiberg.com or even better, go to the Eyebeam open studios on October 23rd or 24th between 3-6pm.