Philagrafika 2010 brings print innovation to Philadelphia

This spring, the city will become the home of one of the largest art projects in the United States with Philagrafika, but why Philadelphia? Curators, like Julien Robson, said they were inspired by the city’s rich history in the textile and paper-making industries.
Philagrafika, a print collaborative with a vision of bringing printmaking to the forefront of contemporary art, will pull together six world-renowned curators to create “something Philadelphia can be proud of and can make it a center of international art,” Robson said.
After overcoming many obstacles involving staff and financial issues, José Roca and his team of curators were able to put together what is more than just an exhibition of printmaking in their city-wide exhibition, The Graphic Unconscious.
Roca said every process of printmaking one could think of can be found throughout the event. There are “videos made from woodcuts and woodcuts made from videos,” he said.
Printmaking may have a reputation as an outdated technique, Roca said, but no method is really outdated.
“Printmaking is ink and paper, and the matrix is the digital file of print,” Roca said, adding that he wishes to provoke the question: “Why does it matter?” He said he hopes to challenge preconceptions of both the observer and the artist.
Philagrafika is set to be a triennial event, for the sake of educating and advancing the public, encouraging direct dialogue with the artists and broadening the understanding of printmaking. Roca and the team of curators said they feel that in the absence of a museum, the public will come to appreciate the presence of the short-term festival.
Alongside The Graphic Unconscious, there will also be Out of Print – featuring five artists with five historical projects in Philadelphia – and the individual projects, which makes use of more than 75 other Philly venues.
“Philadelphia will become the hub of all-things print,” Roca said of the festival’s run from January to April.
Starting Friday, students can see the works of Superflex, Thomas Klipper, Francesc Ruiz, Bethélémy Toguo and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries at the Tyler School of Art’s Temple Gallery.
Jakob Fenger said he’s not fighting for a cause but that he’s aiming to raise questions. He is one of three members of Superflex – a collective emerging from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Superflex has created a small factory that creates lamps with images of other companies’ products in order to raise questions about copyright issues. He said he feels we are living in a world that is “limiting our freedom more and more, instead of expanding it” through the enforcement of copyright laws.
He said each lamp creates a “small problem.” Each light is a potential lawsuit. Through the illumination, each lamp allows you to see more, both in the physical darkness as well as the darkness of corporations, he added.
“Copyright is the oil of the 21st century,” Fenger said, adding that he is worried that nations will be willing to war over the issue. He said he believes copyright issues will be the burden of this generation.
At the end of the exhibition, Superflex hopes to have produced around 500 lamps. Fenger said they will be auctioning them off and donating the money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helps individuals fight copyright lawsuits.
In the next segment of the gallery, there is a piece titled “Philadelphia News.” Designed by Francesc Ruiz, an artist from Barcelona, the exhibit strives to bring to mind the antiquity of the newsstand as the original source of information.
The focus of the piece, an actual newsstand, holds 110 magazines. Each one represents a first impression Ruiz had of the city within his first two weeks of living in Philadelphia. After three months of hand-making each print, his second creation raises questions of the future of news on the Internet.
In the last room of the Temple Gallery, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ “My Pretty Peacenik” video installation is displayed.
“I’m sick of the Wild, Wild West. I don’t own a gun,” a scene says. The installation tells the story of the time when Marc Voge of Heavy Industries, stood up against violence to appease his girlfriend’s pacifist views.
Instead, he got knocked out and lost his girl. Voge and Young-hae Chang, his girlfriend and the other half of Heavy Industries, don’t normally comment on violence, but they said they found this piece to be fitting in Philadelphia.
Voge said that with the pace of technological advancements, the pair’s work is the future of printmaking.
“It’s a cushy job,” said Voge, who refers to himself not just as an artist but an entertainer. “We are irresponsible people … and people love it. That’s art.”
Most of the venues are free and open to the public and will be holding various events over the next three months. Artwork at all of the venues will be on display Friday, Jan. 29th through Saturday, April 11th.
Visit Philagrafika’s blog to read more about each of these artists, discover all 88 venues, learn about the festival itself and check out the calendar with upcoming events.
Click here to see the videos of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.
Katherine Zuk can be reached at katherine.zuk@temple.edu.

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