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    Photogravure etchings at www.kamprint.com and http://kamprint.com/xpress/

    Photogravure etchings at www.kamprint.com and http://kamprint.com/xpress/

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    Photogravure etchings at http://kamprint.com/ & http://kamprint.com/xpress/

    Photogravure etchings at http://kamprint.com/ & http://kamprint.com/xpress/

Active Perception

A long time ago, I introduced a machine for manufacturing liquid crystal displays to Seiko-Epson. The manufacturer touted the machine as ‘idiot-proof’, meaning all the worker had to do was press a button to churn out LCDs. The Seiko plant manager, in Nagano Prefecture (Japan), patiently explained to me, in the tone used for children and dim-witted foreigners, that they didn’t want ‘idiot-proof’ machines, thank you. They wanted their workers to understand how the production equipment worked, so that they could improve it. (The LCD machine maker re-designed, and later made the sale.)

Fast-forward several decades, and ‘idiot-proof’ design is everywhere. Your car’s lights turn themselves on when it’s dark and off when you park, and its doors lock automatically when they and the key are separated by more than 10 meters. The driver is presumed to be stupid, or thinking on more important things like buying cat food. On-line retailers list five other items, usually irrelevant, purchased by those who got the one you’re looking at. Software ‘auto-completes’ the word you’re typing, unless you turn that feature off. Whenever you type any variation of ‘attach’ in email software, it reminds you to add an attachment — regardless of whether you were writing about tender feelings of attachment to your correspondent, or about attaching your dog’s leash to his collar, of about how one finger is attached to another with sticky-glue. All of these usages generate the same irrelevant reminder. What it reminds me of is the pervasiveness of idiot-proof design outsmarting itself.

Contemporary art too has its own form of idiot-proof design — gargantuan sizes that overwhelm and diminish the viewer, topical messages encapsulated in cartoons, grotesquerie ad nauseum proclaiming the artist’s superior sensibilities. Such displays, like pornography, leave little or nothing to the imagination. They turn viewers into passive receivers of pre-digested input. The presumption is, viewers are unable to see and think for themselves, or too lazy to make the effort.

At The Kamakura Print Collection, we think otherwise. Most of the photogravure etchings are in black and white, some in sepia or burnt umber, a few with more than one color. Similar to Chinese and Japanese ink-brush painting, this style asks the viewer to imagine what is not directly revealed. With active rather than passive perception, new worlds open up as color and form are added to the image from the viewer’s own experience and imagination. This in turn stimulates new ways of looking at the world, drawn from active engagement with the artwork. This interplay between the graphic arts and the world is what makes both interesting.

Printed from: http://www.kamprint.com/views/?p=291 .
© Peter Miller 2018.

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