Dear participants of the 2nd IMPACT International Printmaking Conference,
It was some years ago that we created a plan to organize an international printmaking conference - the plan was even advanced on websites, under the title MATRIX - and it was initially scheduled to take place in the year 2000.
Later on we found that The Centre for Fine Print Research at The University of the West of England in Bristol also had a plan to arrange a printmaking conference. As we all know, the successful conference took place at Bristol in 1999, thanks to its creators Steve Hoskins and Richard Anderton.
So, it became clear that there would not be any sense in organizing a similar event that same year, though it was also clear to us that there was a continuing need in Europe for these kinds of events, where printmakers can meet and discuss matters together, face to face.
In accordance with the theme of our conference, Material Meaning, we concentrated on the content of the image, whatever the technique used might be, taking account of recent research and current developments in printmaking.
The oldest techniques represented at IMPACT were Takuhon traditional stone rubbing, presented by master craftsman Kasyu Yabuta, and Japanese watercolor woodcut, introduced by master printer Keizo Sato. The history of stone rubbing goes back to China about 2000 years ago and Japanese woodcut is over 1000 years old. The newest technology was discussed in two sessions, "Prints for the Future" and "New Media Panel". Expert presentations were given by Carinna Parraman, Jon Pengelly, Paul Coldwell, George Whale, Naren Barfield and Raz Barfield.
Why did we have these two extremities of time - old and new - represented at this conference? There are at least two answers. Stone rubbing is a forerunner of woodcut and therefore of printmaking. The master prints of Ukiyo-e inspired the flourishing of a form of woodcut which has been an enormous influence on modern art in Europe, and as we know, the Ukiyo-e inspired many reformers of printmaking, especially in the field of woodblock printmaking.
We can state with some pride that printmaking has, all over the world, taken the first steps as a form of communication. Nowadays, we are living in societies where all kinds of information are easily available. In fact, we can very often feel that we are surrounded by an ever-increasing surfeit of information. This is not a matter that I am worried about. I think that technical competence is not an end in itself: it is merely an instrument for pursuing individual expression. Creative artists are used to surviving, as the history of art has proved. You will have noticed in several of the exhibitions here that graphic design, printmaking and photography have been assimilated with fine results, making it difficult to draw lines of demarcation between the various areas.
A significant current development is the appearance of more and more possibilities of distribution via new technology. At the same time our societies are increasingly filled with visual effects. In the first place this will mean real competition in different media, and in the second it will mean huge possibilities. The speed of change is fast indeed and some important questions face us: How can we keep pace with the progress of new technology? How can artists stand out with their own work in the midst of a constant flow of images? These questions I will leave for your consideration.
The matter which I am really worried about is related to the question of new technology and communication. In spite of the great possibilities of new media and rapid connections, these will at the same time separate less developed areas from highly educated ones. Only a few percent of the world's population are able to take part in this communication revolution, and the dividing line is very noticeable. Another issue which will cause increasing problems to less developed countries is the migration of their highly educated experts to centers of new technology. Printmaking, since its birth, has been a democratic medium and a preceding stage of communication. We can ask: Will it still be?
The 2nd IMPACT International Printmaking Conference took place on 29th August - 2nd September 2001 in the Media Center Lume at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH). There were over 200 participants from 25 countries, 14 product fair exhibitors and 17 print exhibitions.
Thanks to George Whale (now resident in Helsinki as a direct result of attending IMPACT 2nd) for proofreading and correcting several of the texts.
You will find presentations arranged here under the following headings: Material and Meaning, Prints for the Future, Discourse on Printmaking, Cultural Diversity and Fine Art Printmaking, Development Projects on Printmaking, Panel Discussions including Education and New Media Panels, and Demonstrations.
My best regards,
Theme of the Conference
The overall theme for the conference papers is Material Meaning. 2nd IMPACT is a conference focussing on important issues relating to the art of printmaking, in particular the relationship between traditional craftsmanship and modern technology, where basic working methods that are thousands of years old meet present day imaging technologies. Included in the discussions is photography, which has been a part of printmaking since its birth:
2nd IMPACT is however not only interested in raising issues concerning the technical aspects of printmaking, but intends also to deal with some relevant questions of content from a Northern and Nordic perspective. Art on paper, paper as a surface to print on, the 'space' of paper, printmaking as a form of expression in progress - these are the collective theme of 2nd IMPACT.
Material Meaning - with the growing pace of development of distribution technologies and sites of presentation, and a new set of conditions for representation, artists navigating between art and design are confronted with an ever-growing range of new media that seem to threaten printmaking, craftsmanship and excellence in the traditional means of visual arts.
The visual arts have traditionally defined their genres in convergence with the technology of each genre. Today, artists are challenged with alternatives and options for processing ideas, combining techniques and presenting and distributing works of art in ways that never existed before.
Should we adopt the contributions of the new technologies or do we think that printmaking creates its own categories of artistic quality, which are lost when the character of the traditional print is altered? Yes and no. Artists may have to alter their ways of working. Artists even may want it. What are the aesthetic signs generated by the medium itself?
Theoretical and philosophical discussions on art and design participate in rewriting notions of aesthetic meaning, reconsidering ideas sustained by modernist thinking directed toward the "immaterialization" of the art object and its distribution in urban space. Contemporary art strategies, ranging from digital imaging to architectural modes of representation, reflect the construction of our environment by pervasive physicality, marketing by aesthetization, cultural industries, cultural events, sites and institutions.
2nd IMPACT challenges us to think about the production of meaning in printmaking media. Phenomenological as well as pragmatist approaches enlighten action-oriented theory of art and design. 2nd IMPACT participates in refining theories of meaning and aesthetic signification in art. 2nd IMPACT discusses the print as a symbolic object and as a vehicle for aesthetic experience confronted with the possibility of its material disappearance as artwork.
Eric Mutel / Ice Cube with Print (detail), 2001
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