Some Other Matter
Materials have shaped our history and nature, they give us the possibility of producing anything, thus directly influencing everything in our lives. Our daily interaction with materials imbues them with our memories, meanings and values.
The advancement of technology has, however, changed our perception of materials. A decade ago, what we perceive as wood is a solid block cut directly from a tree; today, companies like IKEA make furniture out of particle boards and composite from other materials, and cover them in plastic-based veneer, an economical and lightweight hybrid passable as wood in our minds. With numerous advancements giving people easier access to the usage of materials at the industrial level, we lose the intrinsic opportunity to learn and experience these materials for ourselves.
Paper suffers the same consequences of the changing perspective on materials today. The advancement of digital technology has almost stopped the development of industrial printing press and along with it, the production of paper. It was initially thought that both developments would benefit each other, but instead digital technology built a better solution for consuming information. As more information becomes available digitally, the demand of printing them onto paper has been reduced, thus decreasing the production of paper. With that, the development of industrial printing halted almost overnight in the middle of its technological prowess – like an unfinished building project – shifting its focus towards more efficient technology.
As a result, graphic designers these days do not have the technical capabilities to do print; companies avoid the cost of printing publication; and consumers won’t spend money buying things in material form if they are available digitally. In our daily and office use, paper is a cumbersome and heavy material that takes up unnecessary space, while physical books resemble bricks compared to space-saving e-books.
As an artist working with the medium of paper and a print practitioner in this digital age, I sense that our perception of paper has shifted into something new and I feel empathy towards the increasing abandonment of paper and our interaction with it.
Paper is one of the simplest, conventional, versatile, efficient and most applicable material. Who knows what future lies ahead for it? I believe that it won’t simply be abandoned completely. Like it usage in history, paper has served us in many ways, some in ways that were beyond our imagination, and it will continue to do so.
Seeing how the usage of paper has morphed in the past three decades in my life, it has become the object of empathy in my artmaking process. I have developed many memories and sense of wonder from the different ways of interacting with it, yet I too, loose the need of using paper in my everyday life.
I miss looking through my mother’s photo albums, all the photos printed and arranged nicely, compared to the photos of my daughter stored in my phone; I miss getting information from printed media instead of being bombarded by news notifications on my phone. But I am still excited to experiment and discover new possibilities of working with paper. I want challenge the way we think of paper today as an everyday material and how we use and relate to it.
I want to present a paper as a different material through parts of industrial process. Paper is seen as volumetric, heavy and durable, and I want to distort its assumed characteristics to rethink our relationship with the material, our everyday interaction with it, and its effect on history and nature; thus imbuing it with new memories, meanings and values.
Something new will rise from its current abandoned state, reclaimed as some other matter that can be derived from the simplest material.