Artists’ Books as Material Objects of Resistance in The Digital Age (Keynote at by Dr. Paul Uhlmann, 07.30 BST, 21 April 2020 @ELPUB_conf)

Dr. Paul Uhlmann

PhD (RMIT); MA (ANU); BA (ANU)

Edith Cowan University, Australia

Paul Uhlmann_Edith Cowan University

Paul Uhlmann is a Fremantle based artist whose work strives to question and translate philosophies of impermanence. He works experimentally across the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and artists’ books – at times employing the mechanics of simple cameras obscura. He is interested in how the materiality of the mediums employed can give rise to form and how this, in turn, informs the imagination. Paul studied art in Australia and Europe on two year-long scholarships; DAAD in Germany (1986-87) and Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship in Holland (1994-95). In 2012 he was awarded a practice-led research PhD at RMIT.

He has lectured for over twenty years at various institutions including Australian National University, Monash University and Edith Cowan University. He is coordinator of the Visual Arts Course and co-founder of fold (Artists Books + Print Editions), a small press of experimental printmaking, at Edith Cowan University. He foundered his own imprint, trembling hands, for making his unique and limited-edition books in 1986. He has exhibited nationally and internationally since 1983 and his work is held in many prominent collections. He has published papers on the creative process and embodiment and articles in Imprint and Artlink magazine.

Artists’ Books as Material Objects of Resistance in The Digital Age

The rapid rise of the digital age in the early part of the 21st century has brought many benefits but it has also fostered new challenges including ‘digital distraction’ which reduces efficiency, productiveness and the inherent value of attention. It has been argued that the dematerialisation of information into digital realms is also changing the way we think, remember and act in the world. This paper will form the position that select artists’ books hold special value for libraries and should be fostered within collections as objects which can; on the one hand, provide essential connections to traditional means of production familiar to Gutenberg printing methods; and on the other hand, represent material objects which contain complex embodied meanings which are invaluable to reading. I will argue that artists’ books are emerging to hold new agency as material forms which in the 21st century act as objects of resistance to the dehumanising nature of the digital age. The artists’ books informing this paper are unique forms of literature which unify word and image through a hybrid of material means utilising ink, paper, letterpress, digital, intaglio, and relief prints. I will reference artist’s books from my own imprint of trembling hands and the imprint of fold which I co-foundered and which runs out of Edith Cowan University as well as works from other artists and in this manner, I aim to illuminate how these material objects express embodied communication and are essential to any library collection.

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