A canvas is never empty

The book is out of my hands now and I’m beginning the process of producing some pieces for the installation. This is a photographic archival pigment print of Relic #241. I knew I wanted a large print of one of the pixel extractions, so I used chance operations to select 20 and then tell me what the long dimension should be for each, from 7″ (avoiding prints that would be smaller than the book) to 60″ (the width of the paper roll). Relic 241 was the largest, so this is what I’m printing for the installation.

It measures 21.5″ x 25.5″. It’s a half-size proof; the final print will be 43″ x 51″. It appears in the book as a 5″ x 7″ image in a spread paired with Relic 240 (see below), so the change in scale is dramatic.

When the printer called yesterday to tell me the proof was ready I could hear some doubt in her voice, so I ran over to West 52nd. We talked for awhile about what we were seeing (and not seeing), my intentions, the technology, things she could do to bring out more detail, etc. And I’ve been staring at and thinking about this print now for almost 24 hours. We’ll start the gigantic print on Monday.

While I love the book, it’s important for me to circle back to the photograph now. The essence of this project is photographic. I began with the photograph, and I find myself now, again at the photograph.

And while everything about this process has been digital, I’m interested now in the non-virtual artifacts that are being generated. Actual books, real prints, live readings.

What we’re looking at here is an extremely close crop of the single 12-megapixel photograph of the mushroom basket I took at the John Cage Trust at exactly 10:15 am on August 22, 2011. The crop is an extraction of 1,548 pixels (a grid of 36 x 43), generated by chance operations on September 1, 2011. But beyond these facts, the technical reality, the print asks more perplexing questions.

is it a photograph?
is it photographic?
does it depict?
does it refer?
does it demand?
is it empty?
what is the space of this image?
what is its narrative?
what does it carry?

I fear these questions and the gigantic print that’s coming my way (in a good way). They’re forcing me to confront some basic questions about how I’ve designed in the past, how I create art today, and the relevance of creating this story.


  1. I’ve bee looking at this on and off all day.

    I feel like you should not feel that it is necessary to extract more detail out of this print. As it is, it has a soft, wandering eye quality to it. Just an opinion.

  2. Thanks Matt, I value your opinion. In fact, the detail that you see in this photo is not really there in the proof. Somehow it came out in re-photographing the image. So, I’m actually using this photo as a reference for the printer to try to match. They’re doing another proof now. But you’re right — I don’t want to go too far, and turn it into something more defined than it should be.

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