Ruth Weisberg’s text from 1986, the earliest in this volume, has an almost legendary status among an older generation of printmakers. It was clearly written with the intention of ‘upping the ante’ of print discourse as it existed in the mid-1980s and of posing a challenge to curators and critics as well as printmakers themselves. It is informed by and touches on critical and philosophical debates at the time, such as semiotics and postmodern theory, but it also draws on earlier modernist and structuralist ideas, such as the search for a ‘discipline-based aesthetic’ and ‘inherent categories’.
The text by German art historian Ernst Rebel links the seemingly selfgenerative propensity of the new visual technology of photography in the early nineteenth century to earlier graphic processes. These exhibited a similar, if less comprehensive ‘automatism’ as photography did later. Rebel then traces the development of photography during the nineteenth century which he identifies as ‘the second transmedialisation’.
Catherine Brooks’ text is an excerpt from the aforementioned Manual. Her short autobiographical account meditates on the close – and often surprising – interconnections between human and material, culinary and artistic relationships in the context of her work at Crown Point Press in San Francisco and Atelier René Tazé in Paris. True to the title, the colour yellow is the binding agent in the tale.
Australian artist and educator Deidre Brollo explores and problematises the frequent and powerful metaphor of ‘imprint’ and ‘impression’ – since antiquity – in relation to memory. Drawing on recent neuroscientific theories, she counters the assumption of a static and passive notion of memory storage with current, ‘dynamic’ and ‘distributed’ models of memory.
The final text in Part II is Canadian artist and educator Barbara Balfour’s contribution to Toronto’s Open Studio’s 2010 symposium Printopolis. As with other authors in this book, in thinking about the ontology (the ‘what’ of the title) and the decision for the making of prints (the ‘why’) in a postdisciplinary art context, Balfour rejects the dominant focus on technical matters. Instead, she presents theoretically astute reflections on her chosen topics that are grounded in and informed by practice.
In the context of an increasingly ‘post-disciplinary’ art context, Matthew Perkins asks as to the implications for a higher art education that has historically been structured according to medium-specific disciplines. He interrogates the notions of the terms ‘discipline’ as well as ‘medium’, both tied to the functioning of ‘the studio’.
Art in the distributed field and systems of production
Print artist and cultural theorist Johanna Drucker’s text was one of the keynote speeches at the IMPACT 7 International Printmaking Conference 2011 in Melbourne. She considers the theoretical implications of emergent practices of production and dissemination that cross media and platforms, disregarding established notions of fixed objects.
Russian political theorist Peter Kropotkin is a giant in the early formation
of anarchist thought. This chapter pays particular attention to the
cultural/visual implications and possible models both he and Murray Bookchin
offer for art history, the humanities and cultural practice. Kropotkin’s
main work, Mutual Aid (1902) influenced later subjects in our discussion,
particularly Bookchin and Herbert Read. Murray Bookchin is central to
1960s–1990s libertarian socialist political theory, interested in
nonhierarchical human formations as well as symbiotic organisation in the
botanic and animal worlds. He is discussed here in the realm of art and art
history, exploring his understanding of earlier utopian traditions and his
interest in artisanship, medieval society and technology. There are also
links to another key text in the tradition of critical theory, Félix
Guattari’s The Three Ecologies, in relation to external and internal
This chapter takes a nonhierarchical reading through the art history of flesh
(widely conceived across animal and vegetable) rather than ‘inanimate’
matter. This is an important extension of ‘the political’ and the
‘environmental’ that takes us beyond the human, into the territory of the
‘other-than-human’. This kind of work can be understood as part of a larger,
flattening ontological set of studies nested within the wider humanities
discourse on ecology. It offers alternatives to conventional art historical
approaches to animals (iconographic or social-historical perspectives which
maintain and reinforce a value-laden, hierarchical system of understanding
art). One important exception within contemporary art history is the work of
Steve Baker. Critical animal studies is discussed, specifically in relation
to its potential for eroding normative, hierarchical value systems in
undertaking ecologically orientated, ‘green’ art history (such as Haraway,
Wolfe, etc.). Such human-animal-biopolitical theory has a long history as
part of the fight for rights of other-than-humans on the planet. Therefore,
the discussion is extended to the growing work done in relation to plants,
such as that of Marder. This chapter builds a case for a more formal and
grounded nonhierarchical art history of the other-than-human.
This chapter discusses the pivotal figure of Herbert Read. He wrote
extensively and influentially on anarchism as a politics and a cultural
direction. He saw one of his most famous books, Education Through Art (1943)
as an anarchist manifesto. Read’s role in establishing the ICA is clear,
which he saw as ‘a microcosm of a modern, anarchistic society’. He was aware
of and developed ideas coming from a number of polymathic thinkers in
politics, philosophy and the natural sciences, such as Kropotkin, Bergson
and D’Arcy Thompson. Building on them, and extending his role far beyond art
historical study alone, he articulated thoughtfully the aspirations of a new
kind of anarchism. The chapter concludes with a discussion of more recent
anarchist theory, particularly that of Antliff, which has, or could in the
future, play a role within the discipline of art history.