May 11, 2007

Process Post: Closed-Loop Manufacturing

oil on newspaper and masking tape on graph paper

One of the great things about a painting is that, though it is material, much of its power and meaning is derived from the abstract principles it triggers in the mind. For example, today’s post of collages serves as material representation of the concept of closed-loop manufacturing.

Just like each of life’s moments refashions the next, the byproducts of artmaking can spark new creation in the form of upcyclable raw materials.

A deep satisfaction of my earlier career as a performance artist - a migratory monologist - was its extreme resource responsibility. Warehousing the stories in my head, I could jump up on any stage, before any gathering, with all my inventory-on-hand and burn only calories. The sole, lingering byproduct posited with each audience was memory.

Yet in the decade I traveled the US performing, my painter nature pursued. I had to acknowledge the irony of being one who likes to trod gently yet practices a form of art that may create non-biodegradable material objects. (Hence, this soon to be windpowered blog and the virtue of this virtual venue for painting distribution.)

So, painting is an arena for considering the reality that we live in a material world.

Painting, as an act of manufacturing, prompts me constantly to look for ways to increase productivity, minimize expenditures and improve my health (and the planet’s) by eliminating or, at least, reducing toxicity and waste. All this while, necessarily, enhancing the quality and value of the product - the painting. In short, I strive to implement the principles of Natural Capitalism in the practice of artmaking.

At times, I use newspapers mined from my tenement building’s recycling bin to form stencils or abrupt edges and try out ideas before confidently committing them to oil. These scraps become invested with intention and information, authenticity born of utility. Each piece of paint-splattered paper has enhanced value, carrying the mark of having been, at one point, indispensable. Then there’s the parallel history spelled out in the newsprint itself. In using these mere byproducts of process as constituent elements for collages, what was waste yields a novel new expression. That, in turn, can feed into the pipeline of works still in the artistic equivalent of R&D.

I take delight in realizing that this can be considered a best practice in the world of sustainability. And though it’s probable that my grandfather might have called this so much manure on the fields. In a way, he’d be exactly right.

Mild Tangent:

In my own broad example of biomimicry, I have long used the recycling bin outside my apartment door as a fertile resource for the raw materials of artmaking. It has yielded the ongoing series of magazine paintings and pop stoppages. But this innovative use of soda bottles as building materials takes the constructive nature of pop stoppages to another level.

My particular intervention in the pop bottle’s life-cycle upcycles only the labels, so the art on the wall could be made of the wall.

Posted by mark at May 11, 2007 03:36 AM