Making in the digital age

Made You Look, a Look & Yes documentary by Paul O’Connor and Anthony Peters, offers a fascinating glimpse into the techniques and inspirations of a wide range of contemporary makers: artists, designers, printers, illustrators and others who create physical objects in the digital age or who work at the interface between physical and virtual. DM15 put on a screening followed by a Q&A with producer David Waterson and some of the featured artists.

Digital age

What they have in common is a passion for making – from Ben O’Brien saying it’s “human instinct to want to make something” to Fred Deakin acknowledging his “creative itch” and Helen Musselwhite using her scalpel like a pencil (sometimes leaving her DNA splashed on the work). Sophie Dauvois and her team at Okido art and science magazine for 3-7 year-olds are eager to pass on that bug and it is really not so far-fetched to see making as the hot new thing.

This, though, is not the making of a bygone age: most artists are either shaped by or actively explore the interface between physical and digital – Peepshow Collective describing their work as “like moulding clay but digitally, in vector form.”

Publisher Sam Arthur of Nobrow acknowledges that the rationale for making is different now. “If we’re going to print something, it has to deserve being printed. The age of publishing purely as dissemination of information is over. Now it’s about creating product that people want to keep, cherish, collect – and display perhaps. Print provides that.”

The one thing that has not changed is a timeless passion for making.

Jon Burgerman waxes lyrical about physical in Made You Look
Jon Burgerman waxes lyrical about physical in Made You Look

“There’s a million senses you have when you’re painting,” says graphic artist Jon Burgerman. It’s not just that you’re using a brush or a pen. “It’s the thickness of the pen, the weight of it, the paper, the friction of the nib on the paper, how quickly the ink comes out… Does it sit on the surface? Does it bleed into the paper? Can I lick it and smudge it? Can I tilt the paper? Can I rotate it round? Can I fold it in half? How the light hits it, whether it’s warm or cold, how it dries. These are all things that make working with real materials exciting and interesting.”

The documentary is available on Vimeo and is a great resource for students, designers and artists interested in different techniques and examples of making.

This article first appeared in Document 15

Copyright © 2019 Kasper de Graaf