Tafel by Alexandre Castonguay

Tafel by Alexandre Castonguay

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Alexandre Castonguay

Blackboard, chalk, robotics, software, cell phone, internet.


‘Tafel’ is part of the ‘inscriptions’ series of drawing machines.

'Inscriptions' consists in the development of artworks that analyze, inscribe and encode written information. At a time when the written form is undergoing a massive migration to a digital format that promises quick access to vast amounts of data but also shifts the mode of experience and attention given to its contents, the artworks tend to give a tangible form to information, to re-embody the digital through writing at the time of the disappearance of cultural forms perceived as obsolete.

This occurs through a digital and electronic process that revives old protocols like HPGL (Hewlett Packard Graphics Language) and reclaimed stepper motors to augment a blackboard into a chalk drawing machine. It accepts texts sent by users via sms or email, processes them and inscribes a response in the form of written text or diagram in the hand of Joseph Beuys, whose ‘tafel’ lectures form the basis of this participative work.

Beuys lectures-performances often made use of blackboards to record and illustrate their contents. Although some were famously erased by conscientious janitors (as they were meant to be), many survive in galleries and museums.  They record the artist’s thoughts on art and society. Through their idealism, they often mirror that of pioneers of electronic arts, but there seems to have been a disconnect between them.

The uncanny hand gesture of the artist, re-embodied by the drawing mechanism, is an occasion to put into play the contents of these early and original writings. Spurred by the participation of the audience through their texts, the drawing machine is not subjected to their primary transcription but inscribes responses to them.

This project is part of the OPEN Signs exhibition at the Marshall McLuhan Salon of the Embassy of Canada, curated by Heather Kelley.



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