In September, I was very lucky to be able to represent Double Elephant at IMPACT 10. IMPACT is the international printmaking conference that takes place every two years. When Double Elephant was a mere fledgling, both Simon Ripley and myself (founder members) were at the inaugural IMPACT conference in Bristol, in 1999 and then again at IMPACT 8 in Dundee with Joshua Gaunt of Workshops n’ Docs fame.
This year IMAPECT 10 took place in Santander, Spain.
The theme for IMPACT 10 was flagged up as ENCUENTRO – which means encounter and boasted of being the first bilingual event. Arriving on Wednesday evening I had three densely packed days with several seminar groups a day, more exhibitions than you could shake a stick at and some practical workshop demonstrations as well.
My colleague Catherine Cartwright was also there, but with her MA hat on rather than officially having her Double Elephant hat on (she delivered two academic papers, one on her own and one together with Leonie Bradley). We were both very gratified to find people from all round the world who said “oh yes, I know of Double Elephant”. An extra buzz for me was to be at demonstration where at the end people were directed to one of Double Elephant’s videos to learn more.
Having attended two IMPACT conferences before, I thought I knew what to expect – but… The first surprise was that, rather than having a printed brochure to navigate when choosing which seminar group to take part in, there was a 632 page pdf to download!! Each day that there were between 8 and 11 different seminar sessions with 5 or 6 speakers. (That’s about 150-160 speakers). A lot were in English and some were in Spanish. It’s a pity that the translation didn’t work a bit better. It was alright in theory but failed to deliver whenever I tried it.
The 29 academic papers I saw presented were various and far reaching. Some were sooo very academic they were a bit over my head. (Even prompted me to write “WTF” in my note book!). But several I attend were excellent. A highlight for me was Sioban Piercy who paper “The Insincere Object: A Critical valuation Of The Skilfully Made Work Within Contemporary Fine Art Printmaking Practice” quoted Edward Lucie-Smith saying – ‘that more and more since the advent of Arte Povera the well-made work finds itself accused of insincerity’. Or as Glenn Adamson puts it ‘that it’s not only OK but necessary for a contemporary artist to be amateurish’? That ‘the lack of evident skill somehow implies the presence of concept’. and “Sloppy craft” = “a tendency among practitioners to deliberately eschew skilled craftsmanship in favour of conceptual properties”. Such a lovely light relief after a few too many “Emperor’s new clothes” style of presentations where much academic “poetry” was made out of so little 😉
One of the most enjoyable Panels for me was the set of lectures under the theme of “Mapping the Landscape” where I particularly enjoyed was Annis Fitzhugh’s talk “A hand in time” – “Printmaking is not always a medium of multiples. It is not necessarily fast. Making an artwork with print processes can test the very limits of patience: all involve commitment to time and alchemy, and often failed attempts before a successful outcome.” An artist she talked about to illustrate this was Ilana Halperin who has harnesses mineral accretion in underground caverns: a form of additive-manufacturing that makes stalagmites and echoes the accumulation of layers in 3D printing. Progressing on to making silica-encrusted sculptures in Icelandic lagoons.
Tracy Hill was also really good. “Matrix of Movement: The Co-existence of the handmade and the Digital” might not sound like an obvious subject of interest for me – but actually her work brings together the worlds of Fine Art, Environmental conservation, Ecology, Environmental science and industrial surveying. Her subject for study was the environmental impact and awareness of post-industrial wetlands. The end product may be considered traditionally printed intaglio prints, but these were processed and informed by using industrial digital 3D mapping instruments.
If you would like to see some images from one of the exhibitions I saw, I have posted a set of photos on Double Elephant’s FaceBook page.
This is only a small taste of what I experienced at IMPACT 10 in Santander. I could bore you for a few hours if you would like to know more! The next IMPACT printmaking conference will take place in 2020 in Hong Kong. Don’t think I’ll be going – but will look out for the following one which I believe will take place in Bristol again!