Maybe we could start with where technology fits into this series. More specifically, I mean computer algorithms and automation. Given some of your past projects and strategies, your process for this series resists computer automation, or at least complicates it through repetition.
I use a lot of technology and automation in all of my work. The bus maps that have been source material for this body of work are PDFs downloaded from the MTA website, and unlocked on another website; I take and sort the material I'm using from the maps with illustrator, produce the working drawings using nesting software, and send the work files to a fabricator who CNC/laser cuts them into plexiglass which I use as printing plates. So it's not so much a question of resisting technology or automation, but identifying where I can do it wrong to introduce a kind of a lite sabotage that fucks with how subsequent phases of the work unfold.
Tell me more about nesting software.
Nesting software is used in manufacturing to minimize waste when cutting parts from flat material.
Actually when I first worked with laser cutters it was for a sculpture; a large scatter piece made of plexiglass cutouts of the shape of every roadway and bus route in Manhattan. These parts would be dumped into a pile in the middle of a room and swept apart slowly until none of the roads or routes touched. For that piece I actually did all the part nesting for the laser cutter "by hand," which was a slow enough process that I started to think the working drawings needed to be carried forward as well, either as a complete but unverifiable inventory of the final piece, or something like an instruction manual for assembling an unrealizable final iteration. The space that opened up between making these rigidly organized part layout drawings and the stochastic floor display was really important for me; not only that these phases seemed totally opposed, but that the strict constraints of the former were prerequisite for the appearance of the latter.
As it turned out, the laser cutter I was using was kind of dysfunctional so it would not reliably cut through the plexiglass. I ended up with a bunch of panels that were engraved with the drawings I'd been making so I used them to make the first prints that started this body of work.
You seem to be inserting your own hand/labor back into these algorithmic optimizations and technological processes, or at least working alongside them, which slows the whole thing down.
I am definitely interested in having a lever for intervention in how the work proceeds for as long as possible... obviously in the digital space you can kind of do whatever you want, but in terms of output you suddenly are constrained to whatever narrow tolerance the printer or router manufacturer has allowed to make sure the device operates for long enough to get through the warranty period. If you try to do something really wrong, the machine will usually politely pause and tell you there's an error. So using the press has more to do with the possibilities for material exhaustion than labor per se... the irregular shifting of the plexi and paper as they deform under extreme pressure adds information to the prints; the eventual failure of the plates adds more. There is something like an accumulation of subtractions.
You’ve done these in several colors, right? Black, and wasn’t there a red one? This iteration explicitly references blueprints.
Black and red, plus black-on-black and white-on-white monochromes. I ended up continuing to work with cyan because the color is kind of split between the photochemical and photomechanical, so the relief prints could refer to and sometimes resemble photochemical processes like cyanotype or diazo/blueprint. What interested me most was probably that the process/object which produces the image stays 'present' only by analogy to a technical process that is almost the opposite of how the image is made, and not by the immense pressure that physically embosses its form into the paper along with the ink. And then, of course, a blueprint is always an image of a thing to be constructed or operated on; that futurity is really important to think into.
The folds in "Maximum circulation maximum control" mark the juncture of discrete panels within the pieces.
For the most recent prints the fold is primarily dealing with a material contingency—the largest press bed in the print shop I work out of was only half as wide and tall as the prints—but there was also the connection to a long history of multi-paneled maps (from 17th century etchings to Google), and in a different register the way a bus map is folded to fit in a pocket or a highway map is folded to fit in a glove box. Folded maps maybe a bit of an anachronism now with ubiquitous GPS, but that might also be a condition of the fold's visibility
They create a very perceptible topography, and complicate the flatness of transit map...
The folds happen before they go through the press so in addition to the slight relief where it's creased, there's another kind of topography of ink density due to the four layers of paper compressing and expanded unevenly around the joints.
I guess more broadly I think of tiling in terms of production and folding in terms of circulation, so the tiles and folds have a similar kind relationship to the nesting software and the roads. I try to collapse those spatial logics into one another.
Is "Maximum circulation maximum control" efficient? It’s certainly information dense.
That's an interesting question. At the level of process and making (and material inputs and outputs) they are definitely inefficient. If you imagine the process as something like an apparatus, it would be an unwieldy, Rube Goldberg contraption, not a slick black box. I guess that's true for the resulting image as well... the information density is in the end more an accumulation of contingencies and defects than it is the output of a nesting algorithm.
But I guess I would have to ask by what criteria you'd judge the efficiency of an image?