Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
  The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs (detail) 1871

Paul Laidler

Professional Practice

Stretch out with your feelings

Medium: Laser Engraving
Substrate: Black Velvet Somerset 250gsm
Substrate dimensions: Width 38cm x Height 57cm
Image dimensions: Width 12cm x Height 12cm
Edition size: 15
Stretch out with your feelings

Stretch out with your feelings was created as part of a continuing fascination with the oscillations between image and object - fact and fiction. I have an interest in the role of film props and replicas; where our associations with these objects are generally through their ‘on screen’ image presence. From this position the film prop becomes an object that is preceded by its image, and as such the object is able to traverse fiction and reality when we consider the fact that a prop can be described as ‘real fictional’ object.


The oxymoron association with the object is transcribed into the making of the work by using the opposites of surface and depth to visually describe the interplay between object and image, reality and artifice. The relevance of print as a medium for the work resonates with Dr Ruth Pelzer-Montada’s description of printmaking as an art of the surface that has cultural connotations of surface and depth within western thinking. In an essay The Attraction of Print - Notes on the Surface of the (Art) Print published in the Art Journal, she writes: “Put simply ‘surface’ tends to be conflated with the superficial and the artificial, ‘depth’ with their counterparts, ‘deep’ meaning and ‘the real.’” (Pelzer-Montada, 2008: 74)


In this instance the surface relates to the fictional component of the work (the object as an image) whilst the physical depth of the image alludes to the real. Here the contradictory source for the work reveals the image simultaneously upon, and within the surface of the substrate.


The orb image depicted in the photo (see following image) was cut with a laser into a black heavy weight cotton based paper at UWE Bristol. The image is of a ‘Jedi training remote’ from the film Star Wars. Here the training remote image is only visible because of the different surface depths that are burnt by the laser into the depth of the paper. This means that the orb image is described only by the darker fibres that sit beneath the (slightly lighter black) surface of the paper.


Stretch out with your feelings was exhibited in Drawing with Fire: An exhibition of laser cutting by book and paper artists, as part of a CFPR, AHRC supported project exhibition at UWE, Bristol (14 - 23 September 2010, and touring). I was also invited by the curators Eva Moseneder and Marta Raczek to exhibit the work at the International Experimental Engraving Biennale (IEEB) in Timisoara, Romania (20/11/2010 – 30/01/2011), after they noticed the artefact on my online notebook at: http://justpressprint.blogspot.com69. I created this site in 2008 as a virtual notebook to publish some observations and examples of digitally-conceived artefacts as a means of engaging with the ‘art’ in digital practice. IEEB presented 28 artists “works of serial art made by mechanical, digital reproduction, classic but re-contextualised printing techniques, computer based technologies, video interventions linked to the printing process, printed objects, book objects, installations or video actions/performances of new ways of printing, multiplying, deteriorating or modifying images” (www.experimentalproject.ro).


The concept of Stretch out with your feelings was that of fiction informing reality. Upon our first encounter with the ‘Jedi training remote’ in the film Star Wars we find Skywalker struggling to focus his Jedi abilities during the laser training exercise. It is decided that Skywalker should be blinded - allowing the force to guide his actions instead of his eyesight - or should ‘let go of his conscious self’. Now blinded by ‘the blast shield’ Luke sees nothing except darkness (black paper) and by using the force Luke is able to render the object’s image in his mind (the image on the black paper). Although in his mind’s eye the object is devoid of physicality, Skywalker has the ability to sense the training remote’s presence in a space (the laser cut depth within the flat space of the paper). The realisation that Stretch out with your feelings is essentially both image and object creates a sense of mystery around the work’s visual presence, perhaps drawing further parallels with the order of the Jedi Knight.


In this instance, laser cutting technology was used to initiate the traversing between fiction and reality, creating a ‘real fiction’ where the artwork is literally formed by an aspect of its fictional reference; the laser cutting technology refers to both the Jedi remote’s fictional function (shooting lasers at Skywalker) and the technological process that renders the Jedi training remote visible. Stretch out with your feelings is a self-referential play with new technology - printing with a laser cutter, and the subject matter of a fictional world draws art’s attention to the rapid advancement in science and new technologies. What was once thought to be only possible in science fiction is now becoming ‘science faction’.