Long before the advent of the printing press, woodblocks were used to reproduced detailed images onto paper. The tradition began in China as early as 220 A.D., and eventually spread to Europe, where woodcuts were a popular addition to 16th century manuscripts. After the advent of more efficient printing techniques and photography, the wood block print gradually fell out of style, but the craft has never truly died.
Belgian artist Frédéric Penelle got together with graphic designer and video artist Yannick Jacquet to create an arts collective, Mécaniques Discursives, where they use their distinctive styles to produce work that feels both futuristic and nostalgic. In their installations, Jacquet’s projection mapped visuals are in conversation with Penelle’s prints.
Their most recent work is an installation for the STRP Biennial, a festival of arts and technology which takes place in the Netherlands. Stretched along a wall, showing grotesque and surreal printed forms intermixed with clean geometric projections, the project contrasting the earthiness of pre-industrial drawing with the blank sterility of modern technology. Penelle and Jacquet’s mash ups are modern and anachronistic at the same time.
Penelle has spent the past two decades making art using this ancient technology, inventing a “personal mythology [which holds] up a portrait of the world that is surprising yet familiar at the same time,” La Libre Belgique wrote in 2008. This recent collaboration speaks to the continuum of innovation in media. What was the cutting edge reproduction method of 2,000 years ago is juxtaposed with one of the hippest media of today. As a result, the duo might have accidentally invented the new steampunk.
[via Prosthetic Knowledge]