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These Trippy Prints Were Made From Old VHS Tapes

Dieter Ashton prints with an unusual tool: the tape in 1990s-era VHS movies and cassettes.

Dieter Ashton’s work is an homage to 1990s-era cassettes and VHS tapes, though without his titles you’d never know it. Ashton’s prints are the literal film–Steven Seagal films, straight-to-TV Mary Kate and Ashley movies and Richard Simmons’s Disco Sweat workout tapes–stripped from the cassette and screen-printed in wild, ribboned, technicolor forms.

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Ashton, who just graduated with a BA in illustration and visual media from the London College of Communication, started his film series thinking that he would digitally manipulate the graphics on the boxes of old VHS and cassette tapes—but soon he was drawn to the physicality of working directly with the tape. Having recently been introduced to screen-printing through his college courses, Ashton decided to see what it would look like to use the tape wound inside the cases as a creative tool.

[Images: courtesy Dieter Ashton]
At first, the process was mostly trial and error. “If you’re familiar with screen-printing, you prepare your screens normally with two coats of emulsion,” he tells Co.Design. “The point where I’m creating the pattern is when I have the exposure unit. I remove the tape from the cassettes, and then it’s just a matter of throwing it out blind. It’s a bit arbitrary at first, seeing how the tape reacts to the surface before putting the screen on top.”

All of the resulting prints are somewhat random—Ashton let the film land where it would, then pressed the screen down on top of it, so the film would crinkle and compress. Rendered in bright, electric colors, the thin cassette tapes look a bit like confetti. The patterns come out in zig zags and spirals. The VHS tapes—the ones Ashton had lying around his parents’ study—are chunkier, and they get warped more easily by the chemicals. Ashton says that as he continues to experiment, he’s beginning to imbue the prints with references from the movies that the film once played. “I’m trying to emulate a certain atmosphere and reference certain themes,” he says.

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About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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