In the back of James Tucker’s print studio and design shop, The Aesthetic Union, James and modern dancer, Alexa Eisner, bounce ideas off of one another. The two are planning their collaborative performance for The Midway Gallery’s artist tour and happy hour for Terrain: Navigating Landscape. This performance intends to spotlight the course of creation in the same way as James’ “process landscapes” exhibited in the show. The idea is to have Alexa embody the printing press with James inking the parts of her body that will make contact with a paper runway extending the length of the gallery. Sound recordings of the press will play in the gallery for the duration of the performance.
In the background the heavy sound of James’ 1952 Heidelberg Windmill drones on, a dense, mechanical, and steady noise. The aggressive hiss of air being sucked in and pushed out accompanies the monotonous shift of gears. As the machine carries on, Alexa adjusts her limbs in various positions. She momentarily raises her arms stiffly before dropping them choppily at various angles and then begins to experiment with her legs and feet, attempting to match the beat of the beastly machine. She glances at the press, seemingly assessing it before attempting another sequence. She takes a closer look, and discusses its various parts with James to better understand the machine she means to embody.
A drive to push the boundaries of printmaking is at the heart of James’ most recent projects. At the heart of James’ most recent projects is a drive to push the boundaries of printmaking. This desire inspired his “process landscapes” and are in turn are intrinsic to the planned performance with Alexa:
“I want to do something that people haven’t seen before when they think of printmaking. So I think this is a great way for people to be introduced to the artwork, which seems out of place in printmaking itself. So not using a press kinda fits the bill for what we’re doing,” James explains.
For Alexa the performance is an opportunity to explore movement and the idea of the body as machine as she uses herself to portray the mechanisms of the press. Alexa elaborates:
“On one hand the body is already a machine. On the other hand machine is often viewed in juxtaposition to the body. This [performance] highlights both at once and perhaps dissolves that boundary. Machine as soft and organic. Body as precise and predictable. It's an exploration of boundary and the body relating to environment.“
With Alexa acting as the printing press by creating a print as she advances across the roll of paper, the performance itself will produce a huge print. For James, this print’s place in the larger scheme of the performance is secondary:
“The performance is something that’s really the art form in this; whereas the final product is not really the forefront of what is on my mind. And kinda capturing that in the documentation of the work is key to understanding why we do something like this. The [process landscapes] are remnants of what happened on the press, and this work is a remnant of what happened during the performance.”
Alexa, however, prefers to leave the value of the print itself up to the audience. She says:
“I never know where to place where the art is within the process of the things I do. [Whether the art is] the dance, what happens afterwards with the piece itself or the physical object, it’s kinda for whomever to decide whatever resonates with them.”
Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind collaboration with printmaker James Tucker and modern dancer, Alexa Eisner, at The Midway Gallery next Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 6pm to 9pm. RSVP here.
To learn more about James Tucker, please visit: http://www.theaestheticunion.com/
To learn more about Alexa Eisner, please visit: http://www.alexaeisner.com/
Follow James on instagram @theaestheticunion
Follow Alexa on instagram @alexaeyes
Written by Vanessa Wilson