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The Lost Men Project

Artwork date(s): 2006

Paul Emmanuel

Description: Digital book presented on a touch-screen monitor with soundtrack

Medium: DVD, computer, touch-screen monitor, headphones and plinth
Measurements: Vary with installation
Edition: Unique

Type: South African Digital Artists Book

Place publication: Johannesburg, RSA
Publisher: The artist
Pages: Unpaged

Reference noteOf the work, Emmanuel states:For me, the viewer-‘book' relationship is an interactive one: physically, emotionally and conceptually. To experience a ‘book' one is enticed to engage with separate revealed ‘stations' or parts, not the entire object all at once, as one would experience a single image. I also feel that in the ‘book' experience, this engagement is initiated by the viewer. I have chosen to use a touch-screen monitor as the ‘interface' between viewer and ‘book', each ‘page' being revealed in response to the viewer's touch.

The images in this work are photographs of different parts of my body, blind embossed with the names of men who died in the Frontier Wars fought in the Grahamstown area in the 1820s and 50s. The names were set in lead type and then pressed directly into my skin. When withdrawn after a few minutes, a photograph was taken quickly before the remaining impression disappeared. It was a painful process. After touching the screen, a new ‘page' is revealed and the remaining impressions of these names slowly fade away.

Materiality and structure: The touch sensitive screen replaces the ‘page' of a traditional book. By touching the screen, the page is ‘turned'. The tactile quality of paper is often used to ‘talk' about the subject matter of an Artist's Book. I wanted to use the cold unforgiving surface of a glass screen to talk poignantly about intimacy and alienation, the body being soft and warm to the touch.

In terms of shape: At the moment, anything in digital form has to be engaged with through an “interface mechanism” – usually a processor of some sort i.e. a computer and its monitor, a DVD or CD player or projector something to convert ones and noughts into energy forms that can be processed by the five senses. These items of hardware still determine the physical manifestation or ‘shape' of ‘digital artworks'. I have chosen to conceal the computer processor and keyboard. None of these physical forms emulate traditional books directly, apart from hopefully enticing the viewer to engage, much the same way as a book's cover would compel the reader to open....

Exhibition notesThe work was commissioned for the exhibition Navigating the Bookscape: Artists' Books and the Digital Interface which took place at the Aardklop Arts Festival, Potchefstroom, from 25th - 30th October 2006 and the FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg, from 5th - 13 October 2006, where it was item 23.

Ref: DP10/42

Total images: 3

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