Thomi Wolfensberger’s printing workshop in Zurich is one of the leading addresses for lithography, renowned far beyond the country’s borders. What exactly happens when artists enter into a dialogue with the printer there? An interdisciplinary research team spent three years observing the learned as well as intuitive processes, working steps and manual techniques involved in the production of art prints, and documented these in a variety of ways. The study was conducted within the scope of the SNF project «Hands-on. Documentation of Artistic-technical Processes in Printing» (2018–2021) by Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)—conceived by Christoph Schenker, Mara Züst and Michael Günzburger. In this context, the dexterity of the three participating artists, Dominik Stauch, Sabine Schlatter and Michael Günzburger, came under the closest scrutiny.
The exhibition at the Graphische Sammlung now presents a selection of the wide resulting range of artefacts, from templates and pull-out sheets to stencils, colour tests and proofs as well as the edition prints. Everything has been inventoried and archived in great detail. Furthermore, the project made it possible to look at the entire printing process from many different perspectives. The research team has not only recorded the process by way of cameras and ethnographic notes, but has even developed a specific vocabulary to describe the individual processes involved. Finally, all the data collected has been fed into a user interface, providing the public with digital access to the entire inventory of the workshop with all its machinery, instruments and materials. And last but not least, visitors even have the opportunity of exploring some of the archived materials themselves and discussing their observations. A veritable School of Observation is intended to foster a fuller understanding and insights into key aspects of the technical and creative process. It might even reveal some of the secrets of printing!
Alexandra Barcal, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich, Prof. Christoph Schenker, formerly head of the Institute for Contemporary Art Research, ZHdK
With kind support of: