Toward An Experimental Translation of Dürer’s Painter’s Manual
Columbia GSAPP, 2017
Research project

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AbstractThis experimental project is an “aesthetic excursus” of Albrecht Dürer’s 1525 Painter’s Manual which graphically explores the representational subjectivities of our digital age vis-à-vis Renaissance technology. Deliberately anachronistic in form and content, it cross-examines digital translations and analogue reproductions, manipulates its own technical trails, and unsettles once-concrete assumptions about the visual epistemology of print production and technical drawing modalities. By critically engaging in aesthetic dialogue between Dürer’s seminal capital-M Manual and its ubiquitous online contemporary, the Rhino User Guide, it hopes to (I) liberate some of Dürer’s instructions through performative means afforded by computer software, and (II) retro-project Rhino instructions backward with calculated anachronism. In doing so, the hardware/software distinction is blurred, and the reader/user is maneuvered toward a more self-conscious archaeology of print media.

By “Dürer-izing” the digital manual, and recontextualizing Dürer’s Manual for a contemporary audience, the project ponders Johanna Drucker’s concept of “graphesis” and Walter Benjamin’s notion of material “aura” as it resituates printed matter as a strategic site of productive aesthetic discourse in an increasingly smooth digital realm. It expresses that format is not simply a problem of utility or rearrangement, but can function more importantly as a dialectically challenging, translational operating platform with profound effects on the reception and interpretation of its content.