Click to Print: An installation at Artomatic

I usually post about putting things online — but this post is about taking them offline.

If you live in DC, you might know already about Artomatic. In short: 1,300+ artists and performers take over an 11-story building, filling it with art, performances and activities for five weeks. It’s completely volunteer-run, and a pretty mind-blowing experience of unfiltered creative endeavors.

I’m part of the marketing team, and I also contributed an installation, called “Click to Print.”

Why? Browsing through the iPad app for The New Yorker, I found myself wondering what it would look like if I cut up an actual magazine and arranged the pages the way the app does. What happens if you take things from the digital world and try to bring them back into the physical world? Do they make any sense?

If you can’t give that a try at Artomatic, I don’t know where you could!

The installation has three parts:

New Yorker for iPad. This is both the app that sparked the idea and the gold standard for magazines on the iPad. I love reading the print edition of the magazine and wanted to work with it somehow. (In fact, I also have a blog about reading the New Yorker…)

However, the original cutting-up-a-magazine idea didn’t work. The issues I wanted to try it with are not available anymore, no matter how nicely I begged the woman in charge of selling back issues, and when I calculated how much space I’d need to display a whole magazine, iPad-style, it was way too long for even my giant 20-foot wall space.

So instead, I picked my favorite articles about the online world and printed out the actual iPad screens for them. It turned out better this way.

Washington Post on Twitter. My first job was at the Washington Post, helping to launch their first web site. I liked the idea of un-digitizing something that I helped seed online.

I chose the Twitter feed because it seemed an appropriate answer to the worst fears of the people who ran the paper back then: “You thought college-kid editors would subvert the news judgment of a venerable paper with real-time updates to the web site? Well, look at this!”

The big surprise as I worked on this one: The pieces I cut out of the paper looked really bland compared to the online-only features I printed. So few images, nothing embedded or related, just 450 words of plain newsprint.

Facebook “What I do” meme. I also wanted to take something that had no offline equivalent and see what it looked like in the real world. This was a late inspiration and the most fun (making an intentionally awful painting is extremely liberating!).

Since I saw a ton of these ones and it was even written up on one of the Post’s blogs, I figured it would be recognizable to lots of people. And it seemed like an natural to make into collages, since “What I do” collections are essentially digital collages. I wanted a topic that would make sense to the majority of Artomatic visitors,  so I bent the meme a little and featured Artomatic itself.

Happy moment as I was finishing the installation: An artist whose 2008 postcard I had incorporated into one of the collages came by for a look. She’s not on Facebook, so I wasn’t sure if it would work for her. She pointed and looked for a bit, and then asked, “Can I like it??” I told her of course she could, and she flipped the “like” counter under the collages, becoming th third “like.” User testing success!

If you’re in the DC area (or can get here between now and June 23), please come by! You shouldn’t miss Artomatic in any case, and I would love for you leave comments in my comment book.