Annis Fitzhugh

Annis Fitzhugh
Dundee Contemporary Arts


After graduating in Fine Art and Art History at Falmouth School of Art, Annis specialised in printmaking at the Slade and Central Schools, London. At the Slade she was awarded the Rodney Burn prize – becoming the first printmaker to win this award for figurative work. Alongside a teaching career she has exhibited at international level.
For the past 13 years she has been Director of DCA Print Studio, a generously equipped open-access print workshop at the core of a leading contemporary art organization.
Annis has been responsible for the collaborative production of editions with artists in the internationally renowned exhibition programme.

Illustrated Talk

Numerical Manoeuvres: The printer’s hand in a post-digital world
Numerical control (NC) is the automation of machine tools that are operated by abstractly programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually. (Wikipedia)

Recapping and building on my presentation at Impact 7 in Melbourne, which described the introduction of new CNC fabrication equipment, including laser-cutter and digital router, to a traditional multi-process open-access print workshop.

As the new equipment became integrated into the daily practice of the workshop I examined further whether subtleties of process, associated by practitioners with traditional print, can survive the transition.

Print is valued by adherents for the engagement with physical process and the potential for the unexpected that can result from a level of indirect action. Intervening between conception and realisation can include reversals and erasures with interference from one or several matrices and substrates, all of which have the potential to influence the outcome. There is a measure of disorder and loss of control that can result in failure, but can also redirect the artist to an unanticipated success.

Additionally the history of print art is one of appropriation by artists of emerging technologies and the subversion of processes designed for stereotypical mass-production by the intervention of the hand, the unique and the accidental.

The assumption on the part of many users on first exploring the CNC technology is that there will be a high level of control over final product – as implied in the name. However:
Many CNC tools don’t know anything about their working environment…They blindly follow the machining code provided …(Wikipedia)
In other words there is potential for error at all stages where the whole process is dependant on accurate numerical input from an operator, and especially where that operator may be an artist, encountering such technology for the first time.

The unique situation at DCA Print Studio has been that of artists in dialogue with industrial machines and programming. Intentionally, users of the studio have been allowed the freedom to ‘play’ with these technologies, with only the parameters of safety as limits.

This talk will describe and illustrate some of the results.