The 4th IAPA Biennale Symposium Speech Ⅳ Alicia Candiani


On November 13, 2022, the two-day academic seminar of “The Fourth IAPA Printmaking Biennale” was concluded in Kunming. The theme of this seminar is “Tomorrow's Printmaking”, exploring the future development of printmaking in the post-pandemic era. Yin Jinan, a well-known art theorist and professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts,and Guan Yuda, a professor of Yunnan University, co-hosted this seminar. There will be 17 domestic and international guests made keynote speeches, including Joseph Scheer, Alicia Candiai, Peter Bosteels, Zhang Lian, Song Guangzhi, Kong Guoqiao, Yang Feng, etc. This seminar employed a mix of online and offline methods. Some domestic experts will discuss and speak on the spot, providing a brand-new communication and exhibition platform for Chinese and international artists in a special period. They plan the future development of printmaking by gathering printmaking leaders and elites from around the world. This is a speech by Alicia Candiani, Founding Director of Argentine Contemporary Art Foundation.



Good morning, everybody! On the beautiful spring morning in Buenos Aires, I would like to thank the Printmaking Art Committee, the Yunnan Arts University, the International Printmaking Institute, CAFA and IAPA for this invitation to the Biennale Symposium. Greetings to my Chinese, European and American colleagues. It is always a pleasure to meet all of you again even in virtual forms and to hear your ideas.



It’s such a privilege to talk after my brother in print, Joseph Scheer. Thank you for showing one of my projects. The theme “tomorrow’s printmaking” proposes a very interesting topic because it raises the question about how our disciplines will continue and how a new generation of printmakers will produce new works under new contexts.

I don’t know anyone who can do futurology as a permanent job. However, as the director of the Artist Residency Program in Buenos Aires, as a visual artist and a theorist, I can identify some trends and issues arising in printmaking practices and addressed by artists, with the help of art institutions around the world. I will illustrate some works made by Latin American artists, introducing to this forum an artistic panorama on what has been produced in this part of the world. I focus on expanded print practices, in which prints are interconnected and in most of the time related with other medias.


I am also very interested in mainstream forms of prints, therefore many of my examples come from two European mainstream exhibitions in contemporary art this year, namely the Documenta Fifteen in Germany and the Venice Biennale in Italy.

Artistic tendencies have always addressed some of the issues of society, both politically and socially, as well as our fears, desires, instincts and concerns. Art is an X-ray of what’s happening in the world. And it’s possible to multiply the image because printmaking reflects everything in one way or another. It can help us communicate ideas in a more immediate way than any other artistic medias. Printmaking does not necessarily have to be showcased in art galleries only. Streets, subways and billboards are also plausible places for presenting this art form, where there can be access to a wider public.



Today we are seeing some trends, such as nature, science and technology and the human body, reexamined by young artists with a new perspective. Now the question we should ask ourselves is, why art is paying more attention to technology, nature and science? Why is printmaking so lively, offering an unusual and surprising path? These are two of the questions that we didn’t completely answer but are going to address.




Let’s start with the body and the collective creation. In last year, human body has been reexamined by new social knowledge. There has been a radical awareness about human body in scientific, philosophical and anthropological perspectives.


New available materials and contemporary printmaking have allowed young and not-so-young artists to become interested in extraordinary ways of capturing the body through print media, new materials and new techniques, which are often associated with performances, installations, and collective actions.




The first selected artist is Priscilla Romero from Costa Rica, a visual artist who researches the field of abundant print medias and contemporary body practices. Her work is directly related to her print techniques. For more than a decade, she has developed a new printmaking technique called “Latexgraphias”, through which she can record, transfer and reproduce prints on the skin and other surfaces. She uses latex matrix to draw nude bodies and prints them into various materials, both in two and three dimensional ways. This novelty technique held a concept that I’m very interested in. How do the techniques that we use go beyond printing on paper to express concepts and connect with other artistic disciplines?



This project was presented in the Documenta in Kassel, Germany. It was exhibited in the Fridericianum, the main venue for the Documenta in Germany. The whole exhibition is at the cutting edge of contemporary art, showing more controversies than other contemporary art practices. And I am always curious about how does printmaking fit in this contemporary art exhibition and how it’s so connected to this era.



 I want to show this work called Error. It’s displayed at Fridericianum, the main Ducumanta venue, and it’s an collective project initiated by Robert Grabis, involving 27 artists. Grabis used dating Apps to meet representatives of the Roma non-binary minority, a marginalized community. At the meetings between the artists and the representatives of this group, they shared their experiences, took intimate photographs, connected their bodies and did collective reflections. The photographs printed on tapestries actually present things that were taken away. Though the textile is almost transparent, it gives the piece a sense of invisibility of these bodies, which aligns with the tone of the piece. The print impartially demonstrates that textile is the core of Grabis installation. Through the fabric and the network of strings, this space becomes secretly inaccessible yet transparent. It is an exclusive place which visitors can only view from outside, otherwise they won’t be able to fully understand it.



Another interesting work in Documenta that focuses on collective work and social connection through wood cutting was created by Taring Padi group. The institute of people-oriented culture, Taring Padi, was a collection of underground art pieces in Jakarta, Indonesia that was founded in 1998 by a group of progressive artists and activists. It was established in response to the Indonesia social political upheaval in the country’s reform era. Such a Taring Padi’s artistic practice is always a part of social, political and cultural solidarity. The group is well-known for reproducing wood-cutting techniques on paper or canvas. In addition to the print work, they’ve also created murals, banners, life-size cardboards, puppets, etc. The group organized their community and diverse solidarity actions.



In 2019, Taring Padi group attended the Polyphony Southeast Asia exhibition at AMNUA in China. I really appreciate this example because these artists are using wood-cutting in a more traditional and Asian way to express political and social ideas. And the wood-cutting will also still have its significance even four or five centuries later, as long as people continue to put their purposes and images into it.



Now we are going to Venice. The Venice Biennale was held on Nov 26th, showing how printmaking around the world is like. It’s one of the most important contemporary exhibitions in the world and we can see here how printmaking differs around the world. Let’s explore the value of Priscilla Romero through this exhibition called With the Heart Coming Out of the Mouth, an installation in the Brazilian official pavilion in the biennale. It is a playful installation composed of large human body parts made of various materials. The concept is still about expressions. These parts of the body are represented through screen-printing in different shapes. Take a look at this.




We are in the 21st century and one of the most important phases for contemporary art in the western world, and different catalogs of prints are also shown in different venues of the biennale.

This is the first room in one of the most important buildings in this exhibition. When you step in to the building, the first thing you notice will be Belkis Ayon’s prints, which are not very well known in the north. But I can take this opportunity to show this impressive exhibition of Belkis Ayon for tropic theme. Ayon was a Cuban artist who died young at the age of 32 and left her unique legacy to Latin American printmaking in particular and Latin American art in a wider perspective. What she left behind was an original body of prints inspired by and made out of the social symbolic universe. This print depicted African slaves at the beginning of the 19th century. The brotherhood was founded by men and for men, while it stigmatized and segregated women. Belkis Ayon’s prints were created using collagraphy or collagraph, a collage presented on a plate that all of you know. This process allows artists to use diverse tools for expressing.


This is a picture of the plate. You can see how she took things of catholic religions and mix them with African mythologies. But something interesting about this work and the reason why it’s so relevant is the size. This is completely handmade without any device or external assistance. It’s made in traditional ways yet still relevant to contemporary art.

Nature and sustainability is another topic that contemporary printing artists are addressing. Artists call for the protection of water and land, sharing their concern for using materials that harm the environment. David Faithfull is a very interesting artist who works with screen-printing using a kind of nontoxic organic ink made from squid ink and seaweed or jellyfish. He performs on beaches and other open places. This is one example of his work.



Rachel Singel is another artist specializing in paper making and book art. She makes paper with plants that are toxic to life stocks and other animals or destroy habitats of native fishes. And she proposed that paper made from these plants materials may be a solution for some ecological and economic problems in our world today. There are prints on these nontoxic papers as well.



Here are some examples about the transition in nature, science and technology, which bring together all these concerns in a very unique way. This is a Chilean artist called Rodrigo De Arteaga, who recently made a keynote speech in a printmaking conference in England. He’s studying the complex relationships among nature, culture and representation. His interesting works in different areas of thoughts led him to pursue his passions in such fields as microbiology, bio-fabrication, natural history, botany and architecture. He presented one of his works in an exhibition in Bristol in 2022, documenting radical changes in the forest floor. The work used digital prints with laser cut and laser beam that lightly burn the paper.



Angela Geary is an artist that addresses these tendencies and brings link to science and technology. It’s known that printmaking has always been associated with new technological discoveries to reproduce the image. Meanwhile, they have to discover other possibilities for expressing and simulating prints. For bad or for good, printmaking has always been associated with techniques, thus the application of new technologies has been known as a part of practices. Today the overlap between technology and convention is demonstrated in the practice of contemporary visual culture. We are currently undergoing what is called the “post-digital printmaking”, which I spoke about in our meeting last year. Post-digital printmaking is a distinct area of printmaking that’s different from print production presented on high quality paper. It deploys AI to control laser cutting while applying other technologies. Today’s digital printmaking techniques are combined with drawing, painting and other traditional ways to produce new works, some of which the Chinese scholars already know. New artists are advancing through these new ways to deliver matrix, with the help of traditional printmaking, laser cutting as well as digital technologies to finish their works.



However, today we can talk about more advances in the use of new technologies to reproduce images and how is this taken by artists from different disciplines together with a new way of marketing.

The NFT is probably the most intriguing trend of 2021. Digital images transaction is based on the NFT between sellers and buyers. This means that someone can own a digital file that is marked with codes that differentiate it from other digital replicas. The uniqueness of NFTs turns contemporary digital artists into heroes of their respective disciplines, enriching them rapidly. These digital assets would not exist without cryptocurrencies of private companies. Their volatility resembles the behaviour of the market.



Michael Joseph Winkelman, known professionally as Beeple, is an American digital artist in South Carolina. He’s known for selling NFTs at very high prices. He has 1.8 million followers on Instagram and many high profile collaboration projects with global brands like Louis Vuitton, Nike, Boss, etc. He uses various medias to create comics that makes political and social commentaries, taking pop cultures as references. In May 2007, the artist decided to create a new work of art everyday. He hasn’t missed a day since then and designed pictures for 5000 consecutive days. Those pictures in the first 500 days have been sold altogether for USD 70 million.

So what will be the future for NFTs? Now, the answer seems uncertain, but it could be a new combination of technologies that alter the process of marketing. Will this year be the end of traditional printmaking? Probably. Then we will all move on to another future in our practice.

Thank you very much!