Photography; Inkjet Print, 2006
From the series 'Verbatim'
Artifacts become knowable in part because they are enmeshed within the back and forth and round about of telling what they are, and because telling devolves upon discernable rhetorical conventions, like genres and specialized vocabularies, that are themselves largely the result of unconscious consensus. (1)
The sites and subjects that I explore consider the temporal uncertainty that photographs evoke in relation to memory, technology and experience. The exhibition Verbatim is comprised of digital images made with a flatbed scanner. The prints are “contact images” that remember and forget the earlier technological processes of photography and typewriting. Photography, typing, and phonographic writing (stenographer’s shorthand) are all historically associated with the technologies of verbatim inscription. The history and memory of our embodied relationship to these technologies is essential to the human-computer interface of contemporary digital technologies. Verbatim reconsiders the development of language machines and the subsequent systems of storage and retrieval.
In 1997 I dismantled a manual typewriter. The physical contact with the object was used as a procedure for remembering an obsolete technology that has influenced and predated my experience. The cultural complexity of the apparatus, its design, function, and mechanical precision were conveyed through this process of disassembly. The labour that fabricated and implemented the writing machine was also revealed. Since that time, I have been reassembling the artifacts of this experience as digital images. The mechanical artifacts are texts and stories that may be transcribed and retold. As Lisa Gitelman has noted, “[n]ew inscriptions signal new subjectivities”. (2)
This project is an exploration of organic and inorganic memory through the borders and interface that continue to define the human experience with machines. As a child, I was fascinated with the beauty of the mechanical imprint produced by the typewriter. During the disassembly of the machine, the indexical traces of the type hammer were rediscovered as random letters inscribed into the typewriter ribbon. As the unintended graffiti of a prior vocation, these marks register a presence and an absence. Like the machine that harbored them, they are passé. These ribbons became the source for two scrolls that recollect the embedded memory in the ribbon.
The writing machines had a profound effect on the organization of institutions, labour and the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. They were instrumental in redefining experience as pattern and information. Concurrently, the bureaucracies that utilized writing machines and reproductive technologies during the twentieth century enhanced the systemic efficiency of surveillance, accountability and archiving that have subsequently abridged many areas of human experience. The computer expands and supplements the legacy of this technology.
In this context, the works in Verbatim may provide an intriguing encounter with the subjective memory and oblivion that our relationship to technology evokes.
(1) Lisa Gitelman, Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 7.
(2) Ibid. 11.
Photography; Inkjet Print, 2006
||20 x 14.5
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b. 1954, Canada
Robert Bean is an artist, writer and teacher living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Born in Saskatchewan, he moved to Nova Scotia in 1976 to pursue a career in contemporary art and education. He obtained a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University) in 1978, and an MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Leeds, England in 1999. He is currently a Professor at NSCAD University. Bean has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Europe, South America and New Zealand.
- MA in Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds, England, UK 1999
- BFA, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 1978
- BA, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 1976
- Nova Scotia Art Bank 2006
- The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia 2005
- The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa 2004
- The Canada Council Art Bank 2000
- The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia 2000
- Metamorphosis, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Ontario.
Curated by Scott McLeod. January 2007
- verbatim, Akau Inc., Toronto, Ontario. Curated by Cheryl Sourkes. January 2006
- LAPSUS, Dalhousie University Art Gallery. Halifax, Nova Scotia. January 2005
- FORGET GIVING, VU. Centre de Diffusion et de Production de la Photographie. Quebec, Quebec. May 2002
- POLITICAL PHOTOGRAPHS, The Anna Leonowens Gallery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Halifax, NS, October 2001
- SCREE, I-Land Gallery, Toronto. January 2001 & Gallery YHZ, Halifax, Nova Scotia. October 2001
- .txt, The Anna Leonowens Gallery. NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Robert Bean, David Clark, Michelle Gay, Michael Maranda, Jillian Mcdonald, Luke Murphy, Marcin Ramocki, Ilan Sandler. May 27 – June 7, 2008.
- Excision Twenty+3 Gallery, Manchester, UK. Works by Robert Bean, Michelle Bellemare and Michael Maranda. Curated by Cheryl Sourkes. February 2008
- New Acquisitions in the Nova Scotia Art Bank Unveiled, The Mary E. Black Gallery, Halifax, N.S. April 2006
- CFAT Media Train,VertexList Gallery. Brooklyn, New York. November 2005
- DISQUIET, Modern Fuel Gallery, Kingston, Ontario. Curator: Christof Migone. Works by Robert Bean, Dave Dyment, Afshin Matlabi, Diane Morin, Matt Rogalsky, USSA (Steve Bates & Jake Moore). August 24 – September 24, 2005
- Nice to Meet You, Hyundai Art Gallery, Ulsan, Korea. May, 2004
- Before the Land, Behind the Camera, The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario
- MESSAGE: Sent and Received, Saw Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. January 1991
- Fact or Fiction: Some Points of View in Contemporary Nova Scotian Photography, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax. March 1990
- “Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests and Honorary Degree”. Exhibition essay and catalogue. The Centre for Art
Tapes, Halifax, Nova Scotia. October 2008
- “Waiting for the Past”. Catalogue essay for the exhibition “Apertura” by Cora Cluett and Scott
Conarroe. The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario. July 2008
- “Verbatim”, “Folds/Etudes”, “Artifacts of Research”. The Canadian Review of Art Education. Volume 34, 2007. Pp. 58-87
- “h I def’InI( )n” [High Definition]. Feature article. Blackflash, Vol. 25.1, October 2007
- “In the Flesh”. Exhibition essay and catalogue, The Center for Art Tapes, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- Arts Award - Travel Grant. The Canada Council for the Arts. Visual Arts. February 2008
- Nova Scotia Arts Council Grant. March 2007
- SSHRC Research/Creation Grant (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council). March 2007