Housekeeping In A Dream *

Eliza Koch

 

PDF VERSION

 

17:20 “A horse named Empress Bullet #4 who threw her rider at the beginning of a race, went on to win the race passing all the other horses and got to the finish line first, but because she didn’t have a rider to pull on the reigns, didn’t know enough to stop, and impaled herself on a metal railing at the end of the racecourse and died, and was subsequently disqualified from winning the race because she didn’t have a rider.”1
* * *
Carlson Patent

 

Figure 1.

 

HISTORY
The first xerographic copy was made in Astoria, Queens by Chester Carlson. Carlson worked in a patent office and was frequently frustrated by his inability to obtain or create copies of patent specifications and drawings. An inventor by trade, Carlson took it upon himself to create a method for making copies with ease. Figuring that if there was an answer in photographic technology someone would have already figured it out, he decided to set his sights elsewhere.
Carlson toiled in solitude for a decade, trying and failing to produce a formula for creating non-photographically generated copies. It was only after he was joined by German physicist Otto Kornei that he was finally able to achieve a successful experimental result. Together, Carlson and Kornei determined a method of duplication that utilized light’s ability to alter the electro-conductivity of materials. Sulfur is one of the few earthly materials to respond to light in this way, and after a few eggish-smelling small fires, the team finally performed the following experiment:
Carlson and Kornei applied sulfur in a thin film to a metal plate. They wrote the phrase “10-22-38 Astoria” in India Ink on a glass slide, and lay the slide on top of the sulfur-coated plate. They gave the plate a positive electrostatic charge by rubbing it with a handkerchief. They exposed the plate to a bright light, dissipating the charge from all areas of the plate except for those shaded by the india ink inscription. They then removed the glass slide and dusted the plate with a negatively charged, inky powder (Lycopodium, a substance otherwise used in fireworks, fingerprinting, and as an ice cream stabilizer). The powder affixed itself to the positively charged sulfur, clinging to the plate in the form of the characters Carlson and Kornei had written at the outset of the experiment. They transferred these powdery numbers onto waxed paper using heat to fuse the substances permanently, and in that final step produced the very first photocopy.

First_xerographic_copy_-_10-22-38_ASTORIA_

Figure 2.

It was 1938, and most people didn’t care. It took decades, vision, faith, and the near-bankrupting of several companies to perfect and package this technique into the streamlined machines used to make photocopies today.
The Xerox 914, the development of which was largely funded by the US military as an alternative to conventional photography (regularly used in reconnaissance missions, and made defective by radiation in times of nuclear war) was released in 1959. It was the first widely-accessible and commercially successful iteration of the technology, and the world changed in it’s wake. Once popularized, photocopiers revolutionized the speed and ease at which human beings were able to share information and how much information they were able to share. Secretaries did less typing. The pentagon papers were leaked. Disney fired one third of it’s animation department and made 101 Dalmatians, animating 6,469,952 spots. And sub-cultures emerged, cults of the copier.

 

xlg_office_copy_begin_1

Figure 3.

 

Within the corporate world office workers began to use the copier extra-curricularly, creating and trading photocopied jokes and cartoons. These pages – quietly rebellious, produced on the clock and on an employers machinery – compose a visual culture so specific to time and place that there’s a word, Xeroxlore, now used to define it.

 

xerox together

Figure 4.

 

Outside of the office, other communities were also beginning to subvert the use of the photocopier. The original machines had great depth of field, variable exposure times, and produced an unlimited range of grays. These manipulable qualities appealed to artists, who seized on the tool as a more accessible method of printmaking than it’s fine art counterparts and began to take advantage of copiers at libraries and post offices to create their own works. Without the structure and community of the corporate office block, copier artists were disconnected from each other. Most worked alone, manipulating the printmaking capabilities of the machines in isolation.

 

LAZINESS AND THE INVENTION OF TOOLS
Louise Odes Neaderland was one of these artists. Born in Brooklyn in 1932, Neaderland holds a masters in printmaking and worked as a woodcarver for many years. It was late in her career that she began to incorporate more modern technology into her process.

neaderland

Figure 5.

First, the camera revolutionized her practice. Neaderland’s initial motivation for using the tool was the need to document her carvings, in order to gain acceptance to exhibitions and apply for grants. After learning how to use the camera and realizing it’s power to articulate her vision, it became Neaderland’s primary mode of creating images. In an article published in Women Artists News, she writes:
“The camera freed me from having to draw or paint my interior world. Looking at ‘reality’ through its eye, I could create the image in a moment, then look back at the visual documentation for commonalities, and for the message I had struggled to express during the previous 20 years…it was the camera that opened the door I had been knocking at so long”2
Neaderland began using the photocopier as a tool for making art while in residency at Women’s Studio Workshop in 1972. She happened to place one of her photographs on a copier accidentally and was impressed by the quality of the print and excited by the conceptual role of the machine. She remarks, again in Women Artists News:
“Even the metaphor of the copier served my purpose; the mindless repetition could be both vehicle and catalyst for the creative statement”3
In an article written for the Journal of the International Society of Arts, Science, and Technology, she lays out some thoughts on the relationship between herself, the photocopier, and the image:
“While it is the human voice which chants the mantra, it is the photo-copy machine which, in generating copies, as it were, vocalizes the mantric image…The copier can free the artist to meditate upon a single, vital, visual moment selected from the storm of visual stimuli generated and disseminated by modern technology and communicators.”4
Neaderland elaborates on her statement on repetition and mantra, writing:
“The mantra is itself unaltered through iteration, the way we perceive an image is itself altered by it’s repetition. The faceless, hypnotic droning of the mantric syllable frees the meditator from temporal restraints and allows him to walk in other spaces. The artist, a more active meditator, bent on creating and communicating with a viewer, manipulates the repeated image to create a narrative extended in both place and time.”6
Who is the meditator? There’s the audience, freed from “temporal restraints” by the repeated image. And there is Neaderland, freed from the labor of her craft, image-maker turned decision-maker. In utilizing the machine, she gains the ability to look with the audience instead of at them, to walk together in another space.

 

Scenic Tunnels

Figure 6.

 

* * *
WHEN THE MUZAK ENDS
In 1978 photocopiers were scarce, and the machines were still too expensive for most people to own as individuals. Neaderland wondered, might there be others working in the same medium, facing similar challenges? She posted an ad in AfterImage (The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism):7
“Now forming International Society of Copier Artists”8
She forgot about the ad, but soon began to receive letters from people all over the world; whatever this society was, people wanted to join.
What resulted was a network based around a journal and a newsletter. The journal was named the I.S.C.A. Quarterly. Members sent Neaderland prints in editions of 50, which she would fold into a folio and create a cover for, sending one copy back to each contributor, four times a year. The journal was published regularly for 21 years, from 1982-2003. Here, copier artists could share images, one of the most important qualities of the society.

ISCA comp

Figure 7.

The I.S.C.A newsletter contained a wide-ranging variety of information about the copier-artist community. Among other things, members shared:9
Calls for entry: “Remember to tell your friends about the 2nd annual Los Angeles Erotic Mailart Show. The theme for the show is ‘Sexual Olympics’”. No size limits.” (1984)…Sales pitches: “Anyone who would like a sample postcard and info on the stamps can send 50¢ to me…enough for information only.” (Dick Torchia, New Jersey, 1984)…Tech tips: “3M Type Dry Silver Paper used in microfilm reader/printers makes excellent cheap photographic paper for contact prints when exposed to bright sun.” (B.B., South Central, Summer 1983)…Copiers in the news: “The Federal money makers, literally those in charge of minting the US currency, are worried copying machines will make counterfeiting easier. At a recent hearing…the Secret Service and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving discussed possible new types of currency designed to foil counterfeiters using color office copiers, those proliferating machines that are expected to be very advanced by the 1990’s…new areas were envisioned [including]…something called a ‘hologram’…” (Reproduced from the New York Times: Washington Talk, 1984)…The State of the Medium: “It could be that Xerox Artists are on to something important, if they can keep themselves from being seduced by the technology of Xerox Art.” (Clayton Campbell, Fall 1983)…Occupational Hazards: “OH NO — MOTHER JONES ISSUES REPORTS ON IMB CARCINOGENS. THE EPA HAS POINTED THE FINGER AT IMB COPIER I AND II. THE CULPRIT IS ON THE DRUM’S COATING – A CERTAIN INF, TRINITROFLUORENONE. TRACES HAVE BEEN FOUND IN TONER DUST, IN THE AIR AROUND COPIERS, AND ON THE PRINTS!!! JUST KEEPING YOU POSTED. (Texas, 1984)…Internal debates over terminology: “I call Xerox Art by the name since it was how I originally referred to it. Copier Art is dull, makes no impression on anyone and has zero commercial impact. I also have no interested in being fair to corporations, since we can hardly expect them to care about Xerox art in any substantial way, unless we demonstrate that we are worth money and profit to them.” (Clayton Campbell, Omaha, Fall 1983)…Mission statements: “My concerns with geographic location, legitimacy of art forms like copy art, critical acclaim, statue and other ‘high art’ credentials essential for proper recognition, are less important than my quest to communicate and connect with other artists with similar “pursuits of the creative spirit’” – (Chuck Welch, Reporting from Omaha, Summer 1983)…Financial Transparency:
ISCA finance

Figure 8.

* * *
When I first came upon the I.S.C.A quarterly, sometime in 2012, I was working as the distribution coordinator at a bookstore that specialized in selling and promoting the understanding of artists’ books. Mostly, the job involved processing web orders. This included hunting among 15,000 titles for undamaged copies of books, making and re-making invoices for fickle customers, communicating with representatives from different shipping companies and warehouses, filling out (regularly fraudulent) customs forms, packaging the at-long-last-located titles, determining and applying their correct postage, and running (quite literally) to the post office at 4:55. USPS, UPS, FedEx, AirSea, AxisG, Uline, Valentine, PrattPlus, Pitney Bowes…together these organizations (and many others) formed a staggering giant, pushing materials around the globe. At moments the giant was impenetrable, at others it begged for intimacy. Tracking information for a package might end, forever, in a New Jersey warehouse, no matter how many investigations you filed. Personal Automated Telephone Tellers would read you 20 touch-tone options, avoidable if you memorized the correct combination of numbers. A kind and beautiful delivery driver might stop by every day for years, until his route was changed without notice, and he was never to be seen again. But if you waited on hold for long enough, there was a voice at the end of the muzak (FedEx’s is best), and insider tips and tricks of the trade (cheap boxes from Maspeth, shadowy Great Rates offering 90% savings on international shipping) to be learned from like-minded individuals.
So, projects relating to the mail were of great interest, and discovering the I.S.C.A. Quarterly was exciting and validating. Fueled by the production of a physical document, and a desire for recognition, the society grew to become a network of support, criticism, and resource sharing: a web of intimacy. And Louise was behind the curtain. I was fascinated by her multifaceted identity that combined supervisor, technician, administrator and artist. I loved picturing her mailing out a call for pages, receiving and collating them, packing and addressing the finished journals, bringing them to the post office, applying the appropriate number of stamps…

 

THE RIDERLESS HORSE

 

jobslostinterview111411

Figure 9.

PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated) was a branch of Xerox founded in 1970 devoted to developing new technologies. Xerox foresaw the obsolescence of paper documents and hoped PARC would help the company maintain relevance if this new paperless world came to be. In the next few years the genius PARC researchers invented (among other things) the mouse, ethernet, and Graphic User Interface (GUI), landmark developments in computer technology.
Interestingly, the marketing team at Xerox failed to support many of PARCs inventions. Steve Jobs, however, showed interest, toured the center in 1979, and the rest is history.
Here’s Jobs on Xerox in The Lost Interview (1995):
“…the technology crashed and burned at Xerox…I actually thought a lot about that, and I learned more about that with John Scully later on and I think I understand it now pretty well…John came from Pepsico, and they at most would change their product once every ten years, to them a new product was like a new sized bottle, right. So if you were a product person you couldn’t change the course of that company very much. So who influenced the success of Pepsico? The sales and marketing people. Therefore, they were the ones that got promoted and therefore they were the ones that ran the company. Well, for Pepsico that might have been OK, but it turns out the same thing can happen in technology companies that get monopolies. Like, oh, IBM and Xerox. If you were a product person at IBM or Xerox, so you make a better copier or a better computer, so what? When you have a monopoly market share, the company’s not any more successful. So the people that can make the company more successful are sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the product people get driven out of the decision making forums. And the companies forget what it means to make great products. The product sensibility, the product genius that brought them to that monopolistic position gets rotted out, by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product versus a bad product. They have no conception of the craftsmanship that’s required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product. And they really have no feeling in their hearts, usually, about wanting to really help the customers. So, that’s what happened at Xerox. The people at Xerox PARC used to call the people who ran Xerox Toner Heads. And these Toner Heads would come out to Xerox PARC and they just had no clue about what they were seeing…they had no clue about a computer or what it could do. And so they just grabbed defeat from the greatest victory in the computer industry. Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry today. Could have been, you know, a company 10 times its size. Could have been IBM. Could have been the IBM of the 90’s, could have been the Microsoft of the 90’s. So, um, but anyway that’s all ancient history, it doesn’t really matter anymore.”10
* * *
Decades later, it turns out Xerox Corporation is alive and well, kept afloat by their development of laser printers. Louise now reproduces her works on offset presses, as the laser technology can’t recreate the effects of the original drum-based machines. The world’s paper production has risen by 400% in the last forty years, contributing to deforestation, increased levels of greenhouse gases and acid rain, water pollution, and accounts for 40% of all waste in the US.11 The USPS plans to close over 3,000 post offices. Empress Bullet’s owner, Dennis Blinderman, switched to poker. I quit my job. My grandfather always claims to have sold the first xerox machine in the US, but I can’t find his story on the internet. I’ll have to call him soon and share it with you.
* * *
17:52 “In a way the most interesting thing for me in this was what happened with the text because by overlapping the text I got the word death to appear letter by letter…and then the overlapped words really pick up speed…it says thoughroughbred, horoughbred, toughbred, troughbred, redDeath at Aq Aqu Aque Aqued Aquedu Aqueductuctuctuctuctuctuct … it’s a very exciting way to use text…I think each one finds his own allegory in that…what does winning mean is one of the questions, if you participate in a race and you show great courage and speed and you win the race what does it matter what spurred you on, is the point. What got you there doesn’t matter, what matters is that you did it…the other allegory I suppose is what is a victory.”12
* * *
Chestercarlsonstamp copy

Figure 10.

 

 


* The phrase “Housekeeping in a Dream” is borrowed from a book titled DIFFERENT SPECIES OF LAZINESS by Sogyal Rinpoche, a buddhist teacher. He uses it to elaborate on what he calls “active laziness”, or the western practice of cramming our lives with compulsive activity so that there is no time left to confront the real issues. Personally, I feel some of these compulsive activities are great and that there are beautiful moments in housekeeping. So, housekeeping in a dream is an ambiguous phrase for me, and makes a good title for a inconclusive essay.


 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Fig. 1. Chester F Carlson, “Electrophotography,” Patent US 2297691 A. October 6, 1942, http://www.google.com/patents/US2297691 (accessed March 9, 2015).

Fig. 2. Chester F Carlson, First Xerographic Copy, October 22, 1938 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:First_xerographic_copy_-_10-22-38_ASTORIA_.jpg (accessed March 9, 2015).

Fig 3. Xerox, “This is the end,” in “Blast from the past – Xerox 914 ad,” Industry Analysts, Inc. http://industryanalysts.com/blast-past-xerox-914-ad/ (accessed March 9, 2015).

Fig 4. Reverend, Xeroxlore: Folklore in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, November 29, 2007, http://bavatuesdays.com/xeroxlore-folklore-in-the-age-of-mechanical-reproduction/ (accessed March 9, 2015).

Fig.5. The University of Iowa Libraries, “Louise and Muffin”, http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/scua/msc/tomsc800/msc768/isca_neaderland.html (accessed March 18,2015).

Fig 6. Selections from “Scenic Tunnels”, a xerox bookwork by Louise Odes Neaderland.

Fig 7. Louise Odes Neaderland, I.S.C.A. Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 1982) in http://printedmatter.org/catalog/17152 (accessed March 9, 2015); Louise Odes Neaderland, I.S.C.A. Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3A (January 1983) in http://printedmatter.org/catalog/17154 (accessed March 9, 2015); Louise Odes Neaderland, I.S.C.A. Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Spring 1982) in http://printedmatter.org/catalog/10346 (accessed March 9, 2015); Louise Odes Neaderland, “Childhood,” I.S.C.A. Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Winter 2002) on http://printedmatter.org/15991 (accessed March 9, 2015); Louise Odes Neaderland, I.S.C.A. Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Fall 1990) on http://printedmatter.org/catalog/4632 (accessed March 9, 2015).

Fig 8. The International Society of Copier Artists Newsletter, published by Louise Neaderland from 800 West End Avenue, New York City, Fall 1983).

Fig 9. Screengrab from Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, directed by Paul Sen, 2012.

Fig 10. From: John H, Lienhard, “No. 2689 Chester Carlson,” Engines of Our Ingenuity, http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2689.htm (accessed March 9, 2015).

 


 

WORKS CITED

AfterImage (The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism): http://vsw.org/afterimage/

General Overview of What’s In America’s Trash, 15 November 2012, http://www.epa.gov/osw/wycd/catbook/what.htm.

The International Society of Copier Artists Newsletter, published by Louise Odes Neaderland from 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1982 – 2003).

Louise Odes Neaderland, “The image is the message, the medium is the tool: matras and multiples,” Leonardo – Journal of the International Society of Arts, Science and Technology, Autumn 1985.

Louise Odes Neaderland, “Artist in the Age of the Copy Machine,” Women Artist News, Summer 1988: 17.

Tom Trusky interviews Louise Neaderland in her studio, 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1991).

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, directed by Paul Sen, 2012.

 


 

NOTES

1 From the envelope of a DVD sent to the author by Louise Neaderland: Tom Trusky interviews Louise Neaderland in her studio, 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1991).

2 Louise Odes Neaderland, “Artist in the Age of the Copy Machine,” Women Artist News, Summer 1988: 17.

3 Ibid.

4  Louise Odes Neaderland, “The image is the message, the medium is the tool: matras and multiples,” Leonardo – Journal of the International Society of Arts, Science and Technology, Autumn 1985.

5 Laziness, http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/laziness?s=t (accessed March 10, 2015).

6 Louise Odes Neaderland, “The image is the message, the medium is the tool: matras and multiples,” Leonardo – Journal of the International Society of Arts, Science and Technology, Autumn 1985.

7 AfterImage (The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism): http://vsw.org/afterimage/ (accessed March 9, 2015).

8 Louise Odes Neaderland in: Tom Trusky interviews Louise Neaderland in her studio, 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1991).

9 All taken from various issues of The International Society of Copier Artists Newsletter, published by Louise Odes Neaderland from 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1982 – 2003).

10 Steve Jobs quoted in: Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, directed by Paul Sen, 2012.

11 General Overview of What’s In America’s Trash, 15 November 2012, http://www.epa.gov/osw/wycd/catbook/what.htm (accessed March 9, 2015).

12 From the envelope of a DVD sent to the author by Louise Neaderland: Tom Trusky interviews Louise Neaderland in her studio, 800 West End Avenue (New York City, 1991).