Copying and Pedagogy

There is a long history of artist and artisans training which entails copying, even tracing. This  is probably somewhat related to the use of rote exercises and memorization in education as well. This all fell out of favor in the last 50 or so years, but I do think there are benefits.

Lets focus on copying in craftsmanship, rather than say doing a ton of boring long division problems. If I have to copy a bust of my teacher, then by copying I learn a bunch of skills related to making a bust.  These are technical, such as pouring a mold, or chisling fine features, I also learn about a particular style, how it feels to create something in a particular way.

Many years ago I wrote a program that was a text editing program that created time lapse snapshots of the state of a work as a user copied it.  If I copy out large swathes of Hawthorn, will I learn something, is there something in the muscle memory of writing that maybe I can capture in recording the act of writing?  If not, how can I capture this.

I am thinking a lot about the work of Peli Grietzer (dissertion here) and the idea that the act of an autoencoder learning is somewhat related to the pedagogical technique of copying, or memesis in general.  Here the autoencoder is engaged the act of memesis in learning. But what are the skilled that the autoencoder actually learns when the autoencoder creates a facsimile.   You can say a human has a number of sub skills that are acquired in learning on large skill, but this is not the case with the autoencoder, or maybe it is – we do not know since this is unintelligible to us.

Meditation on Anni Albers’ Notebooks

I was hanging out at the McNally Jackson bookstore in NoLiTa NYC, when I started leafing through a reproduction of Anni Albers’ Notebooks.  I had seen some Anni Albers at Mast Books on Avenue A, so I was ready to appreciate it.

First off, Anni Albers was a textile artist, bauhaus student, black mountain college teacher, and wife of artist and educator Josef Albers. You can check out her wikipedia page and some great pinterest boards. What interests in these notebooks are the way she is constructing the patterns off a grid. There is something very mathematical and repetitive. But even still, there are slight changes and differences. In this piece even though everything is of a piece, there does not seem to be a repetitive unit except for the diagonal or rhombus.

I am very drawn to them, it is like doing excel art or something, or fractals or emergent designs from simple rules – generate art.  The textile is unlike painting is discrete. You essential have a bunch of small knots or loops, you can count the number of times this happens. You can count the warp and weft threads.  Paint is continuous. It washes over the surface. You do not count the paint strokes or paint molecules.

By now it is common knowledge that the Jaquard loom was the first computer. But, looking at these studies for fabric, I think we can say the first generative art was also a textile, probably because unique among the arts it is a discrete art.