FAX invites a multigenerational group of artists, as well as architects, designers, scientists and filmmakers, to conceive of the fax machine as a tool for thinking and drawing. Although the technology for transmitting printed images and texts over distance dates from the nineteenth century—a machine by Scottish mechanic Alexander Bain patented in 1843—it was the introduction of the modern fax through commercially available machines in the 1970s that turned facsimiles into a ubiquitous communications medium for international business. Artists readily exploited its immediate, graphic, and interactive character, making it an important part of the history of telecommunications art, nestled between the legacy of mail art and the nascent practices of new media.
Faxes by over 100 artists sent to the initial showing of FAX at The Drawing Center will form the core of the exhibition, and will include seminal examples of early telecommunications art; and each institution will invite up to twenty additional artists to submit works, which will be presented at successive venues. These works may be transmitted to each participating institution’s working fax line throughout the duration of the exhibition. The active accumulation of information—received in real time, in the exhibition space—will include drawings and texts, and even the inevitable junk faxes from telemarketers and local businesses as well. All the transmitted pages will be archived or displayed together with the active fax machine, which may produce new faxes from invited artists at any moment. The result—an ongoing cumulative project—is a show concerned with ideas of reproduction, obsolescence, distribution, and mediation. Here, reproducible yet erratic production via the fax machine displaces traditional notions of the hand‚ still commonly associated with the medium of drawing, and foreground the role of drawing as a generative process.
The exhibition is in partnership with iCI and is curated by João Ribas, curator of The Drawing Center, New York.