Mind & Matter


Paper Under Scrutiny

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Solar Topographies by Ben Crowd, 2007. Photo by Nigel Young.


New York’s Museum of Art and Design recently opened its third exhibit in a series of shows focused on contemporary approaches to traditional materials. The current exhibition, entitled “Slash: Paper Under the Knife,” demonstrates the diverse range of outcomes possible within the seemingly humble genre of cut paper. Indeed, the impressive variety of installations showcased—including “works that are burned, torn, cut by lasers, and shredded”—suggests that this international collection of artists felt challenged to demonstrate the unexpected creative capacities of this all-too-familiar material.

This motivation may originate in part due to a general perception of obsolescence—now that many forms of paper-based media are giving way to electronic surrogates, paper is increasingly portrayed as an outdated, resource-intensive medium. However, as renewable, bio-based technologies continue to replace traditional petroleum supplies for products such as fuel, plastics, and textiles, we may also see an enhanced future for paper resulting from new growth in agrifiber industries. As the Slash artists suggest, perhaps we have only begun to understand this common material.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.