Buckminster Fuller’s text ‘Utopia or Oblivion’ (1969) is a provoking plan for the future where humanity is led for the better, by technology. The text comprises essays from lectures he delivered globally in the 1960s, where he proposed through technology ‘to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or to the disadvantage of anyone.’ Fuller advocates a sense of awareness and urgency not only for our relationship with ourselves, technology and the environment but also with each other, to imagine better as a collective task.
This collaborative print project uses the above Fuller text and the spirit of his writings and drawings as a printmaking guide to unravel and interrogate how we collectively can imagine a better future that does more with less. The project made in Belfast Print Workshop allows the collaborative work to emerge over a period of time. Here the artists exchange screens, share prints, print and overprint to create works that suggest new words, propose commentary on the present and imagine better futures.
In this collaborative project, dialogue inevitably occurs between the artists. Dialogue also occurs between the making, the printmaking process and the subsequent reflection on the making and on the process. The responsive approach adopted by the project is in line with Donald Schön’s ‘Reflective Practitioner’ (1991) where researching and making is through action and reflecting in and on the action. That is, thinking and responding in the process of doing or making where ‘reflection tends to focus interactively on the outcomes of the action, the action itself, and the intuitive knowing implicit in action’ (Schön, 1991, p.56). Arguably this process becomes heightened in a collaborative act. The project is also positioned as making in order to discover, or thinking-through-making; what the U.S. writer, Johanna Drucker identifies as ‘stochastic processes’ where the outcomes cannot be entirely defined or predicted but they fully emerge as they come into existence––in other words, it has to be made in order to see what it will be.
The exhibition is an installation consisting of a series of collaborative screenprints and artist books. While language is at the heart of this project, dialogue is also inherent in the collaborative process where the aim is to collaborate across individual artistic boundaries captured in the moment of printmaking. Fuller’s proposal for a more equal and fair society is reflected in a moment of despair where he learned ‘You do not belong to you. You belong to the Universe.’ (1989, Sieden, Lloyd Steven, pp.87-88) This necessary relinquishing of self is brought into focus in this collaborative printmaking project, where the indexical signs presented become both passive and active, absent and present, yours and mine, a necessary middle ground where distinctions give way for another moment of language making.