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Fragmentations that manifest during the translation from analog media to digital are often inexplicable and distinctly intriguing. In this study, I delved into the expansive collection of microfilm in the VCU library in an attempt to discover the fractures and errors of the material and aesthetically catalog them. Using a (now arcane) microfilm reader, I documented errors on the films themselves (likely present since the film’s creation and/or as a result of decay), technological flickers resulting from an imperfect scanning technology, and artificially introduced human errors that resulted from improper machine use for effect. The original content of the microfiche used in the exploration includes NASA documents, medieval texts, The New York Times, and other archived media.
The results of the study are compelling. Through the value gradient composition in the poster, trends of errors begin to emerge. The series of images that contain a distinct tear resembling a mountain range resulted from the scanner’s attempt to find a separating line between two dark values. The images that contain a perspective warp are the result of manipulated zoom during long scans. For some images, I layered microfilm two or three high to create a depth of field and overlapping visual. Images that appear fragmented, with a single part of the image repeating in the frame, resulted from a combination of actions that tricked the machine into rescanning part way through and producing a composite scan.
As with most artistic projects, this poster was not intended to diagnose issues with an obsolete technology, but was created in the spirit of enjoying a more nuanced exploration of fading objects. Microfiche are thus fertile subject matter for visual appreciation. The transfer between analog to digital represents not only a technological translation but a shift from a utilitarian item to an aesthetic one.
This poster was developed as part of Art Foundation’s Surface Research Studio under the instruction of Brooke Chornyak, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Art Foundation at VCU.
Dylan Halpern is a 2013/14 Board of Visitors Scholarship recipient studying Graphic Design with a minor in Urban Studies in the Honors College of VCU. Halpern is the President Pro Temp of the Secular Student Alliance at VCU, the School of the Arts Representative for the Student Leadership Committee, a member of numerous smaller councils and projects and has served as the Webmaster for the Student Government. During the 2013 summer, he interned with Flying Machine, a boutique design firm in New York. He is the design lead for Auctus, and has previously participated in the Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program (HSURP) under the School of Engineering.
Halpern’s interest in research started in freshman research-oriented courses, Rhetoric (Honors 200) and Space Research (Art Foundation). He considers the research process an intrinsic part of art and design, and focuses his efforts on traditional research when first given a project. Looking to the future, he hopes to spark an intellectual renaissance in graphic design and inject his own priorities into what he considers to be a profession weakened by too narrowly-focused considerations and a loss of true interdisciplinary connection. Halpern embraces failure as an essential aspect of the successful creative act, depictions of ugliness as one of the few routes to beauty and contradiction as the undeniably post-modern route to logical communication.