Kumartuli Printer Notes on Labor Part 1, 2013


Kumartuli Printer, Notes on Labour, Part 1, 2010

Slide show, approximately 3 min. loop

Praneet Soi invites contemplation of the sturdy relationship between manuality and apparatus, craft and context, which characterises the workshops of cities in the Third World. His slide show parses out the gestures of a printer’s hands as he interacts with an ancient pedal operated press in Calcutta. As the operator feeds paper into his anachronistic machine, it spits out grainy, high contrast images of his own hands, immersed in labour. This staged reflection on a productive process emerges amidst other slides that establish the context of manufacturing: cropped shots of tools and cans of ink, samples of receipts and other printed matter, views of the workspace. The self-referential character of these “notes on labour” responds to a logic that, although it does permeate a substantial proportion of works that originate in the global South, is profiled with extraordinary precision in Soi’s piece: namely, the way the idea of a craft appears increasingly untenable in relation to the new means of production, because of which the artist must refer to the Southern context. By incorporating an intimate relationship between body and apparatus, written in the grease stains on the operator’s hands, the ‘anachronism’ of Third World urban craftsmen comes to look like a ‘humanised’ border around modernisation. To be sure, these craftsmen no longer form the utopian horizon of a return to devout, anonymous and community-based work: this is merely the space of a relatively less abstracted activity than the destiny offered to us by global capitalism’s mix of automation and generalised unemployment.

Text -
Cuauhtémoc Medina
Manifesta 8
(The Deep of the Modern)
Genk, Belgium 2012


Above & Below -

Inkjet prints &Treadel Press prints on Paper
Approximately A4 in size.

Images produced over the course of the engagement with the printmaker, Bishuda, in Kumartuli. These then entered the narrative of the slide-show.

Certain of these are electronic collages made by me from documentation taken in the workshop. Certain of them are examples of the printmaker Bishuda's commercial work.

Some of them are images made by me of the printmakers hand at work and were printed on the treadel-press within the workshop. This process necessitated the making of negatives for the metal plate, some of which are included within the timeline of the slide-show.