Jeremy Lundquist, Stability Dynamics (2013)
- Installation of 20 progressive color etchings from a single plate. 88 x 140 inches overall (22 x 28 inches each). Edition of 5. Printed and published by the artist, St. Paul, MN. $8,000.
Stability Dynamics is a multipart etching that employs the medium’s inherent malleability to comment on the gap between the realities of modern warfare and its representation. The work is based on a PowerPoint slide titled “Afghanistan Stability/COIN Dynamics” used in a military briefing on the strategic surge intended to end the war in Afghanistan. First published in a 2 December 2009 blog post by Richard Engel of NBC News, the unclassified document was cited a few months later in the New York Times as an example of the problematic role of digital storyboarding in a military context (Elisabeth Bumiller, We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint,” 26 April 2010). The slide was lampooned on The Daily Show and in the Guardian, while critics of the strategy it represented and of the Times coverage emerged online and in the media.
Jeremy Lundquist saw the chart as representative of a larger issue: the shaping and dissemination of military strategy in a digital age. For Lundquist, printmaking is a tool with which “to question the recording and cataloging of information”; he aligns himself with artists such as Sarah Charlesworth, Trevor Paglen, Walid Raad and Mark Lombardi, who pursue subject matter that “either hasn’t been represented by history and media or … is simply not visible.” He spent more than two years conducting research and considering approaches before deciding on a complex etching process that would reflect—and amplify—the maelstrom of information in the slide, and comment on the proliferation and ephemerality of information online. On one sheet of copper, Lundquist drew one section of the diagram, printed it in a multitude of ways, then reworked the same plate with the next diagram section, and repeated this process 20 times until the full image had been replicated. The process allows him to “build up and take away information,” he says, “providing the viewer the opportunity to consider how policy is constructed and history is created.”
Lundquist began by scanning a picture of the slide from the Times (he chose to start with the newsprint edition rather than downloading the image from the Internet to reflect his intention to slow the processing of its information). The digital file of the scan was divided into a grid of 20 rectangles, each of which was identified with alphanumeric coordinates and printed by a large-format photocopy machine on an 18 x 24 inch sheet. Beginning with a printout of the first cell, Lundquist transferred the image to the copper plate by tracing it in soft-ground etching, which enabled him to emphasize some texts with the pressure of his pencil. The plate was printed, then scraped and burnished back before the image from the next cell was traced to it through soft-ground. Each new cell covered the remains of those that had gone before. The erasures are evident in the ghostly residue that accumulates on the plate. At each state the plate was first printed in black, then a second time with spot-wiping in color (four exceptions were printed only once).
Stability Dynamicsis just one of several works Lundquist made from this much-used plate. The unique installation Stability Dynamics: Erosion/Displacement consists of 20 proofs of the “erased” stage of each transformation. For Stability Dynamics: Accumulation, the ghost impression of each wiping was printed to a single sheet—for a total of 36 layers of residual ink. Lundquist says he created about 40 other unique proofs that selectively combine specific sections of the grid.
The project was completed during a nine-month Grant Wood Arts Colony Fellowship at the University of Iowa and was shown there in May 2013. In the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition, curator Kathleen Edwards notes the mirroring between word and image, process and concept:
Addressing the military language/political rhetoric within the diagram, Lundquist’s titles are another means by which his print installation utilizes the original diagram as a source for critique. The words “Erosion/Displacement,” “Accumulation,” “Message Amplification,” “Backlash,” “Sweep,” “Clear & Hold,” and “Provide Relief,” refer also to the techniques the artist uses to “erode,” “accumulate” and “amplify” certain features of the marks on the plate.
This seamless relationship between idea, form and execution is what made System Dynamics such an outstanding project in the eyes of this juror. In conversation, Lundquist mentioned that he often meets students who question the relevance of printmaking today. Stability Dynamics provides a solid answer.
Jurying the Prix de Print made me wonder whether unbiased selection is an attainable goal. Neutrality was forefront in my mind as I combed through the nameless, numbered entries, and I eliminated one artist whose work I had written on. I determined my criterion in advance: a print that made a direct and elegant connection between the artist’s concept and the techniques and materials used; a handful qualified. In the end, I chose a piece about which I felt I could contribute some insight. When I then learned the artist’s identity, I found we had numerous geographical, educational and professional connections in the Midwest. Due diligence suggested I comb through my back correspondence to be certain I had not seen the work in a press release or announcement. Assured of this, I moved forward.
[Editor’s note: If the art world is a small place, the print world is still smaller. It is inevitable that jurors will come across work they have seen before, sometimes by people they know well. This is one reason we change jurors with each iteration and encourage artists to enter every two months. We have been uniformly pleased with the ethics and rigor our jurors have brought to the task, and with the breadth and quality of the works submitted.]