High-Tech Paper: Security Printing and the Aesthetics of Trust

Australia banknoteMy next book project is a historical and theoretical study of security printing and document aesthetics. I examine how authoritative papers, such as banknotes and passports, provide an alternate history of printing, one that is focused on making the authentic reproducible and legible through strategies like material and technical quality, complexity, and expertise. Contrary to arguments that focus on paper as a cheap and flimsy commodity, the book argues that there is an intrinsic value to valuable papers which is produced through an array of overt and covert security features and devices that work to inscribe and encode authenticity (e.g. watermarks and specialized substrates, metallic threads, invisible or UV inks, holographs, RFID chips, nano-optical images, microprinting, etc.). To do so I draw on histories of the technical image, material innovation, media convergence, document aesthetics, and paper infrastructures. Operating from the field of media studies the book thus also engages in areas such as material culture, infrastructure studies, history of technology and design, print and book history, and art history, all to understand why we continue to trust printed paper in an age of accessible mechanical and digital reproducibility.

This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Insight Development Grant; SSHRC Insight Grant).

The Sociability of Sleep ladies napping_circle

Nominated PI. Co-Applicants: Alanna Thain (McGill) and Marta Kaminska (McGill). Collaborators: Natalie Doonan, Navid Navab, Tore Nielsen, Lakshmi Padmanabhan, Elizaveta Solomonova, Antonio Zadra. Postdoctoral Fellow: Joshua Dittrich.

In this project, we explore exceptional and everyday experiences of sleep and its problems to generate new knowledge and empathies for sleep conditions, defined as a disordered and debilitating relation between sleep and wakefulness (including, but not limited to somnambulism, insomnia, narcolepsy, parasomnias, dreams and nightmares, sleep apnea, chronodiversity, etc.). Through collaboration between artists, scientists, and media scholars, we aim to generate novel sleep situations that make perceptible, and thus actionable, our key intuition: that sleep is much more social than it might seem. In sleep, we become radically vulnerable in a way that requires social forms of care: individuals are experts of their somatic experience, and yet access to the sleeping self relies on the perception of human and technological others. How might exploring a sleeper subjectivity and the quotidian ways we navigate time, space, ourselves, and others help us rethink and reanimate the sociability of sleep itself? Our approach is rooted in art-science experimentation, collaboration, prototyping, and various forms of “critical making” that integrate and engage with qualitative or quantitative research data. Over the two years of the project, we have planned a series of experimental events, including a speaker series (Sleep Salons), maker and prototyping workshops, artist residencies, pedagogical videos, a summer school, and a final exhibition.

This project is funded by the New Frontiers for Research Fund – Exploration programme.

Paperology Reading and Activity Group

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Co-Organized with Juliette De Maeyer, Alysse Kushinski, Ghislain Thibault

The Paperology Reading and Activity Group took place over Zoom during the 2020-2021 academic/pandemic year. The objective for this group was to engage with the emerging research and growing literature on paper as material. We wanted to better understand the material histories, forms, practices, and possibilities of paper. Paper has been of interest to artists, art historians, and book historians, but it has been surprisingly under examined as media and technology from the broader perspective of fields such as media and communication studies. The recent surge of publications on paper reflects an effort to fill this gap and our interest to form this froup.

The Paperology RAG engaged with a variety of literatures that consider how paper is made, how it is used, and the practices it affords. This includes thinking through an assortment of paper-based artefacts with texts from various disciplines. As a way to start, we offered the following questions: What exactly is paper? What experiences are unique to paper? In what ways is paper valuable? Why paper now? Is paper still a relevant technology? How has paper in its various permutations given rise to specific things, systems, and cultures, including certain formats and genres  (e.g. the pocket book, the file, the greetings card), artefacts (e.g. the rolodex, the paper shredder), and activities (e.g. paperwork, burning, scrapbooking, marbling)? What are novel ways of thinking paper, and what how does thie lead to new questions around media and materiality?

Archive/Counter-Archive: Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage

Archive_Counter-ArchiveArchive/Counter-Archive: Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage brings together over 25 co-investigators, a dozen collaborators, and a network of Partners from across Canada to research and remediate audiovisual archives created by women, Indigenous Peoples, the LGBTQ2+ community, and immigrant communities. Political, resistant, and community-based, A/CA creatively engages with archives through its dynamic network of Canadian archives, artist-run centers, community organizations, and Universities. Together, the goal is to create best practices and lay the foundation for innovative cultural policy.

This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Partnership Grant).

Nano-Verses: Nano-Optical Image-Making


Nano-Verses was art-science collaboration with the artists Christine Davis and Scott Lyall, and the Ciber Lab at Simon Fraser University. It works to develop “nano-media” using nano-optical materials to produce a new kind of substrate, along with its accompanying image-making techniques, and to explore the circulation of these nano-optical images across fields and applications. balloonOur work has been presented in a variety of venues, including academic and industry conferences (such as Siggraph and ISEA), and in exhibitions at the Miguel Abreu Gallery in NYC and Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto, Paris and London in Fall 2017, and the Olga Koerper Gallery in Toronto (Winter 2018). Here is the accompanying website; an article in Leonardo is available here.

This project was in part funded by the Mitacs Elevate post-doctoral fellowship programme and a Canada Council for the Arts/GRAND NCE Media Artist and Scientist Collaboration grant.