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Creative Research Lab

SHADE- August 2005

work by Michelle Bayer

Michelle Bayer
untitled, 2004
intaglio print

Catalog Essay by Sae Shin:

Michelle Bayer's inspiration to create a set of medical tools came from her sister's experience of dissecting layers of human organs and skin in anatomy class. In her class, every dissected layer is considered a finished product since each layer contains unique qualities that contribute to the biological functions of the human body.

Bayer's interest in tools used in the medical profession led her to consider the etching plate as a "tool." Instead of using the plate as a medium to transfer ink to paper, Bayer began to see it as a tool to emboss ridges into the paper, making scores for folding. Once folded along these lines, Bayer transformed the two-dimensional image into a three- dimensional object.

In Untitled, Bayer experimented with the use of a copper plate not only to transfer ink to paper, but also to alter the paper's surface. Bayer's original intention was to transfer the ridges to the paper in the printing process to assemble folding scores. However, she realized that these "templates" could be printed, trimmed, and folded to create three- dimensional objects if they were used with inked lines. As Bayer printed these templates, she saw the possibility to expose the process of production that would allow a viewer to receive all the information of an object in one sight. By doing so, a viewer could fold ridges in his/her imagination to create a hypothetical object. Thus, Bayer wanted her viewers to experience both "active viewing" and "static viewing." Bayer's work allows the observer to become a participant in the act of making art by following every step of creating a paper medical tool, hence the "active viewing." Since Bayer places a finished product in the middle of a print, however, the viewer is able to accept the form of a finished medical tool in a type of "static viewing."

As I examined Bayer's set of medical tools, I could not stop thinking about Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase (No.2). I believe that Bayer's work reverberates with Duchamp's Cubist-inspired technique for depicting motion. Like Duchamp, Bayer's work is not restricted to the idea that a viewer must only encounter a work of art as a finished product. As Duchamp portrayed a nude descending a staircase in a single picture plane, Bayer shows the making of a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional plane. As Duchamp demonstrated every step of a figure walking down stairs instead of the final position of a nude after descending, Bayer depicts a progression of making a paper medical tool in a single plane. And, at the same time, she locates the final image in midst of her process, combining movement and stasis into a piece that encourages the viewer to both look and actively imagine.