An Intern’s Perspective on Kiel Johnson’s “Publish or Perish”
Hello, my name is Michael Blackmon, and I recently began interning at SECCA.
Art, as most people know, can take on a variety of forms. There’s musical art, performance art, etc. and the greatest thing about whatever form of art you encounter, is that you get to form your own perspective of what the artist was/is trying to convey.
For example, think about the film Titanic starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This is a film that most people have seen, and the cultural impact of the movie is so enormous that even if you haven’t seen it, you know a good bit about the film.
Anyway, if you remember, the over-arching theme of the film was about love, but there were other themes that were constant throughout the film like individuality, freedom, and sexuality. Film is an art form, and like many other art forms, there’s rarely one message being conveyed. Most people who saw the film probably only left with the notion that this was a movie just another love story, but it wasn’t. All you have to do is look a little deeper than what’s presented at the surface and come up with your own interpretation of what a particular art piece is saying to you.
When I first visited SECCA, I was intrigued by Publish or Perish, a piece by Kiel Johnson. The artist, Johnson, created a printing press only using simple materials like paper, wood, and cardboard. On the printing paper are little figures that were hand drawn. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the figures on the paper are everyday items that people like you and I own. What Johnson did was draw every single possession he owned on the printing paper. Johnson’s father was a newspaper publisher so it’s obvious where his inspiration for this particular piece stems from.
To me, Johnson’s printing press is, in some ways, a beautiful tribute to those who have ever enjoyed the comfort of reading and writing. Think about it: The printing press allowed for reading materials to be mass produced, thus allowing more people to be informed about one subject – mass communication.
Johnson’s piece is also reflective because we’re entering an era of uncertainty as far as writing is concerned. There will always be writers, no doubt, but what will their messages be printed on? Everything is becoming digital. More and more print journalists are out of work every day; even books come in electronic format now.
In all, Johnson’s printing press is a wonderful reminder of the transformative nature of how thoughts and ideas were communicated.