Specters of Marks

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Stephen Larrick - student work


Made up of two pieces, “Specters of Marks” is an exploration of the watermark as a modern cultural artifact.  The image of the watermark is familiar to almost anyone who has used Google image search, and its widespread appearance, though necessitated by and dependent on the internet, is in many ways anathema to the public realm of cyberspace and its spirit of sharing.  "Specters of Marks" attempts to investigate this tension.

“Oh Joy! Photography”

Watermarks are used to obscure an original image, preventing its unauthorized use.  This piece - a collection of such image-obscuring wartermarks that I came across online in the past two weeks - subverts this effort, presenting unauthorized reproductions not of the compromised image, but of the very emblem of preventing reproduction.  This treatment of the watermark itself as a desired image - as an artwork - provokes the comical question "can the watermark be watermarked?" and pokes fun of the notion of possessing an image, a notion that seems increasingly outdated in the 21st century.

“Another Round of Flowers, on Elten”

In this piece the visible digital watermark has been recontextualized in the physical realm, existing as a real mark left on a real painting.  On a computer screen in front of the physical painting is a .jpg file of that same image, watermark-free.

In addition to the humorous reversal of the appearance of the watermark from the digital copy to the physical original, the piece is also meant to reveal the exclusivity always present in work displayed in a gallery setting, often the product of of elite, highly trained artists.  The watermark, a symbol of this kind of exclusivity, is removed in the digital version of the image, pointing to the internet’s inclusive and liberating treatment of image and by extension of art.

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