The Long Run

"Composition #84: The Long Run" is a series of original artworks created using a digital pen plotter, emptying a collection of 30-year-old vintage felt tip pens. Each piece measures 40x120cm, comprises 2.5 million individual dots and was created over 23 hours. The variations in the colors and textures come from the unique history of each pen, as they have been aging and drying out for 30 years. The emptying of these pens marks the end of an era, as the pens are no longer being produced and cannot be obtained through monetary means. For the three pieces being shown at SP2, eight pens of the same color were used, resulting in subtle variations in hue, saturation, and texture within each stripe.

The aspect of surprise in the process of creation is one of the fundamental principles of generative art, which typically involves the use of algorithms to generate unpredictable outcomes. In this sense, "Composition #84: The Long Run" is an analog expression of the generative art process, with the unique qualities of each pen contributing to the unpredictable variations in the color and texture of each stripe.

The interview below was originally published here:

Chris: Can you explain the thought process behind the title The Long Run, for this project?

Marcel: Deciding on the title wasn't easy, because there are so many different aspects of it for me. Ultimately I was thinking about how the works can not be reproduced, take quite a while to complete (each piece takes around 23 to 24 hours), and use a set of pens that you can't just buy in the store because they are out of stock since the early 90s.

The Long Run aspect also refers to the unexpected yet appealing shape of the artwork, which can be interpreted differently by viewers (frankly, it’s just very long, 120cm). And, finally, all of these pens that I’ve used up have come to the end of their “run,” however long.

And setting a title for a work that will be minted on the blockchain is a pretty important aspect, as it can’t be changed, ever.

Chris: What inspired the concept for this project?

Marcel: The concept is a continuation of techniques first employed in ‘Composition #83’, which has an ironic origin, in that in a way it’s actually printing because of the pixelated nature of the instructions I’m giving the plotter. So I’m exploring the interplay between prints and plots, as well as the unique characteristics of vintage pens and plotter machines.

By working with these historic tools and embracing the unpredictable aspects of the physical drawing process, I’m creating truly unique works that cannot be replicated. I wanna celebrate the history of the materials, while simultaneously acknowledging the need to move beyond their limitations and embrace new creative possibilities in the future.

Chris: You mentioned that you’re using 30-year-old pens and plotter machines. Have you always had these tools or did you recently acquire them?

Marcel: Since I used my first plotter I have tried lots of different ways, and over the years, I've built up a little vintage pens & plotters collection.

So this project is a culmination of years of experimentation, learning, and improvement. Each specific machine has their own unique mechanical characteristics and history, which add an interesting layer to the meaning to the work.

Chris: Can you go into more detail about the pens and machines you used?

Marcel: The machines really showcase the engineering skills from the original developers of the machines– from speed to being able to control pen pressure and general durability.

These A0 machines, which were discontinued in the early '90s due to the development of inkjet printers, have allowed me to explore a vast range of creative possibilities, and their unique construction has made it possible for me to produce two and a half million dots per work.

I think reusing older equipment is something I’m interested in exploring more broadly as well, as with my project repurposing old MacBooks, titled "Never change a running system."

As for the pens, I use a simple set of eight pens for each of the 6 works in this series. One is using 8 red pens, another one is only using 8 green pens, and so on, with Yellow, Black, Blue, and Rainbow.

Since the pens are really old, their tone has been changing, black turns rather gray, green turns into a violet/purple direction when 30 years go by. These are simple felt tip pens that were sold with the machines back in the day.

Chris: How much time went into the process of creating The Long Run?

Marcel: My daily routine involved waking up, checking the remote cameras to check whether the workshop hasn’t gone up in flames, and then starting cutting paper to the exact millimeter for the machines. I'd spend time straightening and flattening the paper with weights before repeating the process throughout the day. Since it’s impossible to preview or estimate how one of these plots came out, there was really some excitement about what it’s going to look like, especially after such a long and steady process of constant dot printing. I created just a few little sketches before finding the right ones, and then just went with the same algorithm and let the pens do the “random” artifacts.