A Photocopier Manual

A Photocopier Manual, as the project submitted as Assignment 2, Material Properties, presents a loose-leaf A4 folder which covers a series of discrete sections, each separated by a sheet of a photocopied instruction of ‘how to copy’ from the main drawing tool of this body of work: a Canon C5240i office colour printer.

Over the course of a couple of months I devised, conducted and recorded in various means a series of performances that centred on the C5240i, situated in my workplace, as well as my own home inkjet printer, a Canon MB5300. The performances notably worked with the photocopy plate and process, to a lesser extent they also included the printing process alone (printing captured images, on iPhone 7plus).

I consider these drawings as performances, more specifically: as conversations. I do so in order to foreground the interaction between human and photocopier, myself making a series of decisions to feed, alter and interact with the photographic unit of the photocopier.

Notably, the distinct sections, performances, interactions are as follows:

  1. Instruction to self and others (photographed, then printed, then copied notebook page)
  2. Feuer im Paradies (rubbing of book cover on tracing paper, photocopied and re-photocopied)
  3. Indexical tracing  (rubbing of MB5300 plate and surface on tracing paper, scans of the ongoing process, scans of the final state, photograph of the final state)
  4. Feeding and drawing (two line drawings of C5240i, one photograph of performance, one collage print)
    [I explore the actual machine in line, similar to the drawing of the filing cabinet here; and proceed by finding placements/positions between photocopier and myself, notably when feeding copies back into the paper tray]
  5. Blocking out (two photocopies)
    [tracing, and failing to do so, the translucency of my sketchbook: the photographic unit of the photocopier returns 100% opacity, no see through at all]
  6. Add and erase (three photocopies of one amended collage are altered with Tippex pen, then photocopied; one of the originally altered Tippex, and double-sided, collage is held against a glass and photographed)
    [following an invitation to participants in a study day to amend, alter a collage, I proceed by investigating what were originally mine, what others’ marks by taking away marks with a Tippex pen, only to find that the pen adds new marks, which show against the light but not through the photocopier.]
  7. The ringbinder concludes with a clear copy of ‘how to copy’ followed by a photograph of a found printer, broken, on the kerbside


The Manual is presented in a clear ringbinder with cover image (only denoting title and a document identification number, of an earlier journal article of mine, to give ownership and shift register, into the academic institutional space in which this is originates and is re-inserted into). Each sheet is a photocopy of the ‘originals’ as above and inserted into a polypocket for protection. The ringbinder format mimicks instruction manuals as well as allowing for amendments and additions. The backcover of the binder is a copy of a photograph which is taken of the 3 Indexical tracing performance while the photocopy unit produces a copy from the other direction.

With this format, identical copies of the ringbinder are placed next to the two main photocopiers of the office space, without any further explanation. As such, it becomes part of the Corridor Placement series that has been ongoing since September last year.

The following video shows the content of the ringbinder:


Alongside this assignment submission entry, the following blog posts are relevant:

The category preparatory work (a2) collates all preparatory work

The contextual influences for this work are notably

  • Copy Art/ Xerox Art (see post here)
  • There is a continuation of the theme of office spaces and office equipment going on
  • The role of performance in this work?
  • The parallel project as well as a first outline of the critical review also present contextual references for this work (see respective categories on the main menu, left hand side)

A reflection on the assessment criteria is in this post here.


Various issues to consider for further discussion/development.

  • I photocopy the whole set of ‘originals’ once through the C5240i; which means, they have been exposed all at least once under the same photographic unit.
  • With the participatory performance, I keep losing track around what constitutes original, what copy, and with which I should proceed. It is interesting and replays the issue about ownership. I end up with a complex set up on a large table to keep track of the relevant copies.
  • There are two Canon colour printer models in the department, I copy one set on one printer, then proceed to the other and find it copies somewhat darker. This points towards a number of variables and parameters that I have not investigated yet.
  • I decide to also feed the colour photographs (printed on the same printer) back through the photocopier (rather than printing them anew for each binder), it seems important to have the final set of sheets all having been through the photocopier process as such; is this good enough reason?


The task for this assignment consists of producing a drawing, or series of drawings which use the object of the drawing as drawing tool, i.e. a looking, referring back of object to method.



8 thoughts on “A Photocopier Manual”

  1. I more than ‘like’ this! I’ve loved watching it develop and turn into this and find the final piece seriously wonderful. Could you also show a copy of the work at the photocopier, as the work of the artist-in-residence?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks so much, Jennifer! — that is really encouraging to read. I am glad to see what it has become (and what remains as potential to continue along this line); I have printed two more copies of it and will place one each next to the two main printers in the department 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. … many thanks, Sarah-Jane! yes… quite a few (5, 6, 7) now know that it is my stuff (or: possibly more, but they are the ones who have explicitly approached me); you may remember too that some of the earlier stuff got moved, repositioned etc…. These two folders are now very obvious (I feel); it feels like an outing, even though it doesn’t have a name to it, but it’s such an extensive piece of work, that it is clearly not ‘accidental’; it may be the final piece before I compile the book I want to make (there may be another smaller, more translucent gesture still to come, I will gauge that over the next week or so); I want to conclude this by late May, possibly too have a session, workshop soon after….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Can’t profess to fully comprehend, however… what struck me about the notion of a copier is the binary nature of it, it either is or isn’t. What I wonder is how the edges are/might be explored, what does it reveal at the margins?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. … thanks, John — you mean it is either is a copy or it isn’t a copy? If that is the statement: one thing I begun to realise with the piece was the extent to which only close contact, lying flat on the plate produces a true likeness/ copy (in the way the lens would be able to read it), so any distance distorts (which I find interesting in relational terms); and that distortion would not only manifest as out of focus/blur but blocking up/blacking out: so: distance introduces light, which in turn leads to overexposure which leads to blocking up. The section dividers (the variously black instructions on ‘how to copy’) are all ‘originals’ in the sense that they result from such a variation of distance and excess light.
      There are other things going on re edges/margins (and some of the copies document these, e.g. the one about Feuer Im Paradies has a few introduced narrow white edges appearing before the final copy as a result of feeding sheets back through the copier….

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, exactly that in respect of its mimetic capabilities. And how it’s relationships with the borders of representation (the light you talk about, the margins of ink availability etc) affect the reading of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ah…. good…. yes! found that fascinating in terms of the art object but also what i have been finding out about office practices and rationalities… been really useful as enquiry on a number of levels (and reminded me strongly how insightful boring stuff often turns out to be!)

      Liked by 1 person

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