by Jason Kunke
22” x 14” Inkjet Print on Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper (260) printed with Epson UltraChrome K3 ink
One print in an edition of thirty
Dispersal Order (Dazzler) is a step back through a chain of disseminations. It is an image of a well-used mimeograph stencil, back-lit by a quasi-legal, 100mW, 532nm, green laser. Lasers like these are used by law enforcement for non-lethal crowd control and order management, disorienting or temporarily blinding unruly mobs. Here, the laser is used as an artistic medium, illuminating and documenting an order to disperse.
During the Columbia University protests of 1968, the dissemination of information amongst the striking students was crucial. One student recalled that "there was a big sign on the wall ... five students and a mimeograph machine can do more harm to a university than an army."
Over forty years later this may seem idealistic, but the call and response relationship between authority and dissent has continued, and the methods of information dispersal have co-evolved in a synthetic dialogue along with that relationship. Social media on the internet has replaced the mimeograph, but how has the relationship changed?
In 2009 Jason Kunke began a series of handmade mimeograph prints, each recreating part of a photograph from Riot Control: Material and Techniques (Rex Applegate, 1981). The original image was of two officers holding a sign—the sign read, "THIS IS AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY DISPERSE AT ONCE"—demonstrating a legal dispersal order. The police must give dispersal orders to a crowd before the police are allowed to use force. Dispersal orders represent a bifurcation point, the deciding moment before the clash of authority and resistance. The mimeograph prints Kunke made were life-size, 80” by 27”, presented as artifacts on a variety of substrates, inserting some authority into an art framework, and hopefully problematizing the political efficacy of art.
Those initial prints went through a number of transformations as they were dispersed into the art milieu. One print found its way into a non-profit’s fundraising auction, but the size of the print made it difficult for them to document. The image they created in their attempt to document the piece was incredible as a collage in itself, and Kunke reclaimed the documentation image as a series of unique color photocopy transfers on paper. One of these transfers was evocative enough that Kunke photocopied it as an unlimited edition. Some of these copies were then crumpled, re-photocopied, and printed as enlarged (48” by 33”) photographic black and white prints. These prints were additionally crumpled and used in various sculptures.
After all of these iterations, Dispersal Order (Dazzler) brings Kunke back to the initial mimeograph stencil, a re-assertion of authority by appropriating the tools of authority for aesthetic means.