Erik and Martin Demaine, Folding Error, 2014, elephant hide paper, 8” x 11” x 11”.

The Mundane Goes Exotic

by James Foritano

We all know by now – having been told over and over again — that Americans didn’t invent paper. Well, what’s done is done and so we do what we’re good at, i.e., imagining the future. And that’s fortuitous since paper, as we all know, is in a fix right now – witness the heralded “paperless office” and realize with a shudder that if America’s business is truly business, where’s paper?

Restless explorers that we are (even more so the artists among us), we are busy imagining where paper can possibly be now that it’s not on hand for every routine communication. When paper from the Philippines lands in Michelle Samour’s Acton studio in what I take, with some explanation, to be beautifully textured sheets of exotic abaca fiber, she throws it into a back studio machine that macerates it to bits, then laboriously puts it back together as she sees it.

I have to restrain myself from thinking that was perfectly good paper I had just seen destroyed. I first think “creative destruction,” then maybe that what I saw was not paper as such, but the idea of paper being re-imagined to survive paper’s current identity crisis — a sort of enlightened charity. Indeed, what I see rising out of Samour’s imagination references paper in ways that a business office could never imagine — except maybe in idle moments at the water cooler.

Still fibrous but now more delicately translucent, tinted with an otherworldly grey/blue, “Eye Aggregation N.1” achieves an inevitable, if fantastic, peak from a resolutely broad-bottomed base.Encased in Lucite, and set on the capering cabriole legs of a ghost-white table, paper rises far from its tropical origins as global merchandise to claim a place in that new land which art and imagination are building, handhold by foothold.

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