Paper is a cultural material that drives the changes of the basic civilization values. Through paper, knowledge is written, shared and passed down from generation to generation. In many cultures paper fulfill the profane to spiritual function, as we find in the cultural practices of people in East Asia who use paper materials for ceremonies and rituals of death.
As a material product, paper has various characteristics, textures, fibers, and aesthetic and artistic uniqueness. The uniqueness of paper as material motivates many artists in every era to use paper as a medium of work. It is whether to represent spontaneous expressions, sketches, drawings, work designs, or become the main media for art creations. In many developments of the ‘material discourse’ of art, paper is always in a minor position when compared to the other materials. We can see in on how the public’s appreciation on a paper artwork is minimal when compared to a work on canvas for example. Furthermore, the stigma that has been strongly fixated in public’s mind in which paper is relatively affordable, easy to find, and not durable.
Meanwhile, paper is more widely used for industrial, office, and household needs, instead of specified for an artwork like canvas. Its affordability and availability often makes it regarded as a low grade material. Not to mention its natures which are easily damaged, low temperature and weather resistance, and easy to change color as it ages, make the artists’ interest to process it still low. However, it can also be wrong when we see how the art maestros always include paper as a ‘truly expressive’ media expression in their portfolios. Is it just because the media is cheaper, easier to find, and relatively fragile? Thus the value of the artists’ expressions on paper is also cheap?
Through technical approach, Solo International Visual Art (SIVA) 2017: ‘Messages on Paper’ is designed by the Faculty of Fine Art and Design (FSRD) ISI Surakarta based on the idea: how to interpret material that is very close to our lives, discover the aesthetic and artistic potentials of paper, and experiment in an art creation. In a broader meaning, the ‘Messages on Paper’ exhibition offers the idea of Marshall Mc Luhan in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Mc Luhan defines medium as ‘any extension of ourself’ and message as ‘the change of scale or pace or pattern that a new invention or innovation, introduces into human affairs’. In summary, Mc Luhan’s idea of ‘medium is the message’ does not invite us to talk about medium as a medium in general and message as the content of it, but about how all the works and innovations that are the extensions of the human hand (medium) influence and impact the society (message).
In line with the development of technology, paper is replaced by the digital media. Many manuscripts and textual data have been digitized. Art and culture hence are coming into a new era. Undeniably, the non-paper culture is now present and exist in our daily life. Nevertheless, without the changes of technology, medium will not develop and affect the society. Whether we realize it or not and want it or not will eventually experience the effect of this medium development—due to the collective intelligence and even the actors who play the role in it—through democracy practices and participatory cultural practices. All of these things is made possible by technological changes that affect the shape of the medium created by human and it’s both macro and micro effects. ‘Message on Paper’ offers a wider reading framework, viewing paper in the context of ‘medium’ and ‘messages’ to be interpreted and drawn into various ideas and thoughts by the artists that concern about the ability of paper in creating a knowledge and producing a culture.