Technology book publisher and Make Magazine founder O’Reilly Media have used illustrations of animals from the Dover Pictorial Archive on the covers of their books for nearly 30 years. In that time there have been some dramatic changes to both the natural world where those animals live, and the digital world described in the books. Some of the changes in digital technology even seem to mirror changes in the natural world, as artist Joshua Caleb Weibley observes in a series of drawings based on O’Reilly Media covers, which he’s put together as an upcoming exhibition called “Colophon.”
Since the 19th-century a few animals documented by the Dover Pictorial Archive have become extinct or endangered. Similarly, some of the “Animal” books’ technological subjects have become obsolete (like the guide to Windows 98 or, more recently, the one to Windows XP). Accordingly not all of the books remain in print. If a machine could empathize with and relate itself to organic life, it might see in these extinctions or slow deaths of publishing metaphors for its own product cycle and the fungible infrastructural languages threading its operations.
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Weibley’s impressive hand-drawn works appear to address the idiosyncratic relationship between nature and machines by adopting the visual aesthetics of imagery printed by faulty printers. This intentional juxtaposition clearly relates to the content of the work. He even draws his own introductory text to the exhibition in this style.
In publishing, a colophon is a brief statement containing information about the publication of a book such as the place of publication, the publisher and the date of publication.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Weibley’s work is the way that he appropriates O’Reilly Media’s visual branding in order to make his own original work, a concept that echoes O’Reilly Media’s significant involvement in the open source movement.
“Colophon” opens at Veronica in Seattle, WA, with a reception on Saturday, February 21st at 5 PM. The exhibition will run through April 2015 and you can see more of Weibley’s work on the artist’s website.