“Machines have less problems,” Andy Warhol famously said in 1963. “I’d like to be a machine, wouldn’t you?” Andy was born a few decades too early to see it through, but a group of art students, who go by the Human Printer, are now living his dream.
The Human Printer, or HP (see what they did there?), is a people-powered automaton: a network of marker-wielding individuals who work together to painstakingly replicate the process of mechanical printing. Here’s how it works: first, you submit a high-resolution digital image through their online ordering system. The team (which is rotating, but usually includes about eleven members) parses your image into monochromatic CMYK channels, then gets to work recreating the dots on trace paper in long, mechanical lines. Several hours later, the four pieces of trace are combined, and the piece is finished.
Why, you’re probably wondering, would anyone put themselves through such mental anguish? Creators Louise Naunton Morgan and Stina Gromark describe the project as a meditation on what “handmade” means in the digital age:
Unlike any other printer, the Human Printer creates unique, individual images each time it prints. Following the same process as a digital printer, the Human Printer generates a printed product by hand.