Our lives take place somewhere between physical and digital landscapes. In Tibi Chelcea’s artwork, he uses maps of circuit boards and topographical elements to help us chart out this new space we now occupy. With a mixture of traditional printmaking, painting techniques, and digital technologies, Chelcea’s maps connect the old and the new, the analog and the digital.
Chelcea takes discarded circuit boards from outdated pieces of technology (a boom box, an older computer) and reimagines them in an entirely new way. A circuit board isn’t something we normally think of in terms of its aesthetic design. Designed in sterile labs with impersonal machinery, these circuit boards work behind the scenes to perform a seamless function. Once that function is no longer needed, or the technology has been updated to be more efficient, we simply throw them out with the trash. Outdated and outclassed, these discarded circuit boards join the likes of physical paper-maps and traditional printing techniques. Inefficient and replaced.
The technique Chelcea uses in many of his works is monoprinting. Monoprinting is different from regular screen printing in that there is only a singular copy of each print as opposed to an infinite amount. Using colored markers and pens he fills in the rest of these maps in a hand-done aesthetic that is juxtaposed with the machine-manufactured nature of the circuit boards. The speed and precision of digital technology is left behind for a moment in favor of a slower, more personal process that transforms the way we see technology. In Chelcea’s maps, even the smallest pieces of forgotten technology can hold vast expanses of its own unique stretch of land and sky.
The pieces themselves are all aesthetically pleasing, and each showcases the fun, whimsical nature of Chelcea’s imagination. The land/skyscapes Chelcea creates with these circuit boards are incredibly varied. From volcanic islands, to subway rail systems, to maps of constellations, his work carries contrasting hints of familiarity and foreignness. The combination of natural formations, such as the disjointed sprawling fjords, with the clean-lined, human-made structures and pathways allows us to question our own relationship to our environments in an optimistic way. In Chelcea’s maps, the natural and man-made don’t clash. They work together; they fit in a way that suggests an idyllic connection between people, technology, and the natural world.
Tibi Chelchea’s Nanogeography will be on display in the Helene Center’s Constance Gallery on the Lamoni Campus until February 12, 2016.