Clare Phelan



Having worked as an Art Therapist in the NHS for twenty years, Clare returned to education, completing a Visual Arts MA (distinction) from Bradford College in 2013. She now works from her studio in Holmfirth West Yorkshire, and at Hot Bed Press in Salford.

“I’m interested in ‘cultural lag’ in terms of human understanding and advancing technology. It’s easy to feel fear, frustration and a sense of being left behind, as our lives become increasingly mediated through machines.

I work directly with nineteenth and twentieth century coding technologies such as music box discs and IBM cards. I collage plates together with different streams of redundant coded information. Through play and research during the physical process of printmaking, I reference the place of technology in our collective thoughts and imaginations. Obsolescence, loss and change are imbued within the work.

Socio-cultural evolution is much slower than technological change and cultural manifestations of technology often outlast their material use. Part of my interest lies in the cultural messages encoded within the artefacts. An example of this is found in the phrase ‘Do Not Fold Spindle Or Mutilate’ which was printed on IBM punch cards. This emotive statement became a metaphor for alienation and dehumanisation as part of American 1960’s counterculture.

Cyberculture theory offers a useful way to think about the relationship between bodies, minds and machines.
‘……. things get faster, smaller, more useful, more user-friendly, and this is a good thing – or so one particular type of storytelling says. Other stories less often told, reveal the trials, the resistances, the accommodations and negotiations involved in living with new technologies’ (David Bell, 2007).’

These images speak to a societal shift from manufacturing industries towards the service, knowledge and information sectors, and of the culture lag that is part of this narrative. Non-material culture continues to evolve much slower than material culture. Ideas, beliefs, values and social norms change more slowly than technology.

Do Not Fold Spindle Or Mutilate