History Machines

29 Jul 2016 – 22 Oct 2016

Event times

Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm

Cost of entry


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A UK premiere exhibition of new commissions and existing artwork by Toronto artists Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel, exploring the enduring legacy of print that continues to shape how we communicate – even as we launch ourselves into a digital future.


Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel, known collectively as Donovan & Siegel, are an artistic duo hailing from Toronto, Canada. Their work often interrogates the notion of language – the different forms it has taken, and the way in which it has developed throughout the course of human civilisation.

In History Machines, Donovan & Siegel explore the status of printed text in the contemporary world, examining the issues that arise when printed words are translated into digital domains. In the print Alias, for example, they showcase the impossibility of accurately rendering a curve on a pixilated screen. They accomplish this by magnifying the edge of seemingly curved digital letters, revealing each letter’s jagged, pixilated border. In so doing, History Machines makes explicit many of the truths underlying our everyday encounters with digital text – truths that might ordinarily be overlooked.

In addition to new prints commissioned and published by Edinburgh Printmakers for this UK premiere exhibition, History Machines features a variety of pieces that merge sculpture, graphic design, poetry and storytelling. Haikube, for example, stands as a kind of ‘poetry-generation machine’. Modelled on a Rubik’s Cube, Haikube is carved with Haiku-inspired syllabic fragments, such that every twist of the cube generates a new three-line poem. Another piece, Self-Printing Book, is a weighty tome rendered impressively in brass. Each left-hand page is a printing mould for the text of its right-hand counterpart, so the book almost appears to print itself as the pages are turned. The piece can also be considered a ‘sculptural edition’ of Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essayAs We May Think, commonly cited as a harbinger of the digital era and the first printed description of what we now know as personal computers, hypertext and the internet.

In works such as Haikube and Self-Printing Book, Donovan & Siegel examine how texts can be reinvented during the act of reading, and how reading often demands a degree of creative input. As a whole, the exhibition stands starkly as a contemporary commentary on the status of print in the digital age, and the subtle interplay between text and reader. 

This exhibition is presented in association with Rust Garden, an ambitious site-specific artwork, commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers and funded by the Heritage Lottery fund. This installation is part of a programme of temporary artworks commissioned to celebrate the heritage of the Castle Mill Works building which was once the headquarters of the North British Rubber Company. Rust Garden has been commissioned and produced In partnership with The Grove Community Garden and HERE + NOW.

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Exhibiting artistsToggle

Hallie Siegel

Matt Donovan


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