Tape Noir

Tape Noir

Between Terminals C and D of Philadelphia International Airport, artist Mark Kaishman showcased his exceptional work Tape Noir from 10 September until 24 October 2009.
Using nothing other than regular packing tape, Kaishman recreated several iconic film noir movie stills.

Kaishman sticks strips of tape onto clear plates of Plexiglas, and only when placed in front of a light box can the image be seen. Varying the number of layers of tape produces the necessary shadows and highlights that otherwise cannot be perceived by the human eye until illuminated from behind. Kaishman considers his tape art to be “a form of painting. The 2-inch tape acts as a wide brush, and the light behind the panels as an alchemist’s luminous blending medium.” [1]

Kaishman started working with tape because of his fascination with light and light play. Originally, he approached this fascination as a traditional stained glass artist, in which medium he had a certain amount of experience. Kaishman soon discovered that, by using tape, he could still interact and play with light, but in a far more experimental manner. The use of tape was more than a replacement of stained glass, however. Tape “miraculously bonded together all my previous experiences.” [2]

Kaishman generally uses recognizable cultural icons, that have become infused in various aspects of Western culture. By using these images he can “highlight such issues as contrast of high and low culture, questioning authorship and anonymity, experiencing different timescales as in timelessness of the original versus expediency of packing tape, and exploring the phenomenon of presence as the inherence of prototypes within the tape images, kind of an incarnation of original in its remake.” [3]

By using standard packing tape, Kaishman took an ordinary and omnipresent object and infused it with an art form. In a way, he used a ‘found’ object to create and artwork, therefore turning his Tape Noir into an intermedium. [4] The tape is no longer a simple packaging aid, it is transformed to a new plane of existence, coexisting with Plexiglas and light, creating a unique representation of a (video) reality.

Tape Noir - Terminal View

Kaishman uses photographic stills to create his tape art, making it a strikingly representational art that is still recognizable as an image, yet so much more than a simple photograph. Perhaps his Tape Noir series can be seen as a small aid in ‘the death of photography’, as argued by Geoffrey Batchen. Batchen says that “ [p]hotography will seize to be a dominant element of modern life only when the desire to photograph […] is refigured as another social and cultural formation. So the end of photography cannot leave the equivalent of a clean slate. Indeed, photography’s passing must necessarily entail the inscription of another way of seeing – and of being.”[5]

This other way of seeing and being is perhaps embodied by Tape Noir, since it is a photograph dressed down to its bare necessities: small block of shadow and light creating the bare minimum of an image. The link with pixilation is quickly made. Tape Noir, being firmly embedded within photography and yet balancing this with digitally generated images, can perhaps be seen as the ambiguous grey area between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’, between representation and creation. Thus, Tape Noir is another example of art inavertedly exploring the possibilities the future may hold in store for us.



Artist’s Website


[1] [2] [3] Kaishman, Mark. ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. Retrieved from artist’s website:  http://www.khaismanstudio.com/images/popup9.htm

[4] Higgins, Dick. Intermedia. (1965). As found in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: pp196

[5] Batchen, Geoffrey. Phantasm – Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography. (1994) As found in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: pp210

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