Make-Ready: The Lost Posters

Offset lithography, 2004–
25 x 19 inches (all editions)

Poster editions printed to date:
United States, 2004
Canada, 2005
Austria, 2005
Belgium, 2006
China, 2006
Serbia, 2009
India, 2010
Iran, 2012
Mexico, 2012
Germany, 2016
South Korea, 2016
Russia, 2018
Greece, 2018


The term “make-ready” refers in commercial printing to a process that occurs just prior to a project actually being on press. Paper feeders are adjusted, ink fountains are filled, printing plates are set up, image registration is established, and ink densities are calibrated: it is a sequence of orchestrated actions intended to ensure precision in the final product. Typically stacks of paper are designated just for this process; press operators perform make ready, layer over layer, for several unrelated projects before these stacks are finally discarded as waste. Anyone who has spent time in proximity to the insistent hum of commercial printing machinery, is aware that the stack of paper in the room that seduces, like moth to a flame, is the stack of waste. These sheets reflect an inky collision between form and content, capturing what results when random accumulations of disparate texts and images pile on top of each other and form no meaning, or an altogether different kind of meaning. They are the exquisite detritus of press operators and printing machines performing their respective functions. First and always a discard, an artifact of commercial production, make-ready collapses not only many layers of information into an abstraction, but authorship as well.

Make-Ready: The Lost Posters is an ongoing series begun by Silton in 2004 as part of the exhibition, Topographies, curated by Karen Moss at San Francisco Art Insitute Gallery and Pasadena Museum of California Art. Noting that printing is an international language, Silton commissions printers in different countries to simulate the process of make-ready, using jobs that they are either currently printing or have already printed in the past. Textual elements are printed primarily in the language(s) of the country within which the printing is taking place. For each country’s edition of 500 identical posters, printers run several layers of projects at the end of which comes one final layer overprinted in English, in silver ink; these final layers are all song titles that contain the word lost. Make-Ready: The Lost Posters speaks to the disorientation of the moment, the dislocation of the body, the precarity of translation, the destabilization of meaning and of image, and the chaotic beauty which potentially lies within all of it.

Except for signed multiples which contain editions of the posters and limited editions (i.e. for the artist-founded journal MATERIAL in 2010), Silton distributes the editions, unsigned, in selective releases to the public until all posters have been given away. At a time in the artworld marked by unregulated market forces, this gesture, for Silton, speaks to the value inherent not just in the discarded, but in generosity itself.