Article by Johanna Hardt // May 14, 2019
As a written interface transferring knowledge, the most vital purpose of print media is the sharing of information with a specific audience. In opposition to mass media and its biases in production and distribution, print publications that consider themselves radical are building their own platforms in order to share the experiences of their communities – voices predominantly excluded from public discourses. Often action-orientated, these publications need to find means of communication outside of conventional outlets while relying on technology that is cheap, easily accessible and widespread. In this regard, the flourishing of the Risograph is an interesting phenomenon in the contemporary independent print scene.
Who uses these technologies today and to what end? How can they be used as an art medium and a tool for community-building? Do they actually account for shifts in societies? The exhibition ‘Druck Druck Druck’, curated by Nina Prader and John Z. Komurki, approaches these questions by devoting itself to Berlin’s independent publishing scene. With the Risograph as a main protagonist, the project gives special relevance to printing technology that bridges the gap between analogue and digital production and investigates its artistic and political potential.
Thinking of Risograph prints, one might think of posters in bright neon blue, orange and fluorescent pink. Yet, as you enter the Körnerpark Gallery—Neukölln’s municipal gallery—the first image that meets your eye surprisingly depicts only two colours. Reaching from top to bottom, it consists of a total of 47 individual A4 sheets that, in combination, create something that makes one think of a dense jungle and, in fact, the graphics on the wall of nearby U-Bahn station, Hermannstraße. This print has been created by Claudio Pogo and Magdalena Wysocka, the artists behind Pogo Books and Outer Space Press, and might also be alluding to (urban-) jungles, hinting at the history of the building the exhibition is housed in, a former orangerie.
As you go on, making your way through the long, naturally lit gallery, you find this concept—bringing something from outside inside, while making reference to what has been there before you—repeated in the various sections of the exhibition. The first section, clearly marked by a wire fence hung with different Riso-printed papers, is occupied with other individual prints and magazines by Lucky Punch Press. On the other side of the fence, you get the first look at the actual machine used for production: The Lucky Punch Press’s original Risograph. One of the zines on display is the ‘Gagazine’, the latest issue of which will be printed right there, in the gallery, as part of the arts festival 48h Neukölln.
Further along, an installation of different large prints hanging from the ceiling, assembled alongside textiles and other objects, immediately catches one’s attention. It is an installation by Czentrifuga, who mainly work with screen printing. Czentrifuga is the collective name for a heterogenous mix of grassroots artisans offering workshops for silkscreen printing, music, upcycling deco, costume & performance and more. The collective was created by the association Unter Druck Kultur von der Strasse e.V. in 2001, with the aim to provide studio and learning spaces for the homeless and socially-marginalised. Sponsored by Aktion Mensch, they are currently working towards VAGa 2020 with Unter Druck – Kultur von der Straße e.V.
One of the exhibition’s curatorial strong points is its open and dynamic structure. With the aim of transforming the gallery space into something of an artistic community center, the exhibition will host a programme of different events such as workshops (with Colorama, Paul Paetzel, Aisha Franz, Penthaus für Schöne Formate, Lady Liberty Press), take-overs, a symposium, reading groups and non-stop printing. At the end of the gallery a cozy corner invites to take a seat and browse different zines provided by Schikkimikki Zinelibrary. The collective constructed this little reading corner offering a glimpse of the gems of all genres that can be found in their non-profit zine distribution centre. The zine tent next to it, created by Leona Fritsche, explores the zine in an unusual format fit for smaller visitors.
One is further invited to browse a selection of zines by The Archiv der Jugendkulturen (Archive of Youth Cultures). Created in collaboration with this Berlin-based association that preserves over 20,000 fanzines and semi-professional magazine, this section allows one to sit down, stretch one’s legs and just delve into the vast collection of different voices from different youth cultures that have been collected since 1997. The different self-published zines on various topics offer a snapshot into the work of the archive as an educational research center, which deals with discrimination like the right wing movements, racism, sexism, homophobia and antisemitism.
It is here where the importance of collecting and preserving cultures of self-publishing as a means of communication that occurs outside of dominant discourses becomes particularly clear. The exhibition chose a format that enables a critical reflection on the material on view. Rather than relying on a static presentation, the project demonstrates the necessity to collectively investigate the radical history of self–publishing, to re-visit it and explore how it can be used today.