Lucas Ihlein is an artist and member of Big Fag Press and Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation.
25 years ago when I was a student at a very small art school I became obsessed with screenprinting. I loved its bright colours, and its immediacy and versatility. You could produce dozens of copies of an artwork, paste them up on bus shelters around the neighbourhood, print them on t-shirts, hand them out at gigs, cover a whole wall with multiples of them. Screenprinting offered a mashup between artmaking, publicity, and information design. The paper was cheap, the inks were cheap, the equipment was cheap, the prints weren’t precious.
But our art school had no screenprinting facilities. So my classmates and I had to cobble together a half-arsed set of equipment ourselves. Sometimes when we were in a rush we used a thing at the local art supplies store called a “riso machine”. It looked like a laminator. You took a black and white photocopy and ran it through a roller, which burned a plastic layer away from a layer of mesh, producing a “photographic” screenprinting stencil in a couple of minutes. You could mount this plastic mesh on a cardboard frame and push ink through it with a piece of stiff card or plastic. The images were pixilated and prone to warping, but it did the job.
The risographic press which we’re using to print this newspaper uses the same basic screenprinting technology, except that now it’s housed in a fancy electronic box that looks like a photocopier. Riso printing as it’s practiced these days by collectives like The Rizzeria is more sophisticated than my ham-fisted early attempts, but the same principles of immediacy and versatility still apply. The artists and designers of the Rizzeria make zines, posters, postcards, and they run workshops to allow others in the wider community to access the means of production.
So when the opportunity came up to do a project associated with the Making Art Public exhibition, it made sense to me to collaborate with The Rizzeria. The idea is this: the printing press as a functional technology is the centerpiece of our installation. A roster of Rizzeria team members are present in the gallery throughout the week to show visitors how risographic printing works. In the meantime, a group of artists and journalists respond playfully and critically to Making Art Public, generating an eight page newspaper each week. It’s printed in-situ, every Tuesday.
I’ve never been the editor of a newspaper before, so I’m learning on the job and muddling through. But many of our journalists have worked in various capacities in the news industry for decades, and as you can read from the articles in this edition, the norms of journalism and art differ widely. Every so often, though, they overlap. Artists sometimes “play-act” at what it’s like to do other jobs, and that’s what our collaborative group is doing here – play-acting at making a newspaper as an artwork. I’m play-acting at being the very grand-sounding “Editor-in-Chief” (I don’t even really know what the job description entails). But at the same time, EXTRA! EXTRA! is a real newspaper, with real articles and real content produced in real-time, with real letters to the editor, and so on. Over the coming weeks we’ll explore what this hybrid form makes possible.