"Printing it: visual education as self-organisation"
In 1972, Clifford Burke published Printing It: A guide to graphic techniques for the impecunious, a manual of independent printing and publishing. Offering instructions to artists using diverse range of technologies, from typewriters, photocopiers to offset presses, Burke’s book promoted the possibilities of publishing and distributing one’s work independently of established art institutions. This interest in possibilities of self-publication as a viable artistic strategy was symptomatic of the transformations of the art sector in the 1970s, a period of unprecedented proliferation of artists’ publishing typically associated with the so-called democratic multiple. This paper focuses on a network of independent print workshops which emerged in the 1970s USA, a phenomenon to which Burke’s publication was a response, at least in part. Focusing on Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) in Rochester, The Women’s Graphic Centre at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, and the Nexus Press in Atlanta, this paper explores the relationship between the characteristic turn to print, the book, and self-publishing at the time and related forms of visual education. Print workshop such as VSW emerged as characteristic spaces that offered artists support through access to technology, expertise, as well as channels for distribution of their art and access to a community. Among their activities were training programmes which facilitated a development of a skilled generation of artists self-publishers. In this paper, I argue that these workshops, and their education programmes in particular, contributed significantly to the proliferation of self-publishing as a viable alternative to the mainstream and more established forms of artistic production and created an environment for new artists’ networks to emerge. By exploring the ethos of de-centralised collectivity that informed the activities of these organisations, I explore the impact of and the relationship between education and self-organisation in visual culture. By drawing on recent debates about self-organisation in the arts, this paper moves beyond the exploration of print workshop in the context of alternative and artist-run spaces which proliferated in the USA in the 1970, to instead think about their legacies and the impact of the DIY spirit on visual education and forms of knowledge production in the arts today.