Your printing is done by Footprint Workers Co-op. It sounds a great enterprise! But more traditional (I think it’s lithographic method) than into-the-future print-on-demand. You like the limited edition, sold-out-gone-forever idea, right?
That’s right. They’re so nice! And they print a lot of material for radical book fairs and other local action groups and campaigns. And they’re affordable and always answer the phone when I bother them (thanks Alex and team). I am very into the idea of these little sets of a kind of frail poetry. Yes, print is physical, but because of that – because of active transport –
the publications disappear. Frail and eternally strong. As Mikhail Bulgakov put it, ‘manuscripts don't burn’. Of course, they absolutely do burn. But the idea is still there, the act of creation. Bulgakov knew that because he was continually burning manuscripts so he wasn’t shot to death by the Cheka in a back room. But we still read and love him now.
I mentioned above that I’m big into the cassette label scene. You have labels like Illuminated Paths in Florida, J&C Tapes and Invisible City Records in the UK, and Farbwechsel in Hungary, and they often run prints of twenty five, fifty, sometimes more, sometimes less. Because the object is desirable and limited and because of cost. It has this (oh boy) ‘coolness’ and gracious intensity around it. THIS IS IMPORTANT, GET IT WHILE IT LASTS! Market traders get that. People have loved getting hold of these pamphlets exactly because of that. And you know, my mum isn't going to read poems online – she just isn’t. So I have to hand her the things on paper.
Print on demand is an interesting model. But I also don’t think it would deliver what I’m looking for right now. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted the pamphlets to look like. I love the idea of them all being here, and then not. Sometimes it’s good to keep people wanting and waiting, and it’s good to be part of something and have, basically, this very unique friable thing. I suppose it’s one of the reasons why, to return to the print/online question above, you see platforms like Kickstarter getting funding for digital projects (like games, or films), and giving away unique, physical backer rewards. We’re real bodies, and sometimes it’s nice to have something to anchor you down a little. Stuff. One of the benefits of working with an actual lithographic printer is that you can tinker and adjust and joke over the phone and it’s not a giant corporation that is trying to sell you branded magnets as well.
I think that ‘zines’ and printed material are very much coming back into the fore. Take this report from ABC news about the resurgence of zines among young artists, or even Kanye’s zine. Casting back, my first publication was in a zine in 2004. There are Zine fairs! Printed materials really luxuriate in physical skills and crafts. And their fragility and limited numbers are special because of that. Hannah Nicklin, a games critic and geographer, recently produced her online series of ‘psychogeography of games’ interviews with independent games developers in a physical format, a hand-printed zine. Working back from online to offline. The Arcade Review, for whom I’m a contributor, are doing a print anthology of their online content. It’s not so much about online vs. offline as a mutuality between them. Both have strengths – they don't have to be opposed in that way. I actually don't hear people talking about the 'death of print' anymore. Or maybe I've stopped listening.