SN: Part of our ethos is to make local people independent within their art practice. So if that’s been successful, then that’s what we’re giving them. If they learn to use Riso, then they can go to other places to print after using this place. We were happy to get paid a little bit less than our day rates to be at RRP, because we get a lot from the project that is not financial. We’re really interested in thinking outside of capitalism, and not letting it dictate our demands or our expectations. We value other things beyond money, like people and relationships.
AK: It seems like for you a publishing practice and a printing press go hand-in-hand, so what particularly interests you about Risograph?
RN: I interned and worked at London’s Hato Press for a while. Seeing Risograph as a way of art-making and graphic design was really exciting to me. Before that, I encountered it in more of an activist context, where it was more about immediacy.
The history of Risograph as being so pivotal in campaigns and activism aligned with what we were interested in, and also it was genuinely easy to use and it was attainable. We were inspired by screen-printing collectives like the See Red Women’s Workshop, but it’s so hard to get a screen exposed and set up. While our Riso machines always break, there’s something a little bit more solid about the piece of machinery. It feels like activism just putting your image on the bed and having something come out, even if it’s just on a nice shade of pink paper.
HL: We never had a plan to open a Riso studio or anything like that. Sophie Chapman, who worked for Create London, set up a meeting between us and the project’s curator, who was looking for a new collective to be residents at Old Manor Park library. We applied to do a community printing press pilot project, with open access afternoons at the core of the project. We wanted something like an open house, or a kitchen where people sort of gather around—those spaces that crop up and become little catalysts for other things to happen. Then we were learning on the job with the people we were meant to be teaching. They’d have a problem and would be like, “How do I do it?” And we’d be like, “I dunno!” And then we’d google it together.
AK: Why is publishing a good medium for community-building?
RN: Because it occupies physical spaces. It’s a route to community that makes sense, because you can put yourself in unusual and unexpected places, or meet people in a way that’s not planned by an algorithm.
SN: You publish because you have something to say. We currently live in such a statement culture, where people are just saying statements to each other all the time. There’s not much room for discussion. With print publishing, you’re saying something, and you know that it’ll be received in a way that someone is actually going to listen to it. And financially, it doesn’t cost a lot to publish on a small scale, so you’re able to create a space where people are able to take risks. A physical press can give people a little bit of security, through the knowledge that the space will be a constant and that it will allow them to really develop something over time.
I consider myself a graphic designer. We often use “artist” as an overarching term so we can fit into different spaces. But my work has always had an emphasis on books: I’m interested in the book as an object and as a force to participate in activism, conversation, and education.