LK James MFA Applied Craft + Design Practicum 2018
Existential Jukebox: Self portrait in the year of the dog
I am printing and publishing a book called Existential Jukebox: Self portrait in the year of the dog, using a Risograph printer at Outlet Studio.
The book is a collection of drawings and writings produced in the final year of my graduate studies, published as an exploration of book design and using the Risograph printing process to communicate locally and independently.
A Risograph is a stencil printing technology that was used in the later decades of the 20th century in offices, churches, schools, to economically disseminate information. Repeating the pattern of many print technologies (e.g. Linotype, mimeographs, and photocopiers), the Risograph was originally designed for efficient bureaucratic / commercial communication and was replaced in the common market as more innovative machines became available in the 1990’s.
Early in the 21st century, however, the Risograph has experienced a resurgence in the hands of artists, independent publishers, and printers aiming to produce rich, characterful, quality editions that speak to the process, politics, or intimate nature inherent in Risograph printing.
In making this book, I am demonstrating the machine’s capacity for closing the gap between publisher and reader, communicating autonomously in a physical realm, unmediated by digital platforms. In a world that is ever more suffused with a slickly designed and curated aesthetic that begins and ends on the computer screen, printing with a Risograph is, in some ways, an act of defiance against the increasingly polished homogenization of art and design in the 21st century. In the face of a self-branded generation and corporate infiltration of private spaces and personal identity, I cry out for the human, the vulnerable, the raw, the crude, the dumb, and the unpolished mark of the hand.
The political and conceptual implications of the Risograph printing process are illuminated by the context surrounding the machine itself. In section one of this paper, I will tell you about the printing process—what it is and why I’m using it—and discuss how I find meaning in these implications and to what degree those meanings are reflected in my publication.
In section two, I will offer an overview of the development of Existential Jukebox and discuss the process of designing, editing, and producing it. I’ll talk about some of the challenges I faced, how they affected the final version of the publication. I’ll also discuss why I’ve framed the content of Existential Jukebox as a self-portrait, how the book is a meditation on the multifarious nature of identity, and a reflection of my own view of the world.
In the final section, I will summarize the biggest lessons I’ve learned while completing this project and discuss how I will apply them in my future practice.