The Politics (and Joy) of Organizing around Print and Labor

Jacob Lindgren @ 2020-08-03 12:22:57 -0500
Join us for dual lectures and conversation with Danielle Aubert (author of The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing) and J. Dakota Brown (author of Typography, Automation, and the Division of Labor: A Brief History). Both authors’ recently published books explore intersections of printing, publishing, and design with histories of labor and organizing.

The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing
By Danielle Aubert
Published by Inventory Press

Building on in-depth research conducted by Danielle Aubert, a Detroit-based designer, educator, and the author of Thank you for the view, Mr. Mies, this book explores the history, output and legacy of the Lorraine and Fredy Perlman and the Detroit Printing Co-op in a highly illustrated testament to the power of printing, publishing, design, and distribution.

In 1969, shortly after moving to Detroit, Lorraine and Fredy Perlman and a group of kindred spirits purchased a printing press from a defunct militant printer and the Detroit Printing Co-op was born. The Co-op would print the first English translation of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and journals like Radical America, formed by the Students for a Democratic Society; books such as The Political Thought of James Forman printed by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers; and the occasional broadsheet, such as Judy Campbell’s stirring indictment, “Open letter from ‘white bitch’ to the black youths who beat up on me and my friend.”

Fredy Perlman was not a printer or a designer by training, but was deeply engaged in ideas, issues, processes, and the materiality of printing. His exploration of overprinting, collage techniques, varied paper stocks, and other experiments underscores the pride of craft behind these calls to action and class consciousness.

Typography, Automation, and the Division of Labor: A Brief History
By J. Dakota Brown
Published by Other Forms

“Typography was born in the mass-production mechanism of the printing press. It has thus always been implicated in automation—and, thereby, in the distinctly modern dynamics of overwork, underemployment, and runaway production.” In this compact illustrated essay, J. Dakota Brown reinterprets the history of graphic design by situating it in the history of capitalism. Beginning in the early industrial era, Typography, Automation, and the Division of Labor: A Brief History traces the rise of the design professions alongside the gradual fragmentation and decline of the printing trades. Along the way, Brown re-reads the trajectory of the modernist “machine aesthetic” as a series of historically-specific reactions to the changing economic and technical realities of typographical practice. This dual contribution to labor history and design history incorporates the crisscrossing perspectives of design professionals and production workers, modernists and postmodernists, bosses and union reps, and materialist thinkers from Adam Smith to El Lissitzky.