Fresh from the printers is the sixth and latest issue of Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics & Culture. Signal is edited by Josh MacPhee and I and it is our attempt to document and share compelling and innovative historical and current political artwork and graphics. We primarily (though not exclusively) focus on art and movements happening outside of the United States, in the hopes of enriching and broadening the conversation around political art and graphics production.
The first article is a brief history of the Escuela de Cultura Popular de los Mártires del 68, a Mexican art collective and social space founded in 1988 in Mexico City. Compiled by Yobany Mendoza, a member of M68 (and also a member of Justseeds), this article explores the ways in which M68 has strengthened Mexican social movements and has helped seed other political art collectives in Mexico (including active groups such as Sublevarte Colectivo, the Convergencia Gráfica Malla, and Mujeres Grabando Resistencias). M68 acts as a space that hosts workshops, meetings, a library and a space for art production- thousands of stunning political graphics, posters, portfolios, murals, and images have come into existence because of the work M68. It is well deserved that this is our fourth feature on political art from Mexico in Signal, a country that has fostered some of the best political graphics in the last century!
Next up Ryan Lee Wong provides a documentary history of the Basement Workshop, a 1970’s era Asian American cultural organization in New York City. The Basement Workshop was a platform for young Asian Americans to produce art events, theatre, and publications, and it provided a physical and psychic space for Asian Americans to organize politically and build solidarity networks with other local, national, and international struggles.
Following this is an interview by Josh MacPhee with Daniel Drennan ElAwar, one of he founders of the Jamaa Al-Yad art collective. Jamaa Al-Yad (JAY) began as collective with roots in the students and faculty of the art department of the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. JAY has produced many absolutely stunning black and white images relating to struggles in the region. JAY draws upon the rich modern graphic history of the Arab world and has produced a bevy of sharp and vital images. In this feature Daniel and Josh discuss the founding of the group, the ways in which images are developed, and the potential for graphics to be used for liberation struggles. Definitely worth checking out!
We have three mini features on political stickers. The first gives a look at the mass production of stickers by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). This article sheds light on an under appreciated part of the IWW’s history and organizing efforts and shows how mass production runs of subversive sticker helped the IWW to educate, agitate, and organize on a broad scale.
For our second sticker feature, Josh explores stickers produced during the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in the 1970s. These are really lovely designs using a variety of approaches towards producing some powerful images. Looking through these images makes me think of what it takes to make a good sticker, one must produce a small and simple image stripped down to its barest essentials, that the best stickers convey a lot with very little. This is definitely a challenge for designers! Josh contextualizes which organizations made the stickers and as such this article also provides a snapshot into the complexity of revolutionary movements which comprised the Carnation Revolution.
Our final piece on stickers is by Joel Morton, who writes about antifascist stickers in Berlin. These stickers pull heavily from pop culture and add a good dose of humor and excitement in the fight against fascism in Germany.
Next up is a third piece by Josh (as I write this sentence I am feeling a renewed need to step up my own content production for Signal- it’s hard to keep with Josh!). This article is about a group of early 1980s collage artists and propagandists from the Bay Area that were called Incite! They produced striking and confrontational collages that were designed to be posted and pasted publicly. This article was originally slated for Signal:01 but was shelved for several years due to some disagreements within the original collective members. We decided to resurrect this piece and updated it by inserting an acknowledgment of the old contested history. Very cool stuff- super punk!
And finally, by Justseeds’ Shaun Slifer, we have a history of the Appalachian Movement Press- a prolific small press based out of West Virginia in the 1960’s and 70’s that explored current and historical issue affecting the Appalachian region through an anti-capitalist framework. This group, like the Weathermen or the Young Patriots, was focused on tying the struggles of the white poor and working class to black and other anti-imperialist liberation struggles. It was also one of the rare groups of the New Left that integrated one of the key figures of the Old Left, Don West- an Appalachian writer, teacher, poet, abolitionist, organizer, and old-school radical. The Appalachian Movement Press had something of an anti-aesthetic, their typography and design were decidedly minimal and workmanlike and, as a whole, produce something quite blunt and moving.
This issue of Signal took Josh and I a little bit longer than normal. Our aspiration is for Signal to be an annual publication, and it takes us about a year to do from start to finish. It is a labor of love, neither of are paid to do this, and we both produce Signal on top of work, life, love, and several other projects. We often just get done with a new issue of Signal, and while we are trying to figure out new ways to promote it and get it out there, we are also trying to line up interviews or secure new writing for the next issue. After Signal:05 we wanted some time to think about what we were doing and to think about some areas and new ground we wanted to cover. This is the end result of that and one of the strongest issues we’ve had overall. We are always open to contributions, for more information please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we are always trying to get Signal more exposure, if you can- please help us get Signal into more libraries, bookstores, and reviews.