Print, Power and Protest

The printing press was the creation of print. It was created by German inventor Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440’s. A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink. (printing press, 5 October 2016). Gutenberg, most famous for the 42 line bible, 1455, using moveable type, allowing different styles and sizes of type to be created using metal as opposed to the traditional wooden type which was very restricted. This was said to be the start of the “Gutenberg Revolution” and this lead to the printing revolution.

The development of the printing press allowed print to change social constructs. Newspapers in the 18th century used the printing press alongside books and novels. This aided mass production and print was readily available to the public. Because of this reading together then became a social culture.

Within the 1450’s the printing press was developed became available in 140 towns, at the time newspapers were in their prime and the printing press was a way of allowing people to distribute the news. This also meant that people had power over what was printed and which news and opinions were distributed.

Similarly today certain individuals and groups have power of the news and views of which we consume. An example of this being Rupert Murdoch, who in 2010 controlled over a fifth of the UK’s media consumption. (Organ Grinder, Guardian Blog, 30 Dec 2010). 

Dada Magazine, Der Dada n.2, Berlin, December 1919

Although you can take the stand point that print and the power of mass media corrupts and filters what we see, movements like Dada would no have been possible with out it. The printing press allowed people to produce things without censorship. For example during the Dada movement, an anti art, art movement originating in Zurich during the first world war, focused on anti war. Its founder, a writer named Hugo Ball alongside other things, created a magazine linked to the movement, helping it spread globally. Print was used in all aspects of the movement, in posters, the above mentioned magazine and other media.

Jonathan Barnbrook: Adbusters

Print used in protest is often satirical and provocative. An example of this is Jonathan Barnbrook’s Art Direction for Adbusters. He uses irony and satyrical humour alongside provocative imagery mocking and protesting the immorality of the modern advertising world. “Designers stay away from corporations who want you to lie for them.”- A quote taken from a billboard work of Barnbrook’s clearly stating his protest.

Media always has and always will be controlled, but it is clear there is also room  for protest within it.


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