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Reproduce and Revolt

by: Josh MacPhee and Favianna Rodriguez

October 6th, 2008 · post by Edd · Make a comment

ISBN number: 0-979663-61-X
Price: £11.99

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Our culture is saturated in images. They’re used to sell us almost everything under the sun. Everyone uses images. Well, almost everyone, radicals, anti-authoritarians and the Left for the most part are frustratingly useless at using images effectively. I’ve lost count of the number of meetings I’ve been in where we’ve spent hours on the tiniest semantic point in the flier text, whilst any sense of how the flier might be presented is completely ignored, and sometimes worse. Or as Reproduce and Revolt puts it in the introduction,

‘Often a good picture can articulate a message far better and quicker than a paragraph of text. Humans have known this for tens of thousands of years (a quick cave wall drawing sure beats trying to develop the language to explain bison migration patterns). Yet somehow the Left seems to have lost this knowlege in the past the past thirty years or so. We have an extremely rich history of graphic arts that has inspired political action or educated about social justice. But much of our recent visual material at best reproduces the same dozen or so images over and over again, or at worst is simply a giant wall of text, impenetrable to all but those that are extremely accepting of this kind of visual sadism.’

‘Visual sadism’ seems like a good expression for it. This book aims to end this problem by providing hundreds of images divided between different subject sections. There are eleven in total including labour/ capitalism, repression, environment, war and resistance. The book is laid out with the images – not surprisingly – taking primacy, though each image gives details of who created it, with contact details for everyone at the end of the book. It is a triumph of socially concious graphics.

All the images are released under creative commons licenses, and the book has clearly taken an exhausting amount of research to get all the necessary permissions, details and range that is included in the book. It was also refreshing having mostly contemporary work included. Little or  no work from the likes of José Guadalupe Posada, Käthe Kollwitz or Frans Masereel will be found in this book. You will however find plenty of Seth Tobocman, Eric Drooker, Cristy C Road, Andy Singer and the Beehive Design Collective not to mention all the others.

The book is perfect for what Josh MacPhee and Favianna Rodriguez clearly wanted to achieve: an archive of images that reproduce well on photocopiers, and are easy to quickly duplicate. As a result it seems a bit unkind to criticise any aspect of it, but I think I would quickly mention that some of the pieces don’t have the space to breathe that they probably deserve, and that it’s a shame that everything has been reduced to grayscale. I’m certain this is a frustration of the editors themselves, limited as I’m sure they were by a budget and a specific page count. But it would be wonderful if the companion website I think they’re developing could move towards fixing those limitations.

Reproduce and Revolt is a great addition to the pantheon of radical art directories, and goes further than many have before. If you ever need to produce fliers and posters for local, national, international issues then I’d suggest investing in a copy of this book. It will prove invaluable.

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