AA/BF 2011 – TALKS – Emilio Macchia

The book, a sword for the spirit
by Emilio Macchia, Graphic Designer & Researcher at Jan Van Eyck Academie design dept.

The presentation aimed to define the idea of the book as a tool for opposition within the frame of the phenomenon of dutch clandestine publishers of World War two, as well as some reflection about the “aesthetic of resistance”.

Clandestine publishing is a general term used for all editions that have been published without permission from the german authorities. Some of these books, remarkable in terms of form and layout — if we consider the restriction in wich this people were working — generally served to strengthen the spirit and the morale of the dutch society. Publishers chose poems that inspired patriotism by recalling the history of past and the triumph of the freedom.
The power of words as a form of resistance has been expressed through the publishing of 1000 titles, made mostly in in limited edition from 1 to 100 – 200 copies. In the dutch case, the phenomenon is partly due to the culture of printing that had developed in the past decades. In a climate of oppression and censorship, the production of literature, not apparently political in content, became a political act.

During the talk, Emilio Macchia presented two relevant case-studyes of clandestine printers that stand clearly apart from the rest of the entire production: Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman and Willem Sandberg, whose methodology and approach transformed the print process into an art form, reinterpreting the artistic and symbolic significance of letterforms.

Dutch clandestine publishing of the World War two saw the birth of a new role for the designer that embodies the classical actions of the editorial process, where only one figure is in charge of writing, typesetting, printing, publishing and distributing. This consideration is relevant in order to understand the contemporary discussions relating the design methodology and processes, as well as current debates about criticism, autorship and self-production in design.

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