Counteract Collective is an amazing new all screen printed distro and skill-sharing organization. They print everything under the sun and have a huge assortment of silk screened patches for the punk, post-punk, ex-punk and straight up anarcho-crusty.
Effluvia had the opportunity to get to know one of the founders, Rio, over the interweb and he cheerfully agreed to a little call and response via email… Technology actually connecting people and serving the purpose that it was intended for, a genuinely great digital epistolary interaction! There is also talk of CC/Effluvia collaborations in the patch and poster departments… Stay tuned for some DIY screen prints. Thanks Rio!
Here’s the exchange:
Counteract Collective is a self-described “press and distro of hand-printed radical art.” When and how did the distro/press begin and who are the names behind the collective? What roles do you play and how does work get divided up around the collective?
My buddy Zac and I (Rio) started dreaming up ideas for a distro in late 2011. Printing patches was a start, and because I had blockprinted in the past, we printed our first patches on scrap canvas from hand-carved linoleum tile. That met our immediate needs (cheapness & accessibility) but we soon outgrew the medium for screen printing. I learned everything I could about screen printing, built a press and exposure unit for $50 in my attic, and I’ve continued learning since.
Since the primary focus is currently screen printing, I’ve been handling most of the operation from printing to packing orders. Zac plans to assemble a zine distro (screen printed, of course!), which will give Counteract more roles to fill.
Through outlets like your zine “Pulling Ink” as well as workshops like those you’ve facilitated at Portland State University, you not only create and distribute screen printed art but teach others to do it themselves. Was this always an underlying motivation for Counteract, that is, both producing as well as info-sharing? Can you talk a little about the satisfaction you get from passing on the tools of the trade to screen printing neophytes?
I’m a self-taught screen printer with no small thanks to a rad community of printers who have shared information. In the spirit of DIY culture, my limitations (space, money, and experience) have been a guiding force to make this art form low-cost and accessible. I’ve always made zines over the past eight years, so naturally I recorded what I learned in zine form. Through zines and workshops, I hope to pass on to others what I’ve been lucky enough to have passed on to me!
After that workshop at Portland State, a participant told me that she used to design t-shirts for a company that printed and sold them. Now that she had seen how easy screen printing is, she plans to start designing and printing her own shirts. Awesome.
There is an emphasis on radical political messages and iconography (as well as a bit of humor – e.g. “Bagels Not Hegel”) running through Counteract Collective’s work. How important is developing a sort anarchist praxis with respect to the output of CC? With messages as varied as Foucault boosterism to advocacy for reading, to the smashing of patriarchy and the good old standbys: the circle A, circle E and the anarcho-syndicalist flag, it seems that the patches and other creative output of CC exist to promote a definite socio-political agenda, as well as to disseminate the means through which others might replicate the production of similar artifacts. Learning by doing and teaching by example look to be Counteract Collective staples. Is this an intentional product of the collective’s mission?
That’s a lot of credit given— thanks! Zac and I come from a punk background, so some of that iconography is what we’re used to. This is a culture of learning about a band through a patch on someone’s jacket, or about a political movement from a zine left on the couch. Our interests, like Situationist International or Michel Foucault, exhibit in Counteract’s work. I don’t think that means being too heavy-handed about it, though—a black metal “Foukvlt” patch probably won’t educate the masses. Poking some fun at our strange little subcultures is a good way to keep ourselves in check.
So, in short: there’s no agenda to indoctrinate, which can be the best way to indoctrinate after all.
What are some of the more exciting collaborative pieces that CC has been engaged in? What about favorite custom work? (Effluvia’s personal favorite might be the queer metal jacket patches complete with penis upside-down crosses.)
In my perfect world, I’d only listen to the music my friends record, read the books they write, buy the art they make. In the meantime, I feel lucky to collaborate with such talented folks as I have, both old friends and new! Just yesterday I printed patches for a friend travelling to DC to table the Animal Rights Conference. The design is taken from Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” political cartoon about the disunity of British American colonies— the snake cut up in to pieces, you know the one. This patch featured animal rights groups in place of the colonies, giving the familiar design an awesome contemporary context. Art with a relevant message— love it!
Outside of patches/textiles, what other hand-printed objects (e.g. zines, book jackets) has CC been involved in? What are some that you are most proud of?
This month I’ve done two printings of covers for my friend’s novella (The Growling Mouth). His name is Adam Gnade, a supremely talented writer & musician, and the cover is a stark design, printed gold on black cardstock. At cheaper than the cost of a photocopy, the cover looks classy and helps lend his work credibility on a budget.
I hope to work more with books and posters, since water-based inks are amazingly versatile (and who wants to print trucker caps and koozies, anyway?).
Does Counteract Collective deal exclusively in screen printing or do you use other handmade methods to apply inks/paints to surfaces (e.g. letterpress, woodblock printing, etc.)?
For two years, I ran a radical bookstore that shared a space with a letterpress, offset printer, and screen printer. There’s never enough time to learn it all! Screen printing keeps me busy with improving what I’ve created so far: building a line table press, improving my washout setup, assembling a drying rack, and so on.
What’s in the works for Counteract Collective? What areas would you like
to see yourselves involved in soon?
Zine distro! More workshops! More collaborations! A distro with little money and lots of energy grows slowly and grows strong.
What’s the best way for people to ask you to facilitate skill-shares and get a hold of Counteract goods? (It looks like most of CCs work is available on Etsy.)
Our website is the best way to see what’s going on, and besides the Etsy shop, folks can always drop us a line to order through the mail. My awesome friend Matt Gauck, a fellow screen printer of patches on Etsy, is teaming up with me to create a print catalog of our patches, so watch out for that, luddites!
Thanks so much for your time! Any last shout outs to other collectives/distros/zines/affinity groups?
Much love to my buddies at Microcosm Distribution, Chris at Printed Matter Screen Printing in Portland for showing me how to use a scoop coater, and to the friends I’ve made over the Internet (of all places!) who needed some screen printing done. Thanks so much, Effluvia!