ALAN QUALTROUGH . KISS & BITE LETTERPRESS STUDIO

TOUCH IS TRUTH

My artistic practice and research investigates the haptic experience of letterpress in contrast to digital. It raises questions about a different engagement with language and truth that occurs through the materiality of the physical processes involved in setting and printing type, particularly in relation to time, permanence and the unrepeatable.

It also considers how touch as a primary sense is crucial in human processes for testing and expressing reality and meaning. I am often concerned with questions of performance and embodied knowledge and work both alone and in collaboration with others.

Recent work has included protest posters, interactive performances and community workshops.

 

LATEST WORK: MA RESEARCH

My MA research considered whether the materiality and aesthetics of letterpress could interrogate the production and consumption of digital communications to understand how truth is established or subverted.

As a former editor and reporter, I was particularly interested in how fake news was produced and circulated during the Brexit campaign, especially by newspapers, and the poor standard of journalism that some media upheld.

We live in a ‘post-truth’ society in which debate is framed by argument that pays no attention to truth or established and agreed facts, and one in which most of us use cut and paste to share information (or misinformation) virally.

There is also growing evidence that reading digital content on the web changes the brain’s neural circuitry, which was developed for deep reading.

When we “skim read” digital content it adversely influences the quality of our most important intellectual processes causing “subtle atrophy” of critical analysis leaving us susceptible to false information and ultimately threatening democracy (Wolf 2018).

My programme considered whether the recontextualising of language into letterpress form and the materiality of letterpress itself—especially touch and the time process required—can help identify fake news and encourage deeper engagement with language.

It is possible that the slowness of the letterpress process creates a personal space and critical ecosystem for the practitioner to have an engagement with language which allows a critical approach in a way that the digital process cannot emulate.

The way I tried to explore these theories was through a series of interventions produced as art works.

I made a letterpress book of 50 Brexit lies so the touch and materiality of the printed book could be compared with the same content on a website: http://thetruthwall.org

I wrote a polemic newspaper Changing Times in the style of the Pamphleteers, the radical letterpress printers. The paper explores bias in the UK popular press and considers issues such as discourse, racism, accountability and standards of reporting.

If you wish to read it, you can download a PDF here.

I also made a conceptual collage to create a parallel reality of the way I think the Brexit process has been driven by an ideology which disguises itself as democracy. Using letterpress as performance, I interviewed people about Brexit then shredded their views, then cut and paste the shredded words onto a digitally printed image of Article 50—a metaphor for the way the Government is ignoring the growing protest to Brexit.

There is also a poster using the words of the distinguished philosopher and journalist Walter Lippmann who wrote in 1920: “There can be no liberty for a community which cannot detect lies.”

Writing nearly a century ago, Lippmann maintained that a society needs ‘pure’ unbiased information for the proper running of democracy, an argument I agree with.

Alan Qualtrough letterpress exhibition Truth and the Digital Age at Ocean Studios, Plymouth RE:WORK, a performance with letterpress by Alan Qualtrough at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, 2018
Letterpress posters by Alan Qualtrough for sale
Westerly, a font made by Alan Qualtrough for Mayflower400

KISS & BITE LETTERPRESS

Alan Qualtrough letterpress exhibition Truth and the Digital Age at Ocean Studios, Plymouth
RE:WORK, a performance with letterpress by Alan Qualtrough at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, 2018 Letterpress posters by Alan Qualtrough for sale
Westerly, a font made by Alan Qualtrough for Mayflower400

KISS & BITE LETTERPRESS

Touch is Truth

The theme of my practice and research is that the haptic experience of letterpress enables a better engagement with language. Touch is  the primary sense and is crucial in human processes for testing and expressing reality and meaning.

Although digital communications offer great benefits, they may also afford a detrimental effect on the use of language.

Research has shown children who use only digital communications can lack critical engagement of language. Other issues such as a cut and paste culture encourage plagiarism and poor standards.

Alan Qualtrough letterpress exhibition Truth and the Digital Age at Ocean Studios, Plymouth
RE:WORK, a performance with letterpress by Alan Qualtrough at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, 2018 Letterpress posters by Alan Qualtrough for sale
Westerly, a font made by Alan Qualtrough for Mayflower400