A book, you know, is like a fist.
The Latin word manifestum can be translated to mean “in plain sight,” “clear,” or “conspicuous.” It is no accident, then, that Mexico-City based publishing house Gato Negro uses bold yet straightforward designs to publish manifestos, both old and new. By “using the least amount of design possible,” as founder Leon Santini describes it, Gato Negro's book designs allow the text to speak for itself, energized and unchallenged.
This online exhibition explores how design and distribution can empower the content of a printed or digitally produced text. Gato Negro relies on a Risograph printer to rapidly and inexpensively produce their conceptually weighty books, written by geographically disparate authors. Organized in Spring 2020—whilst we are ordered inside, bound to our homes—this exhibition investigates what new potential these texts might have when rendered in, or reduced to, the digital sphere. Does the malleability and accessibility provided by the web alter the effect of the words on the (digital) page?
History has defined the manifesto genre as one characterized by urgency and the desire for widespread adoption of the author’s ideas—typically the views of one person or group. Through this website, users can access a selection of texts published by Gato Negro in a decentralized and de-temporalized way. Accessible only online, this exhibition thus interrogates the parameters of the manifesto genre by asking users to consider how design and distribution impact their reception and perception of the text’s radical ideas. What is gained through the digitization of these materials, and what is lost? If a manifesto is "a book that acts like a fist," where is that fist most powerful? Can the punch be more or less keenly felt on different publishing platforms—be they analog or digital? What is a text or image’s power when read or seen alongside and against other manifestos?
In addition to learning more about Gato Negro and the legacy their designs build upon, visitors to this website are invited to download a unique computer-generated manifesto made up of randomly selected pages from various manifestos published by Gato Negro. In line with Gato Negro’s own mission statement, the generator asks users to consider how accessibility can elevate and empower a wide variety of political and social missions across borderlines.
Users can choose to print their publications and assemble the pages in any way they please—front to back in a binder; hung mixed and matched on a wall; repurposed as inspirational notepaper. The generator will produce up to 127 unique manifestos, representing the total number of books Gato Negro has produced in print to-date. After 127 manifestos have been generated, users will be able to download a copy of the exhibition catalog, comprised of the 127 randomly-ordered manifestos, as well as additional texts produced by this exhibition's curators.
By combining pages from multiple texts into one book, this exhibition asks users; viewers; readers to consider Gato Negro’s aesthetic grammar of radicality. Presented without context or order, the overwhelming yet aesthetically unified output of the generator allows for new meanings for each text or image to emerge. As a result, we can discover commonalities between seemingly disparate ideas which 21st-century manifestos respond to and contain.
Since 2013, Gato Negro Ediciones has acted as a recognizably urgent voice in independent publishing across the cultural realm. Advocating for the liberty of thought, the Mexico City-based press prints titles that challenge the often sequestered view of contemporary society. In a new world where temporary excess and obstruction of knowledge are all too common, Gato Negro returns the voices of their authors to the fundamental purpose of the book.
By remaining inside the economically-amicable yet the unconstrained process that is Risograph printing, an archive of over 140 titles has been successfully called into life ever since its inception. From political manifestos to art theory and prose, the books of Gato Negro do not wish to deconstruct reality through ornamental distractions that lately seem to have become an inevitable requisite within the modern history of publishing. Instead, Gato Negro embraces the curated content through their straightforward and entire designs. In this presentation, the content can reach broader audiences, and be applied in more and more contexts.
The outcome of each publication is a dialogue between reader and creator — an ecological construction of self-hood that distills collective contemplation while all we do is live.
Caloca, Juan. Untitled Manifesto. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.
Combahee River Collective. The Combahee River Collective Statement. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.
Garcia Flores, Andrea. The Plant Life Cycle Starts All Over Again. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2016.
Jauregui, Gabriela. ManyFiestas! Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.
Khalili, Bouchra. The Radical Ally. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2019
Latour, Bruno. An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto.” Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.
Pichler, Michalis. The Work of Art In the Age of Its Digital Reproducibility. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2019.
Sommer, Doris. For a Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Lexicon of Cultural Agents. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.
Srnicek, Nick and Alex Williams. ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics. Mexico City: Gato Negro Ediciones, 2017.