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Print Gocco The name "print gocco" is derived from the Japanese word gokko (ごっこ), loosely translated as make-believe play. Riso Kagaku president Noboru Hayama explained, "We as kids learned rules and knowledge through make-believe play. The spirit of play is an important cultural asset. I thought that I wanted to leave "play" in the product's name.”
Gocco is a self-contained compact color printing system invented in 1977 that became immensely popular in Japan and is estimated to be owned by one-third of Japanese households. The printing mechanism is that of screen printing and the sets included the materials and tools to both make the screens, and to use these screens for printing. As the Gocco screens are quite small, they were most widely used for printing greeting cards, a popular need within Japanese culture. Gocco could also print to fabrics, although only across a small area. The Gocco printing screens provided accurate registration, so printing in two or more colors was practical and popular.
The Gocco process was a variant of screen printing; the stencils were made through a photocopying process, similar to Thermofax. The body of the printer was a hinged plastic frame, used both as a press in the printing process, and as a holder for the artwork, screen and the lightbox in the stencil preparation. The materials included proprietary blank screens, consisting of a thin layer of thermoplastic bonded to a mesh, held in a cardboard frame and covered with transparent film.
Artwork was prepared as a simple black and white illustration on paper. This could be done by hand, with ink, paint or pencil, by computer printing (although the original Gocco pre-dated home computer printing), or by arranging pre-printed clip-arts. Solid black (the manufacturer suggested carbon based pigment or soft pencil) illustration gave better results and sharper prints. It was also possible to make photograms, using a natural material such as a leaf as an artwork of found-materials.
The blank screen was then sandwiched on top of the artwork and the Gocco's simple battery-powered lightbox was used to expose the screen. This used flash bulbs similar to those found in old cameras. The dark areas of the artwork would absorb more of the flash energy, the resulting heat would melt away the thermoplastic from the screen mesh. The stencil was immediately ready for use.
The paint was applied to the stencil and covered with foil. The stencil and blank paper were placed in the Gocco, pressing down on the printer handle would apply the pressure evenly to the stencil, squeezing the paint through the exposed areas. The required pressure limited the process to fairly small, postcard-sized prints.
Unlike the typical screen printing which uses a squeegee, there was no large movement of paint, and so it was possible to use multiple paint colors at the same time. Foam separators could be used to further limit the color mixing.
In 2008 the Riso Kagaku Corporation announced that it would stop shipping Gocco printers. It blamed the sharp decline in demand for its printers on the increase in use of home computers and printers. It was to continue producing supplies for the printers.
Mimeography Printing, of course, is hundreds of years old, but the tools to make many copies of already-printed pages were largely out of the public’s grasp until Thomas Edison patented what he called the "electric pen and duplicating press" in 1876. He sold the patent to A.B. Dick, who coined the term “mimeograph” (or “mimeo”) and marketed the machine to the public.
Over time, the flatbed duplicators were replaced by devices using a rotating cylinder with automatic ink feed. Basic models were cranked by hand; more elaborate ones used an electric motor. If you needed just a few copies, you used carbon paper; if you needed thousands you went to a print shop. If you fell somewhere in between, for example a school test or church bulletin or similar document, you used the mimeograph.
Soon, these early copy machines—"mimeo” became a catchall term for a variety of other devices that sprung up around this time—began replacing traditional publishers for writers whose work veered from the mainstream. Mimeos became ubiquitous in the New York and San Francisco subterranean literary scenes, where young, scrappy groups of writers printed their work independently. “Writers who sought new ways and languages took charge of their own publication,” says poet Jerome Rothenberg in his book about the Mimeograph Revolution. Along with the affordable machine, all you needed was a typewriter to make a stencil, ink, paper, and some artistic vision.
The spirit of DIY publishing that grew out of the Mimeograph Revolution flourished into the 1980s, when handmade fanzines permeated the punk music scene and feminist movements. Although photocopiers, inkjet printers, and the Internet gradually made the mimeograph obsolete, the machine’s legacy is still present in the digital age.
László Moholy-Nagy and Lucia Moholy “Creative activities are useful only if they produce new, so far unknown relations,” wrote László Moholy-Nagy and Lucia Moholy in his 1922 short but important article, “Production-Reproduction,” for De Stijl, in which he examined current instruments of “reproduction,” the phonograph, film, photography to determine if they could be used for “productive purposes as well.” In other words, how could passive objects become activated?
The essay went further, specifying the goal of making reproductive processes useful for creative activities. Walter Benjamin identified the loss of authenticity and aura and the turn to mass reproduction as inevitable consequences of the modern transformation in conditions of production, which nonetheless bore great artistic and political potential, while Moholy-Nagy, and the bauhaus generally, actively endorsed mass reproduction as an art practice. Perhaps the Bauhaus should be assessed not in terms of production, but reproduction—the stage at which it failed most visibly to realize its aims.
In evaluating the bauhaus, it is the emphasis laid on the process of reproduction that is important and imbued with social significance in the context of the period. As K. Michael Hays has pointed out, Benjamin’s analysis reveals that as one approaches those mediums that are inherently multiple and reproducible, not only does the authenticity of the object, its ‘here and now’, lose its value as a repository of meaning but also the reproductive technique as procedure takes on the features of a system of signification.
The members of the bauhaus saw their larger project not just as art practice but as a part of a social practice, as Moholy-Nagy wrote: “we hope that from the inspirations of the Bauhaus, such results will come forth and will be useful to a new social order.” This social function, for Benjamin and for the Bauhaus, occurred when the art object was reproduced in such a way that what it would lose in aura it would make up for by reaching society at large, becoming available for its use.
The distinction between production and reproduction is a basic theme of his art. A prominent aspect of every work is its ability to integrate the unknown. Works that only repeat or reproduce familiar relationships, are described as “reproductive,” while those that create or produce new relationships are “productive.”
Photograms László Moholy-Nagy started working on photograms in the 1920s. In his book vision in motion from 1946, the artist describes the technique as follows: “When you expose photo paper or film to light, light effects of different intensities are recorded directly on the light-sensitive paper in shades of black, white and grey. In practice, what this means is creating a photographic negative by placing objects on the layered surface. Opaque objects therefore leave behind areas that are white because the paper remains unexposed where these objects have contact with the surface.”
Moholy-Nagy tried to make light visible and create an abstract spatial impression using abstract light shapes. One of Moholy-Nagy’s most notable contributions was his extensive exploration—from 1922 through 1943—of the aesthetic possibilities of the photogram (he coined the term). His major contribution to avant-garde photography was the new vision (das neue Sehen), in which he advocated a new approach to the medium, proposing the use of such techniques as the manipulation of light in cameraless photograms. Moholy-Nagy made this image by placing commonplace domestic objects on a sheet of photographic paper and exposing it to light. The resulting spatial, tonal, and gestural qualities of these abstract compositions challenged traditional modes of visual apprehension and representation. These ghostly traces of objects placed on photographic paper during exposure are part of a prolific legacy, of both Moholy-Nagy, and experimentation with light exposure for printing.