While You Were Sleeping

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September 2018

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Using the Studio B platform I infrequently carry out commercial letterpress projects but am always engaged in some shape-or-form on ‘projects that matter’. Currently I am making work for the ‘While You Were Sleeping’ initiative, set up by Sara Burgess.

The text below introduces the project, qualifies its rationale and establishes the emphasis:

While You Were Sleeping – Sara Burgess

In 1440, Gutenberg transformed the way the world received its information, spreading news and ideas to those who wouldn’t have access otherwise. Today’s technology has introduced a barrage of tweets, feeds, email, txts. And as before, a world of good and bad rode in along with it. I live and print in Amsterdam now, but California is still very much a part of my life. But this last year the US morning news has become the painful, daily affront to my morals, beliefs, and principles. I am pained and shamed by what has become of my country in such a short time. I feel a kind of outrage I have not experienced before and often a need to numb and brace myself with an apathy driven only by self-preservation. It often feels that while I was sleeping another irreplaceable piece of land, another human right, another cornerstone of decent values was erased. While I was sleeping. And now it’s gone.

I propose a project to highlight those events that rock our every day. That makes me afraid for the future my five-year-old faces. That makes me ashamed of my privilege. That makes me cry when he can’t hear me. That depletes me, on behalf of our defenseless planet. That makes me fear the new treatment that women will face. That makes me say, just how does someone get away with this?

I call on the letterpress community to join me in print. To return to the truth. To print in facts, images, and type. Because in our type, we can convey beauty and messages, and call attention to ugliness and hope in ways that nobody else can. Please choose one headline from the past year that has impacted you the most. Do fact check it from multiple, established, truthful references. Set it. Check it. Print in black and white, or in color. Print ornate, illustrated, or in austere simplicity. Print in all its letterpress glory. Print it 100 times.

I hope to have one hundred presses from the world over participate. Imagine 100 statements printed and on display in a gallery. Five will hang in gallery spaces. The remaining 95 will be boxed. Some of the boxed sets will be sold to cover the costs of the binding, exhibitions, shipping etc. The physical sets will also be submitted to libraries and collections as a historical and artist document from the past year.

If you choose to participate I thank you in advance. It should be said that I do not stand to profit from this exhibit. It will be tremendous amount of work to make it a success. My hope is that we can make an impression with print. Recharge the words before we fall into slumber and never accept this as the new normal. For some I hope that the process will provide a catharsis, for others perhaps it will bring about new ideas for change.

For further information about this project email Sara at: whileyouweresleeping100@gmail.com

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The text (detailed above) is deliberately set with very uncomfortable inter-letter and inter-word spacing. I wanted the uncomfortable detail of the headline to be represented in an visually compromising way. Composed specifically to slow the reading process down and to ensure that viewers have to labour to navigate the text. It is set without illustration, decoration and printed in a single colour – to focus the attention on the detail of the text, not to decorate or re-qualify the tone of the information. Resulting in a stark, uncomfortable graphic treatment – hand inked and printed, so punctuated with inconsistencies and errors, making each one consciously – ever so slightly different.

To learn the correct inter-word and inter-letter spacing a great publication is:

Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding (published by Wace & Company – Clerkenwell, London).

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  • Stock: 120gsm / Ivory smooth 
  • Size: 210 x 210mm
  • Print: Single colour – PMS 806 Fluro Pink
  • Type: Perpetua / Gill Sans
  • Edition: 100

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© Carl Middleton – 2020

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