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Certified copies: 1980s New Zealand photocopy journals & the xerographic aesthetic.

The technology of duplication and distribution determine the accessibility of literature and in turn technical possibilities of production and duplication are integral influences on the literature produced. From Gutenberg's moveable type to today's digital printing, the dominant technologies at the time determined the aesthetic and, to a degree, the content of the work produced. The printing and distribution of New Zealand's literature between 1975 and 2000 was dominated by the advent and uptake of offset-printing. But the fringes of the literary mainstream were heavily influenced by the photocopier. It is on this technological advancement that I would like to focus my attention. At the time of its inception in the early 1940s, the printing method of the photocopier was dubbed 'xerography'. I will use both of these terms throughout this essay, with 'photocopier' referring to the machine itself as well as the interface between user and machine; and 'xerography' referring to the method of print and the aesthetic output. The photocopier is a technological advancement which, as a whole, still functions in largely the same way. The fringes of New Zealand literature still utilise the photocopier for material distribution of their work even while they develop and distribute their work digitally and online. This is evidenced through the popularity of literary and poetry zines at national Zinefests throughout the country and abroad. (1)

There were two journals which instigated and exemplified the photocopy literary journal in New Zealand in the early 1980s. And published four issues, the first in August 1983 and the fourth in October 1985. It was produced by its founding editors Alex Calder and Leigh Davis. Splash also ran four issues, with the first appearing in 1984 and the last in April 1986. Splash was edited by Wystan Curnow, Tony Green, Roger Horrocks and Judi Stout. Many of the pages of both magazines are given over to textual discussion of literary thought alongside left-aligned, linearly written word-based poetry. These journals also published quite a number of works which play on the visual as much as the linguistic. I am interested in the visual and design implications of the photocopy printed journal and the aesthetic of the dry process printing that xerography has had on New Zealand poetry. Thus the interest of this essay is to look at the works that were produced through the flexibility of the photocopier and the ready-to-go impulsivity and instantaneousness that the machine offered.

For some it may be hard to imagine what methods of printing were available in the 1980s. What came before photocopiers? 'The effectiveness of the copier has nearly eclipsed our memory of duplication before its existence'. (2) Dot matrix printers were among some of the first home printers and were manufactured in the late 1960s. A dot matrix printer works in a similar way to a typewriter; the ink is transferred to the page by impact through an inked ribbon or cloth, but rather than premade typographic letters and symbols, the print is made up by a series of dots, not dissimilar to pixels. By the 1980s electronic word processors often included a built-in dot matrix printer which made it possible to edit text before it was printed. What we generally think of as digital printing has as much to do with the technology of producing the image as it does with printing it. The printing technology of digital printing is derived from the same processes that instigated the method of xerography. Another type of printing is inkjet and laser printers which were mass-marketed in the 1980s. The main difference between them is how the ink is used. Laser printing employs a similar 'dry' powder form of ink in the form of toner, while the inkjet uses a liquid ink.

The process of xerography is not especially simple to explain. The details of the method have improved greatly over time. An article in The Science News-Letter in 1948 describes the process arduously and includes components done by hand at that time, which are now done by the machine, namely the production of a photoconductive plate which includes vigorous rubbing of the plate to make it electrically charged. (3) But essentially, light sensitivity combined with positive and negative charges produces a mirror-image on the cylinder. The paper is charged using this image and the 'ink' is attracted to die charged areas. The 'ink' is a dry powder which is fixed in a heating unit. Of course before all of these methods, duplicating machines and other alternatives were around, including carbon copy, hectographs and mimeographs. However these methods limited the number of copies that could be made, and hectographs (a gelatin-based duplication process) and mimeographs (a metal stencil-based duplication process, which includes machines like the gestetner), both methods dating from the 1800s and earlier, required master copies to be made in a particular way. Risography was another method of printing which used light-sensitivity to produce one off stencils within the machine. It was developed in 1986 in Japan. As it creates stencils and uses wet inks, the printing method is similar to screen-printing but functions, for the user, much like a photocopier. The standard printing methods in the early 1980s, aside from developing xerography processes, would have revolved more around the declining method of letterpress and the prevalent method of professional printing, offset, which is derived from the lithography method of printing. Lithography and offset involves alternating oil and water bases to produce the image. Letterpress, traditionally, has a large labour cost involved in hand-setting large amounts of text with moveable type, though modern methods include photo-polymer plates that are digitally produced instead of hand-setting but they can be prohibitively expensive. Offset, which is still the favoured method of printing for print runs of over a thousand, was and is only cost efficient in large numbers.

While the patent for the xerographic process was awarded to Chester F. Carlson of the United States in 1942, photocopiers didn't start to infiltrate professional offices until the 1960s. The custom of printing outside of the publishing network became prevalent through the 1970s in the UK and the US in the form of punk fan-zines, though zines as a whole have a much longer history dating back to the 1930s and were first created using carbon paper. Self- and low-fi publishing, and in particular 'zines' (which is short for magazines and pronounced 'zeens') are produced cheaply and in low numbers for specific audiences. The accessibility of photocopiers to the average person in New Zealand is difficult to ascertain, but the early 1980s saw a boon of self-publishing produced through photocopiers. The most famous, and probably the first, punk-zine to be produced in New Zealand was Empty Heads in 1980 by Paul Luker. (4) Alongside the music scene's burgeoning self-publishing of punk-zines and the flow-on of other genres, other underground cultures were producing photocopy production publications too, such as Anarcho-Pacifist, and Divided We Fall. And the rich culture of self-published comics included Strips in the early 1980s, the New Zealand Comic Gazette, Ragor, Rogue and Knuckles the Malevolent Nun to name a few of the more well-known self-distributed comics zines of the mid-1980s. (5) However, the ethereal nature of zines: the production process, the number printed, and their attached worth regarding archive and safe-keeping means a great number of the self-published zines and photocopied publications are lost to us, remembered only by those who made them and a few of their readers.

The sudden appearance of so many niche publications in the early 1980s attests to an increased accessibility. The photocopier technology of 'reproduction [had] been transferred from the professional to the amateur, from the technician to the layman, from the time-and-labour-intensive to the quick-and-easy'. (6) Printing became available to everyone. The benefits of the photocopier were ease, immediacy and low-cost. These new publications filled a vacancy for short-run niche publications. And was produced within a bubble of 1980s interaction of marginalised culture and self-publishing whereby every voice has a way of finding an audience, no matter how small. The photocopier presented the opportunity for close-to-the-ground publications where writers, editors and artists could develop work to be given directly to their audience unmediated by the gate keepers of established tradition and this aligned with the ambitions of And. (7) Davis explains in 'Set Up' in the first issue, that they wanted And 'to contribute to various NZ literatures mild forms of sabotage and re-examination'. (8) The editors wanted to develop an alternative space for thought and exploration within and outside the literary landscape of New Zealand; they wanted to '[assist] in making a disenfranchised audience vocal'. (9) They cast themselves and their contributors as both the audience and the performance; the makers and the readers. As Mark Williams explains, 'And emulated the producers of underground comics and punk handbills by using available technology and the enthusiasm of its contributors'. (10) Splash was consistent with these ideals also, and in particular the editors lamented the time it took to print professionally. The editorial for Splash reads:
   Because different energies are at work, different
   positions being taken. Because information as to what's
   happening is not getting out and about quick enough.
   Because we want something to read.[...] We aim to
   honour our predecessors by splashing out in our own
   direction. (11)


The photocopier was the means to a niche audience. Niche audiences were defined by the production of photocopier publications. The possibility of a faster turn-around, of a self-producing and self-publishing community developed out of the opportunities the technology created.

And was unique in requesting only photocopies. The submission guidelines on the contents page stipulated: 'Send Xerox ready copy only, no editorial work performed by editors apart from selection, production, and distribution'. As such it was also unique in noting its method of printing. Today a method of printing might be noted, but only if it is thought to be an outmoded printing method, such as letterpress or risography. (12) Splash only mentions its production method in reference to And. 'The fore-runners were [...] And as our example of Xerox publication'. (13) The choice of producing the journal on the photocopier helped determine the aims and ambitions. Davis writes in 'Set Up':
   A little magazine, by existing as an institution or product
   only to a minimal degree, as a more nearly ephemeral
   publication than most, has already begun, with its choice
   of form, to defer to its contributors, and more
   importantly, to defer to its contributors' own
   development time. (14)


And is set apart from other self-published photocopier publications by its sense of authority. It achieves this through 'existing as an institution', even minimally, and through its association with the University of Auckland as it was printed on the English Department photocopiers. While other publications were lost, And and its loosely associated journals Splash, Antic and so on, were carefully archived with copies kept at the University library, including in the Special Collections. (15) In addition to its association with the institution as a qualifier of worth, the physical weight of both And and Splash also set them apart from other self-published zines. Commonly zines are a dozen A4 sheets, folded and saddle-stitched with a stapler; they don't tend to carry a lot of heft to them. But while And and Splash are a part of the genre of zines, their origins are more easily traced to the traditions of other literary journals, despite their attempt to side-fine the establishment, such as Parallax, Spiral and Morepork, among others. Each issue oi And and Splash was around a hundred pages, making the production of a single copy a considerable amount of printing, far beyond a standard zine, even today.

The innovation of And and Splash goes beyond accessibility, distribution, and niche audiences. Both journals provided an opportunity for a new aesthetic of poetry to develop. The photocopy aesthetics of design became iconic largely due to the experimentation and proliferation of early punk zines. Some design styles in magazine spreads still hark back to the cut and paste designs of those punk zines. While those design constituents are spread through all kinds of zine-making, the combination of a zine photocopy aesthetic with the authority of a literary journal, however marginal, produced a very specific idiosyncratic aesthetic. The process of photocopying flattened the page by treating everything on it as a visual medium. It expanded the possibilities of the page by the same means. The page became an easy visual space for poetry. Whereas previously concrete and visual poetry had depended on how a typewriter might be used to arrange words on the page, photocopying meant that anything could be cut and pasted onto the page and copied arranged or rearranged at will. As such the xerographic aesthetic is particular not only to the abilities of the photocopier technology, but also the limitations of other be the third instalment of these three magazines {Antic acknowledges And and Splash in a similar fashion to the way Spash acknowledged And in its first issue), seems to have been printed with a multitude of methods and does not fit into the 'photocopy journal' category. technology at the time. Today, zine-makers and photocopier artists have a great many other tools at their disposal to produce their work and the xerography aesthetic is often romanticised and reproduced using digital means making it hyperreal. The emphasis is on the replication and subsequent degradation of the image. Degradation occurs as each subsequent copy of an image loses its clarity through the printing medium: the powdered ink doesn't stick or is added in places before it is fixed and dried, or the density of colour is lost and begins to look more shady or grey. In the early stages of using the photocopier, the degradation of the image may not have been seen as a positive but it was certainly a component of the visual impact.

Calder and Davis state in their submission guidelines for And 'mixed Golfballs/Daisywheels are desirable (strangers are welcomed here)'. (16) This, for the contemporary reader, reads like code. But mixed Golfballs and Daisywheels were types of word-processors, i.e. electric typewriters. The word-processor was a companion technology at the time to the photocopier. It is these machines that give And and Splash their primary aesthetic. The limitations of typographic choice give the design an unintended cohesiveness with its formulaic monotype. There is variation of course, particularly in font size from piece to piece as well as heavy or lightness of ink indicating the quality or age of the typewriter ribbon or the quality of the dot matrix printer used in conjunction with an electric word-processor. Additionally a number of the works, namely those by Susan Davis, Margaret Meyer and Anne Maxwell, utilised multiple typefaces that were available as electronic word processors began to include that kind of detail.

(1) Some Zinefests' 'Best of the Fest' awards include a 'Literary Zine' category.

(2) Michael J. Rosen, 'Phaethon at the Photocopier', Salmagundi, 87 (1990), p. 60.

(3) 'Dry Printing Process', The Science News-Letter, 54 (1948) p. 263. No Author Given.

(4) Andrew Schmidt, 'Spit on Trend - 1980s New Zealand punk fanzines', Audio Culture, http://www.audioculture.co.nz/scenes/ spit-on-trend-1980s-new-zealand-punk-fanzines> [accessed March 3, 2016]

(5) Darren Schroder, 'Independent Comics Report', New Zealand Comics, <http://comics.org.nz/notawiki/Documentation/Essays/Indepen dent_comics_report.php> [accessed March 3, 2016]

(6) Rosen, 'Phaethon at the Photocopier', p. 61.

(7) While both And and Splash remained editor-mediated, later journals pushed back at even this level of control. Alan Loney's A Brief Description of the Whole World (founded 1995, and now known as brief assigned the role of work-selection to invited contributors.

(8) Leigh Davis 'Set Up' And/1 (Auckland: published by the editors, 1983), p. 1.

(9) Davis, 'Set Up', p. 1.

(10) Mark Williams, 'On the Margins? New Zealand Litde Magazines from "Freed" to "And"', Journal of New Zealand Literature, 5 (1987), p. 83.

(11) Wystan Curnow, Tony Green, Roger Horrocks and Judi Stout, eds., Splash one (Auckland: published by the editors, 1984) p. 3.

(12) Risography is a printing method described earlier. It was an alternative form of low cost printing that is surprisingly absent from pre-2000 New Zealand publications, but has found a new following in zine and art book production today.

(13) Splash one, p. 3.

(14) Davis, 'Set Up', p. 1.

(15) Many other little magazines were being produced at the time of And and Splash. Parallax, for example, has not been included in this study as it was printed with offset. Similarly, Antic, which could be said to

(16) Calder and Davis, And/1, contents page.
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Author:Curtis, Makyla
Publication:JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:2764
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