• 2 to 12 October 2023

In-person and online
Registration via Eventbrite required. Registration opens 8 September.

Join us for a festival of free events exploring how different communities have used, and continue to use, printmaking to enact change, share knowledge and challenge ideas.

With talks, workshops and behind-the-scenes visits, the two-week festival will explore the potential of printmaking as both a means of mass communication and a radical art form. From the fifteenth century to the present day, the programme will cover a broad range of topics from gender, sexuality and race, to politics, activism and health.

This programme is an introduction to the subject and is open to all.

Talks and workshops will take place at the Paul Mellon Centre, the British Museum, PageMasters and the Royal College of Physicians. Talks at the Paul Mellon Centre will be streamed live via Zoom. Off-site workshops will be in person only.

Registration via Eventbrite is required and opens 8 September.

Monday 2 October

Introductory Session: Printmaking for Change with Ben Thomas and Marcelle Hanselaar at Paul Mellon Centre, 6pm–8pm

Prints are multiple yet individual, unpredictable and hard to regulate, often critical, funny, ephemeral, frightening, irreverent, angry or just plain weird. They can be popular or obscure, sophisticated or clumsy, beautiful or ugly or, when responding to market demand, repetitive and dull. They are hard to define and categorise and for that reason tend to be ignored by curators in their displays, yet every national art collection will have far more prints than paintings. Prints are also cheap by comparison with other artworks and can be collected by ordinary people, disseminating their message widely. In this introductory session, art historian Ben Thomas and painter and printmaker Marcelle Hanselaar will discuss the properties of prints that challenge our expectations, and how as an artform they can be democratic, undisciplined and consequently forces for change.

Wednesday 4 October

Collections Visit: Printmaking and Politics with Esther Chadwick and Richard Taws at British Museum Prints and Drawings Study Room, 2pm–4pm

Go behind the scenes at the British Museum to experience a selection of prints from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which explore the varied and complex relationships between printmaking and politics. We will look at prints designed to persuade and effect political change and consider printmaking as a link between politics and “high art”. Ranging from woodcut to lithography, line engraving to aquatint, our selection will also highlight how print was used around the world at a time of social, political and economic unrest.

Saturday 7 October

Risograph Workshop: Printmaking and Protest either 10am–12.30pm or 1.30pm–4pm at PageMasters, Lewisham

This workshop will introduce you to risograph printing – a technique often described as a cross between screen printing and photocopying, which uses spot colours and stencils to create multiple prints.

Taking place at PageMasters in Lewisham, the session will begin with an introduction to risograph and tour of the studio. This will be followed by an exploration of PageMasters’ archive of protest prints and the opportunity to create your own two-colour A4 print to take home.

Monday 9 October

Collections Visit: Printmaking and Health with Jack Hartnell and Katie Birkwood at Royal College of Physicians, 10.30am–12noon and 1pm–2.30pm

Using the fascinating early print collections of the Royal College of Physicians, this session will explore the roles played by printing, printers and print technology in the world of health. From diagrams in surgical manuals to moveable flap books demonstrating the body’s inner anatomical workings, printed objects have long helped medics debate how to care for changing bodies. The Royal College of Physician’s materials will provide us with a window into how bodies past were understood by artists, physicians, midwives and surgeons alike.

Tuesday 10 October

Mezzotint Engraving and the Making of Race with Jennifer Chuong, Martin Myrone and Mechthild Fend at Paul Mellon Centre, 6pm–8pm

How have prints shaped our understanding of bodies and, specifically, our understanding of race as a bodily attribute? In this session we will explore how a particular print technique, mezzotint engraving, contributed to racial theories between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The mezzotint, which can produce smooth tonal areas with dots or lines, became hugely popular in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century as a means of reproducing portraits. We will discuss how this technique resonated with new anatomical and racial ideas in this period; and subsequently how we can better understand print’s role in developing ideas of race and the body.

Thursday 12 October

Printmaking and LGBTQIA+ Communities with Zorian Clayton at Paul Mellon Centre, 6pm–8pm

Join V&A curator of prints, Zorian Clayton, to explore LGBTQIA+ liberty and visibility through the varied history of printmaking. Via seventeenth-century radicals, eighteenth-century flamboyance and nineteenth-century scandal, to contemporary understandings around diverse gender and sexuality, prints and ephemera, Zorian will provide a unique snapshot into a rich and radical history. Through looking at portraits and zines celebrating pioneering activists, writers and artists, as well as highlighting significant Queer spaces in Britain through the centuries, this session will provide an overview of the considerable contribution to printmaking made by the LGBTQIA+ community and its many ancestors.