For those of you who don’t get to visit Interference Archive regularly, we thought we would start a series of short posts about what we do as volunteers. This post was written collaboratively by the members of Mobile Print Power, who have worked with us on the current Soñamos Sentirnos Libres // Under Construction exhibition.
If you’re interested in volunteering at Interference Archive, check out our website for info on how to get involved, or email email@example.com. You can also support the amazing work of all our volunteers by making a financial donation.
An expanded look at Mobile Print Power’s 8 Principles
MPP started as a weekly workshop at Immigrant Movement International in Corona, Queens (IMI Corona) in March, 2013. In the early workshops there would be over 30 people, children to adults, crammed into the long narrow windowless but vibrant space that is IMI Corona.
The early workshops were chaotic, messy, and unpredictable, but people enjoyed them and many continued to come each week. We learned screen printing together and we looked at art made by print collectives from all over the world. We experimented with printing outdoors and after a little while we were willing to move into the public realm with our mobile printing cart.
Like the early workshops, the early public projects were unsystematic and spontaneous. But these early experiments in public engagement strengthened us as a group. We had to collaborate and cooperate as a group in order to engage the public in a meaningful way. Young children, teens and adults who had been coming to the weekly workshops and participating in the public projects for over a year began to make up a core group of MPP members. Later we would refer to ourselves as a collective.
As our skills and abilities to collaborate became stronger we began working with other groups like NYSYLC and UnLocal. These organizations were fighting for causes that directly affected members of MPP as well as the community we engage with in Corona, Queens. These and other similar partnerships showed us that we possessed useful skills with real value. What we found was that these organizations had strong missions and values that they followed and we hadn’t yet developed our own.
After three years of working continuously as a collective and pushing the limits of what it means to bring collaborative cultural production and distribution into public spaces we started thinking very seriously about what we value. We looked to other groups, we studied social movements, we read manifestos, and we wrote down the things we cared about as a collective. We read the Young Lords Party 13 Point Program and Platform, the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program, Muhammad Ali’s Six Core Principle, and the El Puente Twelve Fundamental Principles, drawing out the points that resonated strongest with us as a collective.
During the winter of 2015-2016 we wrote the first draft of the MPP 8 Principles (or MPP’s 8 Principles). Each principle reflects a particular belief that we aspire to live up to not only in our work as artists, cultural workers, and educators, but as students, family members, community members, and friends. To better understand how each principle relates to the work that MPP does we created this expanded version of the MPP 8 Principles.
1. We engage our whole selves to the task at hand
As our abilities have increased our workload has also increased with more and more opportunities to collaborate on ambitious projects. To achieve our goals we divide tasks and MPP members often work independently as well as collaboratively. Working in this way presents many challenges. As individuals we all have to be self-motivated, confident, and believe in ourselves and others. The most important thing we learned was that we had to engage our whole selves to the task at hand. Like all of the principles, this one applies to our work as a collective just as much as it applies to our lives outside of the collective.
2. We value the skills, knowledge, and experiences of all people, regardless of age or formal education
In our public work and in our workshops, our goal is to engage communities and explore social and cultural situations. To try and meet this goal we use a working methodology for collaborative art making that we have developed over the years. This methodology involves inviting the public to be an active part of our design and print work. By presenting questions related to social injustices, change, and situations we exchange experiences and knowledge. We encourage individuals to participate in our work through storytelling, drawing, and written expression. This inclusive process brings the public into all of our work and discussions on intention and design.
At the Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday event on June 4, 2016 MPP and NYSYLC engaged the public on questions surrounding displacement, migration, and the power of collective action. MPP and Interference Archive also collaborated to present a workshop at NYSYLC’s IYEcon (Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference) on April 23, 2016.
3. We honor all community traditions and respect all community voices
Over the years we have collaborated and engaged with many community members and groups in our processes. Throughout all of our projects we have used printmaking to transmit the voices and unique vernacular aesthetics of the community. Our members consist of many unique individuals, each representing their own culture and traditions. In respecting all community voices we also work to directly engage complex issues like racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant policies.
4. We recognize that dignity has no nationality and we oppose racism
As a collective, we are continuously building on our collaborations. Our work with IMI Corona and our project focused on the IMI Values highlights our belief that all individuals deserve to be treated fairly and equally regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, religious belief, spoken language, gender identity, and socio-economic status. Our work aims to collaboratively highlight all voices and opinions.
In 2014, the IMI Corona Community Council developed a series of values to guide the work and vision of IMI Corona. On May 21, 2016 MPP hosted the first of a series of collaborative design and screen printing workshops at IMI Corona, inviting the larger IMI Corona community to turn the recently published values into a visual work.
5. We want equality across the gender spectrum and we oppose sexism
No gender shall be given preference above another. We do not tolerate sexism within our collective, neighborhoods, communities, and lives. We aim to create a space in which our fellow members and those of the communities in which we engage are welcome, treated equally, and feel free to express their own identities. We are constantly working to live up to these values and encourage them under all circumstances.
6. We reject violent words and violent actions
We are a nonviolent group. We see how violence in many forms destroys communities and creates barriers between people. We use our art as a way to express a range of emotions, from pain, to solidarity, to joy in response to violent words and actions. Rejecting violent words and actions prevents bloodshed and senseless betrayal between people. We believe people should be coming together and loving each other. We believe in care and we believe in love over violence and harm.
Combat Paper NJ and MPP presented a workshop on July 9, 2016 exploring areas of overlap between the two groups’ concerns, including the experiences of an undocumented person serving in the armed forces and military recruitment in high schools.
7. We value all forms of written and spoken language and other forms of communication
We believe in the diversity of thought as expressed through a multi-lingual lens. As a collective we make a concerted effort to be language inclusive. We are a bilingual group and believe that all voices need to be heard. Beyond our own collective, our work with the public, in a range of communities calls upon an open-mindedness to language justice and the believe that all individuals can participate and collaborate in our work.
MPP and Talk Is Cheap: Unincorporated Language Laboratories collaborated to create the book Streetwise: Words of Wisdom from the Streets of Corona, a follow up to their previous collaboration The Big Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree (2015). These books explore the rich and affordable medium of dialogue, specifically colloquialisms and street wisdom.
8. We believe in the power of collaborative and collective work
We believe in collaboration on a micro-level within our group and on a macro-level in our collaborations with the public. Collaboration at every level allows us the amazing opportunity, which we love, to share ideas and provide outlets for multiple perspectives. Collaboration allows us to brainstorm ideas and drawings. It is a unique process in which we are able to help one another and learn about each other through our words, images, and ideas.
MPP Members: Brandon Castillo, Jennifer Muñoz, Jose Benitez, Marissa Campiz, Stephanie R. Roman, Daniel Flores, Bill Jannen, Patrick Rowe, Aria Shehas, Erik Guevara, Haley Mackenzie Bain, Jessica Epstein, Lerone Daley, Nathalie Rea, Ricky Perez, Silvia Juliana Manilla Ortiz, Yiovana Castillo. In this particular collaboration we were able to engage with individuals and other community groups from across the city.