Today we’d like to introduce you to the RISO BAR team.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Roughly two years ago, Finn and I connected with Sofia Bastidas around an interest in starting an independent press in Dallas. We were interested in Riso printing specifically because we heard it was cost-effective, easy to use, and had a charming lo-fi aesthetic, even when printing simple things. We didn’t know of anyone printing Riso in Dallas, so we took a road trip to Houston to visit two fantastic Riso presses, Mystic Multiples and The Center for Imaginative Cartography & Research and fell in love with their practices. We got to see first hand how the imperfect printing of the machine drove experimentation, how the cost-effectiveness of the printer allowed non-commercial ideas to be explored, and how the machine’s ability to produce many copies with ease would allow experimental forms and ideas to be circulated. We felt this would be an important resource to have in Dallas, where there was no artist-run press and few avenues for self-publishing.
Almost immediately after returning from our trip, Sofia met Mylan and Taro, who had just moved back to Texas. They were skilled Riso printers and had not one but two Riso printers in their living room! Pretty organically, we built out the framework for a year-long exhibition at the Pollock gallery where we (and Dallas) could learn to print with the machine (through free workshops and open studio time) and about Riso practices and presses from around the world (through our rotating library). From the outset, the exhibition was intended as an incubator or launchpad for an extant press in Dallas. We opened on January 25, 2020, and of course, COVID-19 hit Dallas shortly after. In a way, COVID accelerated our process of becoming a press, but more importantly, a collective and co-operative. We could no longer host in-person workshops, but we could print and use our platform to publish and promote ideas and projects that felt urgent to us. We’ve been navigating sharing resources internally and with the Dallas community. The task now is to figure out a sustainable way to do this once the exhibition closes. In this way, both the printing process and the broader project are experimental. Today we are a core group of 8, Elizabeth, Finn, Harris, Mylan, Sofia, Sophia, Taro, and myself.- May Makki
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When the year-long exhibition at the Pollock gallery opened, a major goal was to get in as many people as possible and provide opportunities for anyone to learn to use the Riso machine and make work. Due to COVID-19 and the coalescing of a protest movement in Dallas in response to ongoing police brutality, RISO BAR has had to rethink its mission with the stakes raised in consideration of how a resource can best be shared within a community. An ongoing challenge is how to balance taking on for-hire jobs with each of our independent projects, as the former gives us the freedom to support the latter. We are lucky to be at the Pollock gallery through May 2021 while we work towards finding the most sustainable model. – Elizabeth Han
We’d love to hear more about RISO BAR.
RISO BAR is a publishing initiative and cooperative space that facilitates collaboration and experimentation using risograph technology. Risograph printing uses a process that separates the colors and prints one color at a time, creating beautiful overlays and textures very specific to this printing technique. I like to explain it as a perfect combination of screen printing and a copy machine. We specialize in risograph printing small editions of zines, prints, books, pamphlets, flyers, and posters. We take on for-hire jobs as well as work on community-driven and personal projects, working co-operating to share the space with each other. We are the only artist-run press in Dallas. – Mylan Nguyen
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have a few exciting projects in progress right now. Elizabeth started a project called Artists for Public Relief in which she has been soliciting artworks from Dallas-based artists, translating them into Riso-compatible works, and selling them with 100% of the proceeds going to BYP100, Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, and Mothers against Police Brutality. She’s done two series of this so far and there’s a third one coming up. The works will be for sale in our webshop.
Mylan has been designing a set of mini prints for the delicious vegan food venture Recipe Oak Cliff, illustrating the natural ingredients in their juices and their health benefits. When the RISO BAR exhibition opened, we had partnered with Recipe OC to serve their delicious juices at the “bar.” Since we haven’t been able to be open to the public due to COVID-19, it’s been great to still be able to collaborate with Tisha [Crear, its founder] in some way.
Finn, Sofia, Elizabeth and I have been working on a project Survival School, an open series of pamphlets designed to provide useful information and techniques during the time of COVID-19 and beyond. We are inviting different individuals and organizations in Dallas to author “how-to” guides for specific tasks. The goal is to compile and share our collective knowledge towards a goal of self-sufficiency. Funding for this project was generously supported by Ignite Arts Dallas and Deep Vellum has been distributing the first four editions for free in their bookstore.
We also have two new members of our collective, Harris Chowdhary and Sophia Haid. We are excited to see where they go with Riso as well as how having more hands will increase our capacity to take on more ambitious projects. We are excited to continue to build out projects and initiatives with like-minded organizations in Dallas. – May Makki
- Address: 6116 N. Central Expressway #101 Dallas, TX 75206
- Website: risobar.net
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Installation shots of the exhibition are courtesy of Kevin Todora. Documentation of our work samples is courtesy of Finn Jubak.