Benera and Estefan
Self publishing in Times of Freedom and Repression
workshop, public lectures & publication, 2011
at Centre for Visual Introspection, Bucharest*

This publication is released within the framework of the project “Hard Edit—Self-publishing in Times of Freedom and Repression”, which consisted of a series of lectures by Vasile Ernu [RO], Lia Perjovschi [RO], Piotr Rypson [PL], Olga Zaslavskaya [RU] and a practical workshop, held between 18 and 24 April 2011 at the Centre for Visual Introspection in Bucharest, by Marco Balesteros and Sofia Gonçalves [PT], with the contribution of Renata Catambas [PT/NL], Rafaela Dražić [CRO], Eleonora Farina [IT/DE], Ward Heirwegh [BE], Tzortzis Rallis [GR/UK], Katarina Šević [SRB/HU], Golie Talaie [IT/NL] and Paul Wiersbinski [DE].

The background to this project is given by the “interrupted history” of self-publishing in Romania, an area still insufficiently acknowledged and researched. The avant-garde literary tradition (Contimporanul, Punct, Integral, Unu, Urmuz, Alge), to which artists and poets contributed (Tristan Tzara, Ilarie Voronca, Ion Vinea, Urmuz, Marcel Iancu), created a background for the development of later clandestine publication, when it was interrupted during the totalitarian political regime. Under the Ceauşescu dictatorship, the ideologically imposed state regulation of the cultural and artistic realm was extremely harsh, such that the production of independent publications took pace only in closed circles or artists’ studios. Authentic forms of dissidence existed in the form of a few samizdat publications in Hungarian during the 1980s – Ellenpontok (Counterpoints) in Oradea and Kiáltó Szó (Shouting word), in Cluj – but also individual practices (Ana Blandiana, Doina Cornea, Radu Filipescu, Vasile Paraschiv, Paul Goma and the artist Ion Grigorescu to name but a few); the launch of the unofficial newspaper Romania was planned for 1989, but its founders (Mihai Creangă, Petre Mihai Băcanu, Anton Uncu and Stefan Niculescu Maier) were unable to distribute after having been arrested by Romania’s secret services. Self--publishing began to re-appear more dynamically in the early 1990s, during the times of “freedom”. Today, ideological censorship has been replaced by new constraints. On a global level, almost everything is based on economics and censorship is just as likely to be the result of market forces. In theory, the internet provides a constant flow of information on basically anything imaginable; however, the current system has its subtle, in-built mechanisms for suppressing freedom of expression that are as powerful as those of past centuries. The control of the news we get through the mass media, the passing of laws to regulate the content of television, radio and the written press, the blocking of protests, the keeping of political and military information private on grounds of national security (while convincing people that the government is acting in their interests) and other forms of limiting and filtering information are all proof of an effectively implemented censorship.
What are the limits and means of self-expression and freedom of speech, and the new forms of censorship/self-censorship today? How effective is communication through printed matter in a world dominated by the internet and the popularity of social networks?
Publishing as a means of self-expression and samizdat as a one of its forms, born in specific oppressive conditions, might shed some new light on the meaning of self-publishing today, on its present forms and challenges. The theoretical texts in this publication provide an overview of the genesis of samizdat as a common phenomenon in the Eastern bloc countries, a survey of self-publishing in Poland and a perspective on resistance and the new forms of protest in Russia. On the one hand, this project has brought socio-political practice into discussion through the holding of debates and seminars, while, on the other hand, it contained a practical component of experimentation with printed matter. The workshop created a framework within which the participants could present their own case studies related to self-publishing and also worked as a mechanism of editorial aggregation for this context. It comprises a series of heterogeneous approaches originating from different disciplines and cultural practices, thus extending and giving substance to the issues incorporated by self-publishing: self-organization, self-archiving, publishing as a tool of legitimizing and establishing; editing as a process of defining and revealing; distribution as an instrument of communication, publishing that lead to repression, publishing to fight for freedom, the periphery of self-publishing; the economics of attention as a key factor in success; linguistics and censorship through translation with reference to the dominance of the English language.
The structure of this publication is envisioned as a succession of visual essays, as thoughts in printed form, interconnected through footnotes and assembled as a collective discourse.

*Centre for Visual Introspection (CIV) was an interdisciplinary, collective-run institution, that produced research-based exhibitions, public art actions, education programs, and publications. By emphasizing “introspection” as a method of research, CIV aimed to produce new patterns of artistic and institutional behavior, foreground connections to various local historical and social conditions, and link a collective imaginary to conceptual notions of subjectivity.