Ariadna Serrahima works as a graphic designer and educator specialised in the fields of publishing and artist editions. Her career has developed between the visual arts and graphic design. After years of working independently, she co-founded the Oficina de Disseny graphic design studio in 2015. The studio’s primary interests and projects are in the cultural field. Alongside this, she is part of several collective initiatives such as L’Automàtica, a self-organised printing shop where she produces and prints her personal projects along with collaborative works, and is co-founder of MUNT, a sound-art platform that curates live experimental music performances and publishes the resulting recordings. She spent six years in London during which she graduated in Graphic Design at ‘Central Saint Martins’ in 2007. She has also been teaching at various design schools and universities in Barcelona, including IDEP, EINA and BAU. She recently created IF Publications, a publishing project for co-curated artist editions and contemporary essays. She currently lives and works in London where she is studying in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University.
Do you describe yourself as a designer?
I usually say that I'm a graphic designer because in the professional context it’s the easiest way for people to understand what my paid work is. Though I still feel close to the word graphic, I don't define myself as an artist. I could define myself as a researcher, and publisher above all.
When did you realize that you would become an editor?
I came to London in 2003 to study fine arts at age 18. I was spending entire days making books, so I went on to study graphic design at St. Martins. Then I started making artist books with my own content. After spending some time in New York, I moved back to Barcelona in 2008 and got into the emerging art scene by designing books, printing my own books and publishing other artists' work. And I guess all these experiences and friendships made me realize that a big part of my practice is being a publisher.
'Double Spread – While we were moving through the continuos zig zag of the road, we didn't talk much'. Self-publication on a road trip from Colliure to Cap de Creus, crossing the border between France and Catalunya. A witness-landscape of the biggest exode at the end of the Spanish Civil War during the winter of 1938. (Cadaqués, May 2014)
How do you select the jobs you do?
I always feel I connect with the people that I have to connect with, in some way. One of the things that I enjoy the most is being part of a cultural context. I am fascinated by the people I have around me, who lead me to find out about the community activities and practices, not only in the art context but also in music, cinema, performance, literature, sound, politics, everything that configures the emerging and contemporary scene. In the end, for me, working has been a crucial vehicle to build relationships, share common knowledge, exchange experiences, and luckily I've always been able to make a living through it.
Very lucky, since you said you had arrived in Barcelona in 2008, and that was right in the middle of the financial crisis…
In retrospect I think at that moment in Barcelona, I was one of the only females who was freelancing and specializing in designing art editions – artists publications. At that time I didn't give it much importance, but now I realize that it was pretty relevant.
'Cualquier lugar / como ganar espacio / ningún rincón perdido / ninguna zona inútil' (any place / how to gain space / no corner lost / no useless zone). Poster printed in 'La Linterna' in Cali, together with Diego Bustamante and Katy Hetzeneder (Oficina de disseny) within the frame of 'Parallel School' workshop and responding to a one week colective discussion on contemporary temporalities, capitalist productivity and the occupation of spatialities. (Colombia, December 2016)
Why was it relevant?
Immediately, I met female artists, such as Laia Estruch and Carla Tramullas, that were beginning their career at the same time as me, and somehow we grew up together. We began to work collectively in order to learn from each other's experiences. I remember it very much as a huge explosion of different creative disciplines converging together. That feeling made us build a lot of mutual understanding and support… Suddenly I was making books or graphic editions of my friends' work. It was a very beautiful time that lasted for many years.
You are a member of the printing press, l’Automàtica. How did you get involved in that project?
When I came back to Barcelona in the summer of 2008, the crisis began and all the funding was getting cut. Later on, I started to share a studio space with other designers. Curiously enough, I was the only Catalan, though they were definitely more local than I was since I had been away for many years. Most of them came from Latin American countries and therefore knew more than I did about resisting and being actively creative in a frame of economic and social crisis. Now, in perspective, I remember those years as a great school. While we were all falling in love with each other’s work and ways of thinking, May of 2011 came into our lives. None of us would have ever imagined that that spring would have changed our everyday practices. The social movement "15-M" began. Immediately together with my colleague Diego Bustamante, we were attending all of the daily assemblies and being part of the cultural committee in the major square of Barcelona, Plaça Catalunya. We never had previous experience with oral commitment, so we decided to record all the conversations that were taking place in the movement, so our colleagues—who were too busy to attend it—could listen to all the recordings when we went back to work to the studio every morning. Thus, we decided to publish a newspaper (5,000 copies) including all those anonymous voices that were confirming the biggest communal experience that Barcelona had gone through since the "transitional" period in the '80s. We called the publication "19" because it was distributed during the biggest demonstration that happened on June 19th, 2011. The surprise was that people ended up using the publication as placards, using their own printed voices as a collective claim. After this, we decided to keep on making "urgent political publications", so I bought a photocopier for 40€, and then soon after, one of our colleagues told us that a printing press was closing down in our neighborhood. When we went to see the printing shop, we immediately fell in love with it, and I suppose that the fact that we were at this very special social moment, we all decided to go ahead and rescue it. The press was closing because it had many debts due to the crisis, and we proposed to share the printing shop all together with the owner. As designers, we would bring him customers and that way he wouldn't have to close, and at the same time, we would be learning how to print and use all the presses. This was also a very interesting paradigm shift. If it hadn't happened during the 15-M, which had taught us how to sense the world and take a position, we might have ended reproducing the mentality of buying and owning. This adventure began 7 years ago and still continues now.
'A Love Story since 2011'. Printing with the Heidelberg in L'Automàtica (Barcelona, March 2017)
Does the printing press continue to work in the same way?
I always say that it is a great love story. Without a strong sense of politics, no one would carry on a project like this because it's all about surviving and committing to a very precarious economical functioning. In the way the printing is run, the fundamental basics are sustained by monthly assembly processes. Let's say, in these meetings, we discuss things concerning either more pragmatic questions or ideological issues. For example, we've never accepted private money from people that don't meet our ways of thinking.
You have recently graduated from the Forensic Architecture Master’s program at Goldsmith. What were you researching during your time there?
Due to my 7 years teaching at universities in Barcelona, along with a project called "Parallel School" I carried out together with my ODD ('Oficina de disseny' studio) partners in Colombia, I've been developing a great interest in education and learning outside of institutional structures, and reflection on new ways of sharing knowledge outside the increasing commodification of education. I was on a trip to Beirut and found a book by an artist called Lawrence Abu Hamdan that talks about control, surveillance and language, and I found out he had studied at The Centre for Research Architecture (CRA), at Goldsmith University, London. Later on, I realized that a very good friend, Blanca Pujals, had studied the same MA, so I decided to apply in a very intuitive way and propose research related to education, and they accepted me. The research I've been doing here is basically about the possible alliances and mechanisms that can allow us to generate new infrastructures—whether affective, technological or economical—in order to be able to operate autonomously and in a self-managed way through new non-patriarchal structures and at the margins of the "nation-state". In the end, it's about the structures that we can be generating together and between communities that are struggling against subjugation. About how we can operate from a micro-political sphere and through daily collective gestures, and mobilize new forms of learning elsewhere in the world.
'Baltistan' formerly known as the Northern Areas. It borders Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang region of China, to the east and northeast, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. (India, August 2015)
'Guardianes de Semillas'. Gladis explains to us how their peasant community of the Zona Cafetera territory organises their resistance and insurgent education in order to preserve their original seeds (criollas), threatened by huge multinationals like Monsanto and the Colombian goverment. (Colombia, December 2016)
Was there a tension for you in doing your research inside of an institution like Goldsmith?
I felt the tension from the beginning because I've never been part of the academy and always been very critical about it. I guess at some point in my career I considered the academy as an interesting frame from where to acquire and share knowledge, even though I right away started seeking and getting involved with other communities in London related to the social fabric of the neighborhoods. I was in some way using the university as space where to engage with a critical way to converge theory with practice and get to be challenged by colleagues that come from other political and cultural backgrounds. Not only this, but that also come from certain minority groups and put into question the homogenous dominant discourses.
'Kurdish dancing'. A reflection on new forms of resistance and insistance at the margins of the normalized acts of protest. (Istambul, August 2017)
Since the program is named Forensic Architecture, how do you link graphic design and space?
I don’t know anything about architecture really… The Centre for Research Architecture (CRA) is an experimental platform where a diverse array of practitioners gather to produce collective investigative tools at the encounter between radical theories, practices, cases of political violence and humanitarian emergencies. In CRA we work and analyze the relations of power that are in constant tension within spaces that we inhabit daily. We collectively develop new methodologies of research that respond to urgent shifts in the way spatial, humanitarian and environmental politics are conceptualized. I would emphasize the importance of gathering and engaging with long extended discussions and reading sessions in order to debate on how to spatially and politically intervene and participate. In this case, to conduct my research, graphic design has become a tool, not the subject itself, but a tool to communicate and 'take part'.
'Footnotes from the Centre for Reserach Architecture', editing, designing and printing the collective publication of CRA-2018 at Goldsmiths University. Together with Gui DeVore, Riccardo Badano, IFPublications and L'Automàtica printshop in Barcelona. (London, September 2018)
What do you think are the advantages of the physical vs. digital format in your field today?
These are two different 'spheres'… I've got the feeling that everyone is very categorical when it comes to comparing them: one or the other. But, they are very different technologies with very different possible uses and aims. It's like comparing offset printing with letterpress printing. I think that each project is made to circulate in different spaces and through different mediums. Therefore, the challenge is to critically decide what technology each project requires in order to be communicated, and for whom it is meant to be accessible. On one hand, I consider the internet a fascinating life-repository of information, but on the other hand, it is a corporate space that constantly navigates between strategies that deal with the notion of opacity and transparency. The internet is no longer the anarchic interval that it was at some point. It's an intangible space where the richest powers, such as multinationals and governments, are controlling our flux of information and making our data capitalizable. My research is precisely about finding new ways to be out of governmental focuses. Which are the new infrastructures that neo-liberalism mechanisms can't grasp, or appropriate? In the case of printed matter, some of the things I can surely say are: to print is a collective act which ensembles a number of different knowledge and encounters between people that contribute with their own expertise. In all the moments of thinking together, editing together, giving each other feedback, designing together, translating content into a graphic format, printing together, etc., the nature of the things that unfold in these situations is exponentially different from what happens in the online realm. It's definitely another way to make friends :) and to understand our relationship with labor. I don't want to romanticize it though. In the end, I would say that one does not exclude the other, they are simply different tools and spatial experiences. Is like asking: what is the difference between doing a road trip with your best friend in Big Sur, California and dreaming about it? What is closer to truth?
What do you think are the advantages of the physical vs. digital format in your field today?
These are two different 'spheres'... I've got the feeling that everyone is very categorical when it comes to comparing them: one or the other. But, they are very different technologies with very different possible uses and aims. It's like comparing offset printing with letterpress printing. I think that each project is made to circulate in different spaces and through different mediums. Therefore, the challenge is to critically decide what technology each project requires in order to be communicated, and for whom it is meant to be accessible. On one hand, I consider the internet a fascinating life-repository of information, but on the other hand, it is a corporate space that constantly navigates between strategies that deal with the notion of opacity and transparency. The internet is no longer the anarchic interval that it was at some point. It's an intangible space where the richest powers, such as multinationals and governments, are controlling our flux of information and making our data capitalizable. My research is precisely about finding new ways to be out of governmental focuses. Which are the new infrastructures that neo-liberalism mechanisms can't grasp, or appropriate? In the case of printed matter, some of the things I can surely say are: to print is a collective act which ensembles a number of different knowledge and encounters between people that contribute with their own expertise. In all the moments of thinking together, editing together, giving each other feedback, designing together, translating content into a graphic format, printing together, etc., the nature of the things
that unfold in these situations is exponentially different from what happens in the online realm. It's definitely another way to make friends :) and to understand our relationship with labor. I don't want to romanticize it though. In the end, I would say that one does not exclude the other, they are simply different tools and spatial experiences.
'I'm in Big Sur now — I know that stretch of road quite well'. There is no beginning and end, everything seems to be part of a circle, with her and thinking of him. (California, April 2019)
For more info, visit Ariadna's website or email us at email@example.com.