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Ripped & Torn, But Never Thrown Away: The Legitimisation of the Ephemeral Graphic Object

Impact 7: Intersections & Counterpoints

The ephemeral nature of graphic design is the focus of the paper, and specifically the way in which the shift from print to digital-based artefacts has affected an interpretation of the graphic object and its place in history. The case study is the British punk fanzine Ripped & Torn produced by Tony Drayton in print form (1976–79) and his website of the same name (2011–present). With the full cooperation of Drayton, the author conducted in-depth interviews, gaining access to personal archive material. Such an analysis of Drayton’s punk fanzines and website has not been published previously.

This research began in response to an invitational keynote talk for ‘Impact 7: Intersections & Counterpoints: International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference’, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 27–30 September 2011. The conference was international in scope with 420 academics, printmakers, book artists and graphic designers a day in attendance (with 600 delegate tickets issued in total). The resulting 8000-word paper was published in 2013 in a substantial book of the proceedings (96 authors) which has been considered as essential reading for anyone interested in the past, present and future of print.

The paper draws on methods from historiography and (sub)cultural theory and addresses two main questions: ‘What does it mean when an ephemeral graphic object is captured in time?’ and, ‘When does the fleeting moment become “fixed” and what impact does this have on meaning, history and the notion of original intent?’. The paper examines the printed fanzine and its history, but also explores the future impact of electronic archives and the historiography of fanzines. A 2,600-word essay on the subject was also commissioned for a special issue of the French academic journal Poli: Politique de l’Image, on questioning the role of archives and documents (2012).