The Prawn’s Pee project plays with the time old format of a newspaper but not as we know it. Utilizing an old printing press and using screen printing to come out with around 200 issues a day throughout the duration of the GI festival. Its printed format and content collaborated with other artists are where the similarities to real newspapers stop. Allowing freedom for the contributors and mostly focusing on the merging of ideas to create something new entirely, is quite the opposite process of the newspapers we see today that are guided in particular political directions and style-guided into uniform stacks.
It’s laborious printing process and its situation in the old Daily Record building (now the Old Hairdressers) is perhaps a comment on the state of newspapers today. With print fast ‘dying’ and websites being the main source of news today, Prawn’s Pee is perhaps more similar to print newspapers than one might think. Indeed the name Prawn’s Pee – an anagram of ‘newspaper’ – is very fitting to the project, this is perhaps best described by the promotional image for the project: a prawn peeing into the water forcing the fish to evolve legs and crawl onto the shore in disgust/shock. Although strange this is a rather accurate metaphor for newspapers today, newspapers that are having to evolve digital legs to stand on because the water that they used to swim in is not fit for purpose anymore.
Prawn’s Pee was printed everyday throughout the GI festival, running for 2 weeks between the April and May and being available for collection at the end of every day. Each issue is different, sometimes a performance piece, sometimes poems, sometimes a URL leading to online content. Chatting to Rob Churm, one of the creators of Prawn’s Pee and the illustrator for the main promotional image, he expressed a lack of art content in the form of print, citing The Skinny as, really, the only main publication out there. This is true to an extent, there are plenty of art magazines, both in print and online, but the niche of an art newspaper is one that could be expanded further. Further than the often boring reviews of albums and recent gigs and further than just the journalistic line that most art writing doesn’t cross. The further out you go the more free, open and creative it can get and this is where Prawn’s Pee sits: in the intersection of the venn diagram of newspapers and works of art.
When creating the paper, Rob cites no major problems throughout. The expertise of the team made it easier and anyway, the short deadlines gave little time to panic and over think the final product. He explains the creation of Prawn’s Pee as an ongoing process rather than constantly going back over sections to perfect them. Much like the ongoing process of creating a traditional daily newspaper, where yesterday’s issue is already old news, it’s not about producing something polished it’s about the process of making it. This technique, in turn gives the produce a particular quality that is hard to pinpoint, the soul among the mechanical structure, the ghost in the shell. This is further reinforced by the fact it’s still a physical thing, rather than existing online. The idea that paper has some kind of quality that is loved by people fits within the general motivation for the project.
One of the difficulties with a more open structure to the paper was trying to explain to contributors the scope of it but at the same time not limiting them too much, a hard balance to find. Indeed the main thought behind Prawn’s Pee was to be content rich, “we didn’t want anyone to criticize us on not doing enough with it”. By sourcing content from other artists and printing everyday they created a momentum wherein you don’t have time to stop, you just constantly create. This energy is what gives the project life. It’s constant movement, in turn, gives energy and life to the GI festival that it was part of.
This piece was originally produced for the non-existent 6th issue of the Glasgow Guardian 11/12. Information on the artwork and the GI festival can be found on the GI website.