At the end of 2015 we were invited by the excellent Alex Brown to take part in Bring the War Home, an exhibition celebrating the impact and visual culture of dissident movements that was to be held in London in February, 2016. The group we were assigned was the progenitor of operaismo, Potere Operaio.
As we see it Potere Operaio—and workerism in general—can’t easily be distilled into one simple slogan. Veteran Italian autonomist intellectual Sergio Bologna made a statement in an article published here that reinforces our view: “Workerism has never been indulgent to simplifications, to easy slogans – at the cost of appearing to be an exercise in intellectualism, at the cost of being accused of an excess of abstract thought.”
We then realised that the moniker of the group encapsulated the most important belief they held, that workers should have the power. What better thing to concentrate on than this. We created an assembly line of the words themselves to reference the repetition of work inside the factory.
During our research we also came across a quote from French philosopher Michel Foucault. When talking about Antonio Negri—the founder of Potere Operaio—he asked: "Isn’t he in jail simply for being an intellectual?". We felt this perfectly summed up the treatment received by the members of Potere Operaio. A huge part of their manifesto was that any intellectual who had the means and access to high levels of education and therefore was exposed to Marxist teachings had a moral obligation to use this gift to do one thing above all, help the workers. By adding this question to the assembly line we hoped to juxtapose the initial imperative with the eventual reality that the intellectuals behind Potere Operaio were punished for their endeavours.
The extremely talented and generous Max Phillips of Signal Type Foundry let us use an early cut of his upcoming typeface Pressio which for us provided a clear connection to the condensed sans-serifs that were consistently in use in Potere Operaio’s printed communication towards the end of their activity.
The exhibition and it’s excellent book and identity were featured on It’s Nice That.