The story begins in the winter of 2005 in the rural Alentejo region of Portugal.
Emma-France Raff, a textile design student from Porto, is visiting her father, the artist Johannes Kohlrusch. Surrounded by large paintings and monumental cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, the two have a wild, inspiring conversation.
The topic of manhole covers comes up. Johannes recently stumbled across one and has been fascinated ever since. They talk about variety, craft, materiality, the local diversity and the possibility of printing on these cast-iron lids. Like printing plates lying around everywhere!
The next morning, Emma drives off and makes a discovery on the roadside that will impact the rest of her life. A small square manhole cover.
Aguas is written on it (water). She rolls it in with paint, puts a piece of cloth on it and carefully presses it on...That was the birth of Raubdruckerin.
The result is so impressive that they immediately set to work. They get a package of T-shirts, a good amount of black paint and book a stand at the world music festival in the city of Sines. They call the project "estampatampa" which means print the lid.
Somehow, they actually managed to get a real manhole cover from
the city council. At the festival, they print T-shirts directly on
the lid and people can watch.
Between Japanese heavy metal music and Colombian opera
singing, the first raubdruckerin T-shirts saw the light of day.
For the next few years, however, the idea has to go into the drawer. Emma focuses on other projects and eventually moves to Berlin.
At some point, she has some things delivered from Portugal. And there is this one box with all the materials: a few printed T-shirts, many unprinted ones, paint, rollers...like a forgotten treasure chest. Spontaneously, she organizes a manhole cover printing performance for the art festival 48h Neukoelln. On the pavement in front of Ida-Nowhere, a Neukoelln art association, lies an ordinary manhole cover, which Emma uses for printing. Many people come, take off their shirts and have them printed. It goes down really well, one guy even prints his butt.
The Street Printing Journey
In the time that followed, Emma developed a repertoire of Berlin manhole cover motifs. First and foremost the spectacular lid of the Berliner Wasserbetriebe, with Berlin's most famous landmarks.
When she travels, she always carries a few T-shirts and some paint in her hand luggage. She produces small series in Istanbul, Naples, Thessaloniki and Catania, among other places. Each piece is printed in a performative way outside on the streets.
In winter 2016, Emma and her partner Orpheas go on a road trip from Berlin to southern Portugal. Their old Mercedes bus is packed with boxes full of T-shirts.
On the way they stop in Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Porto and Lisbon. They look for beautiful manhole covers or other characteristic surfaces and produce T-shirt series, which they print in public in the middle of urban squares or walkways.
In 2017, more trips to Budapest and Vienna will follow. 2018 Athens, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen. 2019 Lisbon. Europes metropolis become a open air printing workshop.