The Moonshiner Lights Up Newspapers

Rani Molla
Written 1 year ago
in Design

Newspapers may be dying, but two artists would like them to live on — as art. Peter J. Hoffmeister and Jack Laughner — both security guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in addition to being artists — have reappropriated the medium to critique the very thing it represents: mass media.

In January, they plan to release an art newspaper called The Moonshiner as 1,000 individually marked copies, each with 24 pages of visual protest. The free publication will document a hypothetical future through the eyes of a ficticious everyman, Malcolm Ford, tackling issues that center around censorship and an impending American police state.

Like traditional newspapers, The Moonshiner delivers the news. In the current issue, it broadcasts the language of section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which covers detention of persons the government suspects of involvement in terrorism, including the fact that even U.S. citizens can be held indefinitly.

Also like a traditional newspaper, the Moonshiner adds editorial commentary surrounding the news — but uses drawings rather than text to illustrate viewpoints. “We’re taking this rarified format and injecting in content we think is missing from it,” Hoffmeister said.


What’s missing from traditional media, according to Hoffmeister, is criticism of increasingly prevalent government actions, like the NDAA, that restrict basic human rights. Hoffmeister and Laughner previously worked together coediting the MET’s employee art zine Sw!pe and, according to Hoffmeister, they are on the “same page on social issues and politics.” Within the pages of The Moonshiner they convey their concerns through militant imagery—jail cells, barbed wire, surveillance cameras — and a keen sense of emotive design.

In November, the pair handed out two teaser pages on steps of museums across New York City. They paid for the first batch themselves but are currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the full January issue.

The point is to use a novel and democratic means to encourage social justice literacy and, by extension, change. “Change should be small,” Hoffmeister said, “but by many people.”

Using actual paper as opposed to stating their causes more cheaply on the web, the pair hopes to bypass digital censorship, one of the issues their newspaper addresses.

“They can erase books off the Kindle and TV shows off Tivo,” Hoffmeister said of choosing the newspaper as a format. Hopefully paper has a higher burning point.


Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.