In 2020, UB faculty member Matt Kenyon created “Alternate rulea memorial to schoolchildren who have been affected by gun violence. “Alternative Rule” paper may look like the red and blue lined paper children use in elementary school, but the lines are made up of the micro-printed names and dates of thousands of children who have been victims of gun violence. since the Columbine High School Shoot in 1999. When the pages are enlarged, each ruled line is revealed to be the micro-printed text.
“I want these names to be part of the living archive of correspondence, so that as long as the letters on this paper are received and archived, the names of the victims will continue to demand the justice they deserve,” Kenyon said, associate professor and director of the graduate program in the Department of Art.
He has spent the past two years inviting people to take an “Alternative Ruler” sheet and use it as stationery to write letters to government officials, advocating for gun control in America.
Kenyon says he found inspiration for this particular project by listening to Emma Gonzales, one of the Parkland School activists.
“She was giving this really impassioned speech where she called out the politicians who said all they could offer were thoughts and prayers. She called them on their bull ****, and I thought the same technique that banks and governments use to prevent illegal copyright and counterfeiting attempts is also an anti-BS technique, so I l I used to come up with ‘Alternative rule,'” Kenyon explains.
Microprinting is used on cheques, credit cards and other official documents to prevent forgery – the organization’s name is often found printed, under a microscope, in the signature line. This is the same method Kenyon used to print the paper for “Alternative Rule”, and an earlier project called “Notepadwhich features details of Iraqi civilians who died as a result of the US invasion under the Bush administration. This information was micro-printed on yellow legal pads and then distributed. “Notepad” is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and was the subject of Kenyon’s TED talk in 2015.
“I always give the ‘Notepad’ paper to individual politicians or former politicians whenever I have the chance to meet them,” Kenyon says.
As a new media artist, Kenyon uses and incorporates a variety of elements into his projects. He and his award-winning work have been featured in The New York Times, Wired, and Gizmodo.
“The micro-printing technique is an industrial twist on the photography process, and I use a lot of different techniques and technologies in my work. It’s really great to be part of a great research university like the University at Buffalo. I’m surrounded by people who are also researching technologies, and I can use those technologies and reuse them for my projects,” he says.
Kenyon has just returned from Eyeo-Festivalwhere he was a guest speaker and presented on “Alternative Rule” and another project called “Tidewhich is the subject of her UB Institute of Humanities Fellowship.
He is a member of UB’s new Center for Information Integrity, which brings together UB scholars from across disciplines to identify, assess and mitigate the impact of misinformation. He is a 2015 TED Scholar and MacDowell Scholar. He has participated in numerous collaborations with artists, architects and technologists, including McLain Clutter, Adam Fure, Tiago Rorke and Wafaa Bilal; his work has been exhibited worldwide and collected by institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Kenyon was recently selected for Coolhunting CH25a “showcase of creators and innovators from a wide range of disciplines currently working to move the world forward”.
In response to the tragic shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Kenyon joined the owners of Fitz Books on June 1 and invited those who would take action to write letters using “Alternative Rule” paper.
“There were over 100 letters that were written in an hour and a half at the event, with a pretty good turnout from people demanding a change in US gun policy, which has done so much harm” , Kenyon said. .
In an opinion piece he wrote that was published on June 9 in The Buffalo Newshe shared his experience of witnessing a shooting as a college student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
“It was in the late 1980s. I remember the announcement over the intercom to take shelter in our classroom and our teacher in a low voice telling us to lie down on the floor. I remember the police with their guns and the ensuing shootout behind the school. Stray bullets punched neat little holes in the classroom windows,” Kenyon wrote.
As he continues to struggle to make sense of the gun violence plaguing America, Kenyon is also motivated to continue advocating for reform.
“‘Alternative Rule’ is a memorial and protest tool, created for next generation activists, many of whom are already organizing in their own schools and nationally,” he notes.
People of all ages are invited to take a sheet of paper and write a letter to government officials advocating for gun control in America.