Sanja Grozdanic, Editor, Krass

Today we’re in Adelaide, Australia browsing through the book shelf of Krass editor Sanja Grozdanic. Now onto its third issue, Krass continues to blow us away because of its commitment to creating a genderless design language and for loudly and intelligently expressing feminist and queer political concerns. It’s likely that if you haven’t read Krass, you’ve at least admired its typographic covers — the new issue would ensnare a magpie, with its custom brutal, neoclassic typeface printed on a shimmering silver cover.

Krass is worth sitting down with for some time; once you acclimatise to the provocative font choices, its writing by artists, activists and academics are engaging for the defiant and curious.

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Sanja founded the magazine with her partner Tess Martin in 2015, and she also works as a freelance writer for titles like DazedDigital. We asked her to pick three publications to share with us today: an old issue, a new issue and one other thing.

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An old issue: The Saturday Paper
Rupert Murdoch began his empire in my home-town of Adelaide, where you can’t buy a non-Murdoch owned daily. Our only national daily broadsheet is a Murdoch-owned travesty, and it does as most Murdoch papers do; asks you to fear and isolate one another. Such are our times.

Luckily, we have the Saturday Paper. Blessedly, it publishes writers such as Helen Razer, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Christos Tsiolkas. Its editor, Erik Jensen, is about my age and has also published a book, which makes me consider waving a white flag and giving up immediately, because he really is that good.

This is one of the best Trump covers I saw. Erik Jensen explains: ‘Donald Trump gives face to the ugliness of hate. That is why we have decided not to give him a face. Our front page covers his sneering visage with a void into which hope might be projected.’ My subscription to the Saturday Paper has been one of my better investments.

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A new issue: Hook Up #1
Hook Up is a zine by my dear friend Anthony Nocera. It is the product of an experiment with dating apps; it explores strange beds, strange men and that strange twilight zone of fleeting intimacy.

Anthony is very wise and also very funny. He writes: ‘I’ve never been the type of person who thought they needed to be loved or has ever purposefully looked for someone to be with, but while I had dating apps on my phone I found myself checking them every spare moment that I could because the company was nice when it wasn’t horrifying’.

I guess that’s like dating generally – a gamble for the good between the horror. I’ve been buying more zines lately – Vaein Zine by Jonno Revanche is another excellent example on my bookshelf – and finding myself endlessly inspired. Grotowski wrote that the question in life is how to be armed, and in art, disarmed. Zines are truly disarmed; there is no commercial narrative; they’re brave and vulnerable and summon love and solidarity. Reading Hook Up and Vaein reminds me of the intrinsic worth in publishing, creating and collecting.

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And another thing: Emotional Map Catalogue
Gerry Wedd is a local ceramicist and this is a catalogue from his incredible exhibition, Kitschen Man. Gerry’s work has humour and politics and heart. It’s cultural critique (example: a pot with an Australian flag that says “Fuck off we’re full”) on clay, no gimmicks, no pretention. Designed by James Brown from Adelaide design studio MASH, part of this catalogue has found its way to my wall, and the other part is on my bookshelf.

I’ve realized as I’ve been writing that I’ve unintentionally gone local in all three choices; and I considered changing – but there is so much talent when you look around you, and it is important to look around you. As the saying goes; locals only.

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Soft #1

We’re always excited to discover magazines from further afield, and who better to help us than Nelson Ng, editor of Shanghai-based travel indie Lost. Here he looks at another recent launch in China.

I first discovered Soft at a friend’s juice shop on the street where I live in Shanghai. It had caught my attention because of the English-only text on the cover, and its minimal use of only black and blue. It looked like a magazine that could have been from Europe, especially with its overlapping text printed with Risograph ink (see cover, above). But no, it was an independent magazine from Shanghai, and the publisher lived on my street.

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Soft is a quarterly magazine that publishes conversations and interviews between young artists/creative people. What is perhaps interesting about Soft is that while it’s a magazine about artists, it doesn’t really showcase nor talk much about the artists’ work, but instead the conversations are about their lives and how they survive and pull through as artists.

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Issue one features six artist interviews from different parts of the world (above), ranging from Shanghai to Chicago to Berlin. Each artist is different in the work that they do, but also in their personalities. Questions include “What other jobs have you done while you were trying to develop your artistic career?” and “Are you happy with your current living and working status?” and “What is the oddest job you’ve ever had?” (below). Having spoken with Chen Zou, the publisher, these seem to be the questions on her mind as an artist returning to China after studying abroad in the US.

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Perhaps the most intriguing interview is the one with the ‘Anonymous Artist’ from China (below). Certain sentences and names have been blocked out to protect the artist, creating a sense of mystery and curiosity while metaphorically displaying the sensitive position of being an artist in China. A sense of frustration with everyday life problems also comes across through the artist’s answers, which were sort of humorous but very real and down-to-earth at the same time. It gives us a very genuine perspective of what it means to be an artist in China.

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Issue one also includes a folded insert that showcases work from an emerging artist, Tant Zhong, who also happened to design the logo for Soft . She shows us her iPhone sketch paintings done in the Notes application, giving the magazine a nice playful touch amidst all the seriousness (below).

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Tickets still availble for magCulture Meets OOMK this week; read the background to their new mag.

Steven Heller looks back at the ‘legibility wars’ of the mid-80’s, reminding us of April Greiman’s edition of Design Quarterly. Download a copy of the issue here.

The longest-serving and most successful Editor of (British) Vogue in its 100-year history,’ Alexandra Shulman resigns after 25 years. Read an interview given on her appointment.

If you give the consumer what they want, they will buy it,’ says Time Inc President.

Here come the annual PPA Awards.

Nest

There are some magazines that have achieved an almost legendary status, proto-indies if you like. I featured some in a series for the ZEITmagazin instagram late last year – Speak, List, Kasino A4, Re- and Nest. All have been featured here on the Journal in some way over the years with the exception of Nest (the Speak post disappeared in a hacking incident… to be returned to). We felt it was time to set that right.

26 issues of Nest were published at the turn of the century, 1997–2004, by magazine newcomer Joseph Holtzman. Although positioned as an interiors magazine, it had a unique and influential approach, ignoring the usual upscale apartments and villas in favour of the strange and surprising. It sought unique visual stories, not selling product, and in this respect was a notable precursor of more recent indie magazines.

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The physical nature of the magazine was as exciting as the content. The launch issue was relatively restrained, with a die-cut curved top corner (above) – this was just a hint of future issues. The cover image also set the tone for the project: a shot of Raymond Donahue’s attic walls and ceiling papered in B&W copies of magazine covers featuring Farrah Fawcett Majors. This was the type of curious story the magazine continually uncovered.

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Others included a man who lived and worked in the same 18×30 foot ‘cell’ space; a series of Eadweard Muybridge-like images of men pissing (‘stream dispersion,’ above) and people getting in and out of the bath; a photographic exploration of life in an igloo. It was hugely inventive, and looking through issues now remains as inspirational as it did at the time.

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That first curved corner developed into more flamboyant adornments: issue two had the same corner cut but also had a tactile fabric addition printed on the front, based on a wallpaper design by artist Rosemarie Trockel. By issue five (above), the outside edges featured a wave edge (along with Private Eye-like speech bubbles jokey referring to Architectural Digest and Wallpaper*).

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Number six (above) was the first of a series where small holes were drilled through the entire issue (inclduing the ads), their position syncing neatly with the design grid inside. My favourite example remains the penultimate issue, where the top edges was cut to mimic an inset mountain skyline image on the cover (below). These remain a unique set of physical interventions on a magazine.

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The page layout was special too, completely unlike the cool minimalism of so many interiors magazines before and since – Nest was not a magazine of white space. Just about every inch of paper was covered in ink (below), made up of bleed images and colour patterns. Close-ups of wallpaper designs and fabric patterns were regularly used as backgrounds to images and headlines set in decorative typefaces rather than a considered palette of fonts. It was chaotic, but this maximalist design perfectly matched the print effects and die cuts, not to mention the extraordinary stories being told.

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Nest remains a unique publication, much noted at the time and fondly remembered (and collected – copies regularly appear on eBay). Stories about its demise revolve around Holtzman working through his family inheritance to produce the magazine, although he’s quoted at the time as becoming bored with the project and wanting to move on.

I also found a lovely quote from an interview by Steven Heller that’s newly relevant, ‘I like to show the Great Houses, but in a different way. It’s interesting to a young reader to understand that these places were in bad taste, sort of Donald Trump, when they were first built.’

Apparently Holtzman  retired to upstate New York, but if anyone has news of him I’d love to hear it.

Re– Magazine, #8, 2002

List magazine

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magCulture Meets: OOMK

We’re kicking off our 2017 magCulture Meets programme by welcoming the team from London-based zine One of My Kind (OOMK) to talk about their recent research trip to Malaysia and their exploration of the self-publishing scene they found there. 

Hear from editors Heiba Lamara and Sofia Niazi, along with designer Rose Nordin, about the magazines they discovered and the local editors, artists, shop owners and designers they met, as well as their collaboration with Kuala Lumpur-based mag Odd One Out, which culminated in a one-day zine event bringing together the self-publishing figures they met during the project. The team will also introduce their latest publication (below), an overview of the publications they discovered.

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This is a unique chance to hear about the thriving indie scene in Malaysia.

Thursday 2 February 2016, from 6.30pm


Book your ticket


magCulture Shop
270 St John Street
London EC1V 4PE

Doors opens at 6.30pm and the talk will kick off at 7pm.

magCulture Meets… is a monthly talk series. Each evening will provide the opportunity to share a beer with fellow magCulturalists and hear a magazine-maker discuss their project in an informal, relaxed atmosphere.

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We’re grateful to Park Communications for their support of magCulture Meets

Pli #2

Architecture and publishing have enjoyed a long relationship, perhaps because the theory, discussion and advance of architecture can be more quickly accommodated in print than in the form of a real life building. The 2011 book (and exhibition) Click Stamp Fold provided historical context for the form, and showed that many such mags are small, zine-like publications. Local favourite Real Review is just one recent example in that vein. But new French title Pli is a bilingual, heftier publication, and  expressly links the worlds of architecture and publishing.

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The editor’s letter asks several questions, with  ‘How to bring graphic designers, publishers and architects to work together?’ being the central one. We’ve selected Pli as our Magazine of the Week because it does exactly that very successfully. It looks fantastic, using a strong, structural approach that speaks of its subject while being highly readable. The two languages are simply split, generally leading with French since that’s its country of origin. The lead language uses a satisfyingly large type size, and the translation is significantly smaller across two narrower columns; this simple shift provides just enough pace through the pages.

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The design structure is emphasised by using only black ink; the first issue was far more colourful but for this one, themed ‘Formats,’ the team have stripped it down to black and white. The simple format of the design shines through in monochrome from the cover on.

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This is emphasised by a brief colour section about book formats, and the generous insertion of extra full-colour elements: fold-out posters, illustrations and cards are slotted thoughout, separate items that jump at you colourfully. Each one is inserted at a precise point, alongside a page carrying a description of the object (size and format) and subject. It’s a clever way to position the black and white main part as purposefully colourless.

Some of the content concerns subjects familiar from other contemporary architectural reviews: urban sprawl, the rebirth of Detroit, the divided city of Paris. But alongside these are essays linked more closely to publishing; the key essay for me is Giaime Meloni’s reflection on form versus content, which opens with the wonderful quotation from poet Stéphane Mallarmé, ‘Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.’

Pli is a beautiful piece of print that’s been well-conceived to reflect its subject and theme for this second issue. I’m intrigued to see how they’ll adapt it for issue three, Conflict.

Editors: Christopher Dessus, Marion Claret, Adrien Rapin, Margeaux Desombre and Thomas Lapointe
Design: Jean-Baptiste Parré

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