032c #37, ‘The Black Hole Catalogue’
The latest issue of 032c contains a surprise in its centre. ‘The Black Hole Catalogue: Tools for Extinction’ appears suddenly in the glossy mag, monochrome and papery.
This climate disaster toolkit is a pastiche of Stewart Brand’s American counter-culture magazine, Whole Earth Catalogue, published between 1968 and 1972. While the Whole Earth Catalogue was infamously subtitled ‘We are as gods and might as well get used to it’, BHC’s intro page declares ‘We are not as gods and better stop fucking acting like we are’. WEC offered a positive outlook on the world, offering, according to The New Yorker, ‘a vision for a new social order—one that eschewed institutions in favor of individual empowerment, achieved through the acquisition of skills and tools.’
Black Hole Catalogue is clearly more cynical about the future. It seeks to offer last-resort solutions to the ‘crisis-ridden planetary environment we inhabit today’. The parody has, for the most part, kept the same earnest tone of WEC, offering real products, books, websites, instructions and resources. There is an element of humour, but that’s black too. A great example is ‘Pay Away Your Eco-Guilt’ (above) which at first I laughed at, thinking it was a joke. It’s not – for a small fortune carbonfund.org really will offset your personal carbon footprint. And while the segment titled ‘How to Build a 1792 Guillotine’ (below) is (probably) a joke, you could definitely do it if you followed the instructions.
The majority of the products and books listed are either free, or available to purchase at the link under the entry (rather than a phone number or address, as seen in the original catalogue). The designers (Interiors Agency) have carefully mimicked the typeface and design of WEC; the catalogue is an aesthetic lost to time, thanks to the internet. It looks almost fresh, situated between the high-end photoshoots and glossy ads for Lanvin and Birkenstock.
Whole Earth Catalogue printed information on skills and tools that ranged from books, maps and guides to digital technologies, courses, garden tools and chainsaws. In the pages of Black Hole Catalogue you’ll find a different type of tool: ‘How To Mine Your Computer For Gold’, ‘How to Get Free Lumber’ and ‘How to Compost’. Also included is essential reading, information verging that picks up where WEC left off, but verging on conspiracy theory : ‘Overpopulation is a Racist Myth’, ‘Who is Funding the US Fossil Fuel Lobby?’ ‘Green New Deal, American Ed.’, ‘How to Lobby Your Representatives’ and ‘Where Not to Move’.
Black Hole Catalogue might appear to serve as a deviation from 032c’s usual programme of art and fashion, but I’m reminded of the early issues of the Berlin mag that took the form of a newsprint zine rather than a 300-page glossy. As 032c approaches its 20th anniversary, the inclusion of Black Hole Catalogue is a nice nod to the magazine’s origins.
Editor-in-chief: Joerg Koch
Creative director: Mike Meiré