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Agnese Zīle, Nork magazine
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Agnese Zīle, Nork magazine

We loved the last issue of Nork, the illustration magazine from the far north of Norway, and it was little surprise it won last year’s illustration title at the Stack Awards. As the fifth issue arrives we catch up with founder Agnese Zīle, who travelled to Tromsø from Latvia and was inspired to stay. Here, she talks about her coming week and the new issue.

How do you start your week?
Nork is a small publication. Besides working on the magazine, I have a “day job”, so my week starts there, Monday and Wednesday evenings are dedicated to Norwegian language courses. I try to take one or two days in a week off work, to work on Nork.

My office, as you can guess, is my apartment. If I feel that it will be one of those days when rather than focusing on work, I will make a nice & big breakfast, clean the bathroom, watch one or five episodes of something or find other distractions, I tend to go out to the city and work in one of the cafes.

My favorite places around Tromsø are a small vegan café and a house for young, creative people called Tvibit (that is where, by the way, the idea about Nork was born). I like to walk to the city (it takes around 40min), just to clear my head and to get in the right mood.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your studio/office
My desk is as simple and clean as it can be. What I need to work is my laptop, maybe some magazines lying around for inspiration and lots of coffee. A good pen is important too as I am quite old-school and like to write my to-do-lists by hand. Other than that I can work everywhere, lying on the couch, at my desk, on the balcony.

From my window I can see Tromsø island and mountain tops. That is, when it is not polar night. Right now it is getting darker and darker with each day and soon it will be only two hours of faded light in a day, the rest of the time it will be dark, with only some citylights to look at.

Which magazine do you first remember?
My mom is an upcycling fashion designer and she has been sewing as far as I can remember her, so the first magazine that I wrapped my hands around must be Burda- a fashion magazine that contains patterns for clothing designs. I was more into books back then, I only started appreciating magazines much, much later in my life, in my 20s I think.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Jezga. It’s very special to me for many reasons, but mostly because it features artists from Latvia (that’s where I am from) and it warms my heart somehow (I guess we all want to be proud of the places we come from, and Jezga does that for me). As they say it themselves, Jezga is an art, fashion and photography magazine with an Eastern European twist. I have also met their editor-in-chief Anna, she’s nice!

I also love Benji Knewman (born in Latvia too) and ex Norwegian magazine A New Type of Imprint. I am truly sad it is not being published anymore, it was inspiring publication.

Describe Nork in three words
A good friend

What do you hope Nork tells the rest of the world about Norway?
I hope it twists the stereotypes of what Norway (especially the North) is. When I first came to Tromsø, it seemed that the city (and art too) was built around such clichés as dog sledding and northern lights. I wanted to find and tell the real stories of artists that live and work here, to feature their work.

How do you decide on the creative theme for each issue?
Each time it is different. Sometimes it is without doubt- this is the one! Sometimes it is a discussion.

It is a mix of open call and my research (sometimes also tips from my art team and my editor). I like to read different things and explore works of different artists, so usually I just dm the ones I like a lot and see fit well in Nork.

Give us a sense of the new issue of Nork: the theme, some highlights
Nork volume five is dedicated to the holy cosmos, the universe which engulfs us all with its dark matter, planets, galaxies and comets. The theme was inspired by my art team – Bobo in Paradise – as they were working on a space-themed video installation to be shown in an old cathedral in Estonia. We got caught up in it and wanted to explore it more. It is also a bit linked to the current situation I think, as now we want to escape from the everyday and life-on-earth more than ever, and where best to go than fly to space?

We've approached space from several different angles, both in a literal and a more abstract sense. The result is a starry mixture of out-of-this-world illustrations, bold photography and contemporary stories, poems and interviews that aim to make you forget about rainy days, pandemics, mad politicians and what's for dinner.

The highlight of this issue (for me) are works by Sarker Protick. He has been my inspiration in photography since forever and I still cannot believe that his work is featured in the latest Nork. I even have a screenshot with my lock screen where I have few insta dms from him, just as a reminder that everything (as cliché as this sounds) is possible.

Share one piece of publishing/business advice that has helped you
Ask for advice.

My advice to myself: sometimes it is ok to make a nice & big breakfast, clean the bathroom, watch one or five episodes of something or do something else instead of working. In a way, it is a working process as well.

Looking ahead, what are you excited about this week?
There are only a few events that highlight life here above the arctic circle and one of them happens to be this weekend. Insomnia is an annual festival for innovative electronic music. They have put together a great program this year and there will be a contemporary concert that will take place in the Arctic Cathedral – only five minutes’ walk from my apartment.

Read our post about Nork #4

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