Anja Dietmann, Pfeil
German artist Anja Dietmann works with the meanings and confusions of language across performance, music, sculpture, and publishing.
She is also one of the founding members of publishing house Montez Press and, since 2012, publisher of Pfeil Magazine—a publication she describes as ‘an exhibition in the form of a magazine.’ Each issue is dedicated to a single word.
We meet her as the pink-filled 16th issue of Pfeil goes on sale. Themed ‘Friends’, the issue is a typically varied combination of written texts and imagery that develop organically over time, intelligently designed to let the different make the most of the large pages.
What are you up to this morning?
Usually, I get up at 6.30am, have my first coffee, read articles before I head out at 8am to the dog park with Emma (above). We stay for an hour to meet Emma’s friends and their owners to have a chat—maybe like at the kindergarten. I’ve met new people there who work in different fields, like a 33 year old judge from whom we got our flat, and a costume designer who asked me to assist her for a TV series. By 9am we are back, and I respond to emails, edit texts and so on.
Describe your desk and your work space
At home I have a small studio, where I work on texts, music, and sculpture. There are musical instruments on the wall, but when I am on my own during daytime, I switch rooms for different tasks, to be focused. I love to work in the kitchen, or have a zoom call at the living room, with my colleagues from Montez Press.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Reiterjournal, a German magazine about horses which we had next to the toilet in the ’80s. My father worked as a horse-riding teacher, and it was his professional journal before the internet, with announcements for upcoming tournaments, horses for sale, advertisements and articles about prominent athletes. In the beginning I studied the photographs and then I started to learn reading with it.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Starship Magazine, which has been published since 1998 in Berlin. It contains artist’s writings in German and English. Dedicated to ‘apokolypse of the praktikal moment’, the last issue came out with the first lockdown, a strange coincidence since an issue takes time to produce and the pandemic couldn’t have been foreseen.
I have most of the issues, but I am still missing the eighth one, called ‘The year we have been nowhere’. This issue contains only advertisements, and even though I know how much time and effort it takes to put together a magazine, the theme of the issue may be interpreted as the editors not having been at work.
Describe Pfeil in three words
Printed exhibition, magazine
How do you source the artist’s work for each issue?
Once the theme of an issue is decided we search for the artists in relation to their work. Before the invitations are sent out, we do research. Google has the same answers, and I have the same ideas, so we ask artists who’ve already contributed for recommendations. We are interested in, and curious for, new content.
The artists have two months to work on their contribution, and then the editing and copy-editing process starts, which takes another two or three months. Mainly the text contributions are sent back and forth between the artists, me, and our copywriter Stacy Skolnik. The texts develop like conversations. The content is made up of these received contributions, which we can’t foresee at the beginning. If something seems not to work, we try to develop it or ask for an existing piece.
Is it difficult to make all the very different contributions work together?
The more different the contributions are, the better the magazine is—contrasting works support each other. It also depends on the issue’s theme. For instance, the 15th issue was dedicated to ‘Bread’, and we received a work about history of LSD in relation to rye, held an interview with sister Ruth about their host production at the monastery, but then there are also a lot of pictures of croissants and baguettes.
This was a challenge for the graphic designers to put all these kinds of bread in contrast. At the end everything worked out well. ‘Pfeil’ translates to ‘arrow’, and that very thought pushes the issue in different directions.
You describe how the pages ‘represent the floor, walls, or ceiling which together create an imagined room displaying a printed exhibition.’ Can you enlarge on that statement?
The magazine was founded because we were searching for new exhibition places in Hamburg while studying. Then the idea came up instead of doing an actual exhibition, we do a printed one in the format of a magazine which can be brought to different places. For the magazine launches we transform this printed exhibition somehow into the real space through performances.
For instance, for issue five, we went to a horse tracking race in Hamburg, and bet every time on the fifth horse, in Berlin at Spike we had ice cream, and all visitors had five scoops, not more and less. The 16th issue dedicated to ‘Friend’, was recently launched at the London Performance Studios. We had readings, concerts, which we broadcasted at the same time on Montez Press Radio. And then we had also friendship bracelets made by the artist Anne Schwätzler (above), and visitors could find their perfect platonic match.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Sending out the invitations for the next issue of the magazine, themed ‘High.’ I’m already curious about the responses as the theme can be so widely interpreted. Not only do we need to deal with intoxication, I think also about class, politics, spiritualism, and shoe heights.
Editors Anja Dietmann and Julia Lerch Zajaczkowska
Design Julian Mader and Max Prediger