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Ariane Spanier, Fukt
At work with

Ariane Spanier, Fukt

Berlin-based graphic designer Ariane Spanier is creative director of Fukt, the annual magazine of contemporary drawing. Recent issues have seen Fukt establish an increasingly enthusiastic audience for its unique collections of themed artworks that sit somewhere between pure art and commercial illustration. We meet Ariane as issue 19, themed Storytelling, is published.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work.
Fukt has two studios. My design studio is usually where the magazine making happens. It’s next to our home apartment, so there is no Monday morning journey. Björn, founder and editor of Fukt, goes to his studio a few blocks away, its also very close.

Our kids go to a nearby school and walk alone. A typical Monday starts with coffee and emails. Usually an assistant would come in at 9:30 or 10am, but since March we’ve work remotely. It is a temporary situation however.

We only met with our editorial team for the latest Fukt issue in the studio, but during that time infection numbers went up again. But for myself nothing changed much in the sense that my studio was here for the last ten years, so everything is in place. I didn’t have to install my work situation new at home.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see from where you sit.
Usually my desk is a little chaotic because most of the time I work on several projects simultaneously, each of them often requiring reference materials or samples. While I eventually clean and tidy, three hours later I would pull out color books from the shelf again, tape, pencils, notebooks, coffee cups adds to the picture. Yesterday we were shooting a little promotional Fukt video, so the studio changes from one day to another at times.

My studio is on a (normally) very busy street in Berlin Kreuzberg, where people use to go out to bars, to eat, to clubs or where a street party could happen at any time in late summer midnights with a band playing until the police comes, where every Saturday would be demonstrations (against or for whatever) and honking cars passing through from Turkish or Arabic wedding celebrations.

It’s eerily silent these days in the nights. But in normal times, when all is open, there is noise and crowds on that street. The studio windows, however, face the back. Our space reaches through two connecting buildings, it is very calm back here, I see trees in front of the windows, with birds that chirp in spring and summer.

I look into neighboring lofts as the distance isn’t very far to the next buildings (that are again the back buildings of another street). This is a former workers area in Berlin where in most of the courtyards you’d find old industrial buildings, because production happened inside the cities. Our space was a button factory once.

Sum up your 2020 – highs and lows.
The year started hopeful, looking forward to some far away travels and some lovely projects. We managed a short vacation trip to Prague by train in February. We were so proud we didn’t fly. By now it has been a year since I last stepped on a plane (which is good of course).

The lowest definitely was the Berlin lockdown in spring – although it was kind of moderate compared to other places in the world. It was exhausting to combine work and homeschooling our kids in the same time, they were home for two or three months.

In the beginning we had this ‘dystopian excitement spike’, we biked through empty Berlin, visited sites that usually are crowded by tourists, but after a while, no one was up for anything anymore, every day was the same and our sense of time went completely missing. I worked through many nights because during the days I hardly could concentrate. It felt like we were imprisoned not only in our home and our city but also in our minds, certain ideas or plans were simply not there to make.

We were about to start with the next issue of Fukt when it all happened in March and had to delay the issue, because there was no time. The days were filled with (trying to) homeschool (which was completely left to the parents, no online meets for the kids with teachers), making breakfast, lunch, take a walk and work on the design jobs that had more urgent deadlines, then dinner. When I write it like that it doesn’t sound so bad at all, but basically we had gotten another job on top of our regular ones. At some point we didn’t think we would do one issue at all this year.

Highs? First of all, we made it until now! And we did manage to put together a new Fukt issue that we are really happy with and we even got it out before Christmas!

The few trips we took nearby we really enjoyed. We even made it to Sweden in summer, a short break into an almost normal.
While some work was cancelled, other jobs emerged, so there was never that existential crisis regarding work. School started again regularly, finally the kids were in a social context again that was so much needed for them, learning and being with friends. And for us our only chance to put this new issue No. 19 together.

But I also think it is fine to say that this is just not the greatest of all years.

We will certainly remember 2020 though, I am sometimes wondering what we’ll think about it in five years! And we manage. So the highs may not be super highs really, but they are above the lows. Which is fine I think because demanding from ourselves to be having the best of times during a global pandemic with loads of restrictions to our lives, is just unfair.

Which magazine do you first remember?
FRÖSI (short for German ‘Fröhlich sein und Singen’ - ‘be happy and sing’) printed on incredibly bad paper, would be the first, being an east German ‘Pioneer magazine for girls and boys’, pioneers being the obligatory youth organization kids had to join. It was a bit boring, having state conform editors behind it - politically in line with east German socialist ideology. But since it was the only mag I remember existed for kids (except some comics) I enjoyed it anyway.

Later the teen magazine Bravo followed shortly after the wall fell. Though in my group of friends we tried to down-talk this one, also a little in opposition to that new stuff that was flowing in from the west. But secretly everybody read it anyway because of Dr. Sommer’s sex tips, answering ‘questions’ by teenagers, who I am sure were all written by the editors.

Which magazine do you value more than any other right now?
Let me be brutally honest (the German way): I don’t really read magazines. Fully aware that’s a terrible thing to say here! But to my excuse, I feel I am on the other side: I make one. It’s certainly not that I am not interested, rather overwhelmed by all what’s out there (and yes there is so much good!)

Alright here’s one though, because Björn loves it: Arts of the Working Class, which is a really good street journal for poverty, wealth & art sold by homeless people in Berlin (Not made by them).

Describe Fukt in three words.

The new issue is here! What’s the theme, what’s special about this 19th issue?
The theme this year is storyline - we look at narrative drawings - including fine arts, comics and illustration. It’s a broad theme, and that reflects in the diversity of expressions and origin of the contributors, from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

In some way this issue is the most intimate until now, telling very private and personal stories through images and interviews. We feature 24 artists, and everyone has a unique story to tell, as we all do if we start to inquire. We talked to big names like comic legend Chris Ware on subjects like ‘home’ and ‘sadness’ or illustrator Brian Rea about his book on Death taking a sabbatical, but we also feature contributions that reached us through an open call, artists and drawings we might have never encountered otherwise.

There is Adela Marie Jirku who tells us the story of a lady that her parents ‘inherited’ together with a farm they’ve purchased and how that deaf and mute woman influenced her when she was a child and how they were drawing together.

Somehow this issue is the most emotional one so far, and also there is a lot of honesty in it, because it touches on personal stories much more than usually.

What do we learn about storytelling – is there a common message from the contributors?
The subjects vary, with personal topics like childhood, death and family history or how to survive a pandemic, and for sure just pure imagination as well. I think a common message is the power of the story, be it in drawings, written or told. Our whole existence is based on stories, our human history is made of them. Our memories often are constructed stories, yet they define us, our identity as individuals and as societies.

But as humans we also not only use stories for making up and defining ourselves: we do share, if we are aware of it or not, a history of drawing. Drawings were used way before writing existed as a form of expression, but also for communication and story-preserving, which started on the cave walls, and I think it’s part of our ongoing fascination with that basic and immediate art form.

It feels so natural and pure, that’s also why all kids draw as soon as they can hold a pencil, later most people unlearn it or loose the joy in it because they feel they never mastered it. But it is, as our verbal and written languages are - a tool for personal expression and telling the stories you want to tell.

What’s your favourite part of the issue?
From my designer perspective obviously the cover is very important as it is the first thing people see in a store, if they don’t know the mag from before it really has to kick ass to catch their attention. So many, including myself just picking up books or magazines because of their covers.

The issue’s cover (above) is folded together into flaps and it reads the title and theme of the magazine. But once you pull it out to its full format, it literally unfolds into something else. Words change into new words, making different sense, revealing hidden messages that weren’t there before. In a story there is always an evolving element, and this is something I tried to catch this time.

But it is as a concept not entirely new to Fukt. The last issue, ‘System’ had disks that were breaking the word system apart when you turned them (above). And once I used little chains on a cover to change the linear shapes of the title letters. To me this type of design - playful, revealing or surprising - is in a sense a demonstration of care.

For my work, for design, for ideas, for the audience, only if I take what I do very seriously I can add something to the world of design and in this case magazines. I cannot really influence how people will perceive it in the end, but this is what I have to give, always hopeful it’ll bring a little moment of joy to someone.

I do enjoy looking at drawings through the lens of a theme. Since we are a small team, we mostly decide for the content together, we edit around in each others texts, some texts are written by three or four people, and while doing that we discuss lots about drawing in general. With this issue we talked what storytelling means, because it is such an over used term in advertising and social media.

And regarding drawings: which drawings are not telling a story? Do they have to be sequential or is one image enough? With every issue we broaden our knowledge and explore the world of drawing little more, which is an ever evolving field as long as there are people on earth I believe.

What’s going to be the highlight of the coming week for you?
Nothing special, days are still very same same right now (again), but cooking up some new merch for fukt, finishing some other projects i am working on since a while, continuing others. I enjoy my work, so the outlook of a steady flow isn’t a highlight per se but something i always look forward to.

Maybe a coffee walk out side with a friend or a drink at a backyard campfire.

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