At Work With Fabian Saul, Flaneur
Our first first At Work With of the new year takes us to Germany to catch up with Fabian Saul, editor-in-chief of Flaneur, the magazine that presents a single street each issue. In addition to his work on the magazine, Fabian is an author, artist and film music composer. Here he looks ahead at his week as the second issue of Flaneur, based on Leipzig’s Georg-Schwarz-Straße, is published.
Where are you today?
I’m on the train to Leipzig this morning. I’m meeting one of our contributors, Martin Wühler, in a bit. I didn’t find the time to see his exhibition when we came to Leipzig in December for our launch. He did a collaboration with Hendrik Bündge for our latest issue, above. It’s a sci-fi story set in 2065 looking back onto the year 2014 and is set on Georg-Schwarz-Straße in Leipzig, the street this issue evolves around. After our meeting, I will meet another artist from Leipzig that I’m composing a film music for a video installation for. She has her studio at the Spinnerei, a huge complex of galleries and artist studios in the city, so I’ll take some time to check out the exhibitions before I'll head back to Berlin tonight.
Describe the street outside your office.
Well, as my office is the train today, it might be described best by a picture from the latest issue, above. It also shows the lyrics to a song I’ve composed for the street. On the tram ride to the end of the street, the passing trees appeared like black birches and – as it is quite foggy outside – it reminds me of that story.
Do you work better in the morning or the evening?
Mornings are good for writing, evenings better for composing and developing ideas. I try to split my days as much as possible like that. To me writing is a very solid craft, something that can be executed according to a time schedule. Composing or visual works are different to me. You need a lot of time just waiting for the right thing to happen and a lot of good things happen when you‘re actually in a hurry or in the middle of the night. If you start planning those processes, you lose more than you gain.
Flaneur uses a larger format than many recent independent launches and features varied papers, french folds and special inks. How important is this physical aspect of the magazine?
It’s very important indeed. We chose to make a print magazine because we believe it’s the right format for our content and this means that it has to have a certain physical presence. I don’t think Flaneur is a publication that people just read in one go, it works more like a book of collected stories. You have to have the chance to put it away, go back to it again and it’s important that it has a smell, a feel, is an object that you want to spend time with. That’s why at Flaneur the designers are not just graphic designers, but art directors in the best sense of the word. Translating the fragmented content into an object with a certain rhythm is a challenge that at Flaneur we work constantly together on. And Studio Y-U-K-I-K-O did a great job on this issue again. There’s obvious stuff and hidden stuff, glossy stuff and stuff that you will only see the third time you read a page and all these physical layers are important to represent and add to the layers of the content.
How do you decide which street to feature? And will they always be German?
Deciding on the streets has been a very intuitive process so far. The first issue‘s street, Kantstraße in Berlin-Charlottenburg, was chosen by Ricarda Messner, our publisher. She lived abroad for a while and when she came back developed a new interest in the neighbourhood of her childhood. That was the angle for the first issue.
Grashina Gabelmann, the other editor-in-chief, and me chose the street for the second issue. We went to Leipzig and felt a frightening, dark vibe on Georg-Schwarz-Straße and wanted to explore where it comes from, why we felt uncomfortable there. For our third issue, we’ll head to Montréal, so no, we won’t stay in Germany. There are no boundaries and we’re blessed with an endless supply of streets.
Your magazine is one of several recent independents (eg Der Wedding, Boat) using the local to explore the general. Why do think this is happening now?
In times where every corner of the world is just a stone-throw away and we live in a hyper-connected world, the local becomes the foreign and unknown, so there’s definitely a certain Zeitgeist that triggers these publications. At the same time, I believe they are all quite different.
The publications you’ve mentioned are both clearly journalistic publications to me – Der Wedding heading for a rather sociological approach and Boat promising to ‘travel to the heart of a city’. All we promise our readers is that ‘This could be Kantstraße’ and ‘This could be Georg-Schwarz-Straße’, so I believe for someone that is looking for guidance, they would rather get lost in Flaneur. We are a literary publication. We tell stories and every good story has something universal, something that someone can relate to at the other side of the world. The street just sets our boundaries - we don’t intend to portray it, we simply take it as material. And I also believe that in a world of endless supply of material, such a strict conceptual limitation is a way to save our selves of getting lost.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
I’m really looking forward to go back to Georg-Schwarz-Straße for lunch today. When you arrive there from Merseburger Straße and see the house no. 1 there’s something magical about it.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
I’m going to sort of my works from the last years at the weekend. It’s something I do from time to time, like an inventory, it’s like going to a dark archive for two days and reliving the past months. I’ve been postponing it for a while, because I don’t like it very much. You usually find some treasures and things that will inspire you once more, but also everything that’s been lost on the way.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Getting breakfast at this little French café in the South of Leipzig and go through my plans for this week.