Bertie Brandes, Civilization
With four weeks left until magCulture Live, our latest speaker Q&A is with writer/editor Bertie Brandes. One of the founders of Mushpit, since the demise of that magazine Bertie has been working with Richard Turley and Lucas Mascatello on their absurdist New York broadsheet Civilization. She shares her week and thoughts about magazines.
What are you doing today?
I'm currently working remotely for an advertising agency writing copy lines for a client who shall Remain Nameless. This mainly entails creating a copy matrix on a Google sheet which I leave unfilled for hours while alternating between episodes of ‘Peep Show’ and scrolling through Twitter. every morning I wake up wondering how and when this phase of my life will end. Later I’m going to buy a box of sea salt and go to reformer pilates.
Who/what inspired you to work in magazine publishing?
I don’t think I ever set out to work in magazines although I did like some growing up. I was never really into the culture of magazines, which is probably why im still not, but I loved ‘Sabrina’s Secrets’ and comics like The Beano and later on Viz.
The escapism you can create in magazines is amazing, little snatches of a sentence hidden in the corner of a page. I'm so bored of the same old image-interview-advert formula. Who is it for? I think I was probably more inspired to stop working publishing than I ever was to start.
How did you get to be working on Civilization?
I met Richard Turley because he saw this deranged feature I’d put in an old issue of my magazine Mushpit called ‘Who’s Muff’ (it was exactly what you’re imagining it to be) and got in touch.
He art directed issue 10, the final issue of Mushpit and it was just beautiful, it felt like everything I’d always dreamed a magazine should be like, packed full of words, soggy with all these different thoughts and feelings.
Really funny but totally pathetic, relevant but detached from reality - totally absurd and messy. Looking back on it now it’s the most honest thing I’ve ever worked on and I’ll love Richard forever for his help in getting it there. I kind of forced him to be my mentor during that process and then just my friend so when he started Civilization I knew it would be genius.
I worked on issue three from New York and then back in London and then from NY again. If you've read it you’ll know it was a bit messy. :). As the best things always are.
Please share a single story/page from the newspaper that sums it up.
Lucas’s diagrams always sum everything up really well. I mean truthfully it’s his and Richard’s baby and I’m just sort of lurking in some iMessage convos with them. I guess for me it’s less about specific features and more about the whole effect of it.
There are lines in the paper that make me feel physically sick. I think the point is, looking back, the whole thing feels kind of grotesque and that’s the idea. It's like being forced to watch a recording of yourself having sex right after you just had sex. No thanks! But also. Yeah I will.
How can magazines make a difference in 2019?
I dont knowwwww… I’m kind of a downer when it comes to this. I feel like most fashion magazines are portfolios for people to flex their connections in the industry, which I am like, honestly stop wasting paper by printing sustainable fashion stories and give us a break.
The photography can be amazing but the magazines themselves read really weird. A magazine is like an artistic corporation, you can develop an entire identity and worldview through this shady, multi-dimensional tone of voice. Amazing. But more often than not, it's just 22 year olds interviewing musicians about body positivity. Not my thing. I like sort of cringey memoir. More of that.
Who are you looking forward to hearing/meeting at magCulture live London 2019?
Myself! and you! It’s going to be great. Let’s get me a job.
Hear more from Bertie at magCulture Live on 7 November. Check the Eventbrite page for the complete, final line-up for the day.