Irene de Craen, Errant Journal
Art historian Irene de Craen worked for a series of experimental art spaces and platforms in The Netherlands before becoming disillusioned with the role of art in our societies.
She left her role as artistic director at Hotel Maria Kapel, an exhibition space and cinema, and started Errant Journal, a biannual magazine whose name neatly sums up the wish to adopt an academic approach while wandering from accepted norms. As she explains, the Journal ‘provides me with the ideal form to work on the questions I’ve had for many years.’
Irene shares her working week as issue four of Errant Journal arrives in shops, themes ‘States of Statelessness’.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
This was one of those lucky mornings where I get up when I am done sleeping (I never set an alarm). I say lucky, because lately I am often crudely awoken by about 6am because the new next door neighbour girl screaming bloody murder. Apparently she doesn’t like getting up that early either.
I’ve since spent some time on my couch and watched the news [insert coffee no1]. A routine that is an almost meditative activity that I need in order to accept the realities of another day.
Still on the couch, I answered some emails [insert coffee no2] after which I moved on to my kitchen table/desk for the more serious stuff [insert coffee no3]. This is when I do my best writing and thinking of the day, so obviously that’s where and when I am writing to you now.
When I feel I got the best stuff out (I work extremely fast in this period of the day) I do some yoga and have a shower. Refreshed, I can start the next part of my day [insert coffee no4, possibly 5]. By the end of the afternoon my brain doesn’t function as well anymore. If possible, this is the moment I move on to more ‘passive’ activities such as reading or doing admin (which I actually like!).
Unfortunately, right now the schedule is packed because I am working on several publications (gotta pay the rent!), as well as the next issue of Errant titled ‘Learning from Ancestors’. So at the moment, reading is only confined to the short time before going to sleep, if I manage to keep my eyes open that is.
Where are you?
Although Errant is officially based in Amsterdam, I couldn’t afford the rising costs of living there anymore so I moved to Berlin two years ago. I now live in a lovely ‘Altbau’ studio apartment in Neukölln.
Because I work from home, the routine described above takes place in a very small area; the couch is within two metres of the bed, the table about three metres form the couch… I break the monotony of this routine by working from a café once or twice a week. When the weather is good, I move onto the balcony where I’ve put a couch that I can lie on when I read. Total bliss.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Not the most interesting answer, but I guess this must be Tina; a Dutch magazine for teenage girls about actors and pop singers, make-up tips and other stuff teenage girls will find exciting… I can‘t remember much of its contents, but do remember how exciting it was to wait for it to arrive in the mail…
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
I am a big fan of The Funambulist. Someone introduced me to it when I was about to launch the first issue. It was scary for me at first, because after two years of working, you don’t want to find out there already is a magazine like yours out there! Luckily, although we are definitely interested in some of the same issues, we have very different approaches resulting in very distinct magazines (phew!).
Describe your magazine in three words.
Poetics of Relation
You’re an art historian, and have been involved with digital platforms and live art events. Why launch a print magazine?
I have a background in visual art yes, first as an artist, then as an art historian. But I’ve always loved printed matter, was an avid reader as a kid, published several publications related to art projects, and was an editor and writer for several magazines over the years.
But the real inception of Errant—and perhaps permanent move to this medium—took place later. Before I started Errant, I was the artistic director of an artist-in-residence, exhibition space and cinema in The Netherlands. Influenced by decolonial theory and colonial history, I became more and more disillusioned with the position of art in our societies.
So-called autonomous art—defined by a violent history of the actions of mostly white men—is put on a pedestal and considered as somehow separate and of higher value than all other cultural expressions or production of knowledges. I wanted to address this, but found that this is very hard to do within the space of an art exhibition, as any non-art object or information is instantly turned into an art object or event.
This is how the white cube functions, and after a—in my eyes—failed attempt to solve this within the space of the exhibition, I decided to quit my job, and take some time off to think about it. It was then that I thought of starting Errant Journal.
For this, I was greatly inspired by Édouard Glissant who with his concept of the poetics of relation, opposes ideas of centres, linearity, roots and dichotomy, and especially the idea of universality as ‘the dominant Western conception of universality as a mechanism of ideological conformity turns difference into sameness in order to dominate it.’
I find that in the printed form, I can bring very different knowledges together without them becoming subject to this sameness, or a particular reading that is created by the white cube. Instead, we try to embrace opacity and a radical plurality. I am sure there will come a time when I butt heads with the limitations of this medium too, but for now it provides me with the ideal form to work on the questions I’ve had for many years. And considering my long term relation with and love for printed matter, it really makes more sense than anything I’ve done before.
You work with an impressively broad and international selection of contributors. How do you find these specialists?
Thanks. Coming from the art world, I am so tired of seeing the same faces, saying and doing the same things, and seemingly always under the rubric of being ‘new’ and ‘experimental’.
Part of the concept of Errant is finding ways to present radically different epistemologies and question the ways knowledge is produced. To achieve this, Errant has an advisory committee that reflects the wide range of expertise of geographies and disciplines that we are looking for (I hope to expand this committee much further).
From the third issue, as suggested by the advisors, Errant also has an open call for each issue that is spread in the networks of the advisors, as well as that of past contributors. Additionally, and especially to make sure the selection is ‘impressively broad and international’, I search for contributors myself, often informed by some piece of information that vaguely hangs around in my brain.Check our contributors list here.
I have the memory of an elephant when it comes to curious bits of information: I’ll remember reading or hearing about some peculiar history of something for many years, often things that seem uneventful, arbitrary, or just plain weird, but to me somehow relates to much bigger social political issues and for that reason has gotten stuck in my mind.
With Errant I finally have a place for these odd pieces of information, and so I just start Googling, or asking around until I found someone who can write about it.
Issue four is printed on leftover paper. Tell us more about the process and meaning of this.
For us, the way we do things is just as important as the content, and this attitude permeates all areas of the organisation and working processes. The decision to print on leftover paper is a response to the worldwide paper shortage, as well as the need to be environmentally conscious. I don’t want the journal to turn into a different kind of white cube, that ignores the realities of the world while still pretending to ‘critically’ address them.
It is a coincidence it came together with the issue titled States of Statelessness, but that combination also made me realise (even more) how incredibly political paper is. In this same issue, we included woodcut posters that are part of A Paper Monument for the Paperless, an ongoing art project by Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries (above), as well as an essay by the Palestinian artist and researcher Isshaq Albarbary whose current ID card states his nationality as ‘unknown’ and his place of birth the code ‘XXX’. It was an experiment, but we like it so much we want to keep doing it like this.
And yes, this means that every copy is slightly different!
Share an essay from issue four that best reflects what the magazine stands for.
This is hard because, as with all magazines I suppose, it is all about the interplay between articles—to single one out defeats the point. But, OK, if I have to pick one, I pick ‘Notes on a Revolution (or at least a hope)’ by Asia Bazdyrieva & Alevtina Kakhidze (who also illustrated this contribution).
I like this contribution because it is actually a bit of a critique to our own open call, or rather to the Western European way of thinking. Having both left their home country Ukraine due to the full scale invasion and attempted annexation of the country by Russia, Bazdyrieva and Kakhidze express doubt regarding the critique of the nation state because it emerges from a position of former empires and is not universally applicable.
Ukraine is only now becoming a nation state, and one that is not the product of imperial power or the ethnonationalist ideas of the 18/19th centuries, but rather one that is formed in opposition to these concepts. According to them, in the case of Ukraine, ‘the concept of a nation state—a product of European imperial imagination of romantic times—[…] has morphed into something else.’
This something else, or ‘hybrid and inclusive Ukrainianness’ is ‘far more than a territory or a uniform identity. It is a social contract that includes detachment from fixed identities, circulation of resources, multitude, absence of the center, self-regulation, trust.’ One of the reasons for starting Errant—and the part that perhaps give me the greatest joy—is learning about radically different positions that are able to truly humble you and your own perspective on things. It complicates everything, and that is something beautiful.
How do you fund Errant Journal?
Here I first and foremost have to give a big shoutout to our main partner Framer Framed, an Amsterdam-based platform for contemporary art, visual culture, and critical theory and practice. They have been supportive of the idea from the start, and besides providing some of the financial backing, have also just been great partners.
Besides this, we have some other smaller partners (Mediamatic and ZwaanLenoir), as well as advertisers and income from sales. Yet, all of this together is still not enough to fund the whole journal sufficiently (we aim to pay our contributors as much as possible), so at the moment the rest is funded through a subsidy by the Mondriaan Fund. This money runs out by the end of the year, so we’ll have to think of something else by then…
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
On Wednesday eve we have a little event about Berlin’s self-determined spaces and communities, from Barackia to OPlatz, in the context of our latest issue States of Statelessness. The location of this event is a bar and Gambian restaurant in the heart of Neukölln, Berlin, and I look forward to engaging with the audience, as well as the drinks and music after.
Editor-in-chief Irene de Craen
Design Jan-Pieter Karper