Facing Pages 2014, day one

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After a visit yesterday to Senefelder printers near Arnhem (a major Dutch printer who run an an annual conference for their publishing clients; they’ve been doing this for 16 years, very progressive) I spent a few hours this morning at the Facing Pages biennale in central Arnhem.

What a great event this has become. A natural counterpoint to the larger, broader QVED, Facing Pages focuses on the smaller independents that are pointing the way ahead for magazines. Spread across several be venues, the talks were uniformly strong, the magazine exhibition impressive, and the pop-up shop from my friends at Athenaeum irresistible.

This first of the two days was themed around activism, a nice follow-up to this week’s Printout (read Steve’s report of that here). Simon Esterson opened the day with an expert introduction to the theme, starting with Constructivism and moving through the sixties counter-culture to City Limits, early i-D and even a quick mention for My Favo(u)rite Magazine. He ended with an excellent example of contemporary activism, the Girl Effect project helping young women in Rwanda – a magazine created in a media vacuum so complete there aren’t even printers available in the country (it’s printed in neighbouring Nigeria).

Next up came local designer Paul Gangloff, who provided a sociological trawl through the history of punk and the fanzine, and its subsequent assimilation by commerce. Patrick Waterhouse from Colors followed, always a reliable speaker and he made plenty of converts to his magazine here.

Before lunch a quick reading by writer Martijn Brugman offered the controversial – to this room – view that the graphic designers’ appreciation of white space on the page is an act of theft. A light-hearted end to the first session, he provided laughs but also directed us to read (or re-read) the 15,ooo-word ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ feature from early Esquire.

I had time to see three speakers after lunch: Lisa Charlotte Rost gave an introduction to her ongoing analysis of magazine design. The Magazine Design Project grew out of her time as an intern at Bloomberg Businessweek, and the graphic approach to visual data owed much to BBW. But she’s running a fascinating project that I hope to return to here in detail soon. I’ve seen Peter Bilak from Works That Work talk through his magazine, and like Patrick he delivered here again. I picked up the new issue at Atheaeum, again more here soon.

The highlight of my brief visit was Besa Luci from Kosovo 2.0 (pictured above). Here was true activism, a magazine launched in response to the West’s one-sided approach to the new country, attempting to express liberal views in an environment where such views bring violence. Literally – Besa spoke of a magazine meeting being broken up by violent thugs. I highly recommend her magazine.

It was also a pleasure to meet Ibrahim from Outpost, who was due to talk as I left, and lawyer Nupur Joshi who made the trip from Mumbai because she’s intrigued by indie mags. I’m sure she’ll find the effort and expense worth the while, it was great spending day at Facing Pages. Roll on 2016!

One final note: during my presentation at Senfelder I promoted Facing Pages and was amazed to find hardly any of the audience were aware that such an event was taking place on their doorstep. So far as I’m aware nobody from the one event attended the second. I’d love tp hear I’m wrong about that…

Check back later for Belinda Johnson’ report on day two of Facing Pages.

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