The monochrome design adorning this pilot issue of Middle Plane is achieved by printing instructions for hand-washing clothes onto a plastic jacket wrapped around a white cover labelled ‘cover’. It’s not immediately obvious what the magazine is called, or what it’s about, and indeed the magazine continues to be intriguing throughout.
After a few photographs on the initial pages, the magazine confronts us with the print quote for its own production, from printers Park Communications, and a blank spread displaying only the price it would cost to advertise there (below). There is a statement about this on the contents page; intimating that the editors have ‘taken out every advert’ in order to encourage potential collaborations for advertising that ‘isn’t relentless but instead a space to breathe’.
The editorial speaks about the magazine being ‘preoccupied with process’, and makes a bold claim to open a dialogue with the reader with ‘a new level of transparency’ — embracing its own incompleteness in a way that is refreshing for a magazine focussing on art: what artist ever thinks that their work is complete? And why should anyone else?
Pages 24-89 concern themselves with a repeated black and white portrait of Betye Saar by Nicolai Howalt (above), the only discernible difference between them being the oversized advancing page numbers. It’s a bold feature that tests the limit of patience and attention: what does it mean to be confronted with the same image repeatedly? The surprise of turning the page and seeing the same image again and again compels frustration, boredom, through to fascination and, hopefully, a deeper engagement with this earnest face. A very valid emotional journey in any creative process.
The rest of the magazine is resplendent with full-page artworks and photo-series; the editors are obviously serious in their intention to focus attention on artists and their processes. Inserts into the front and back of the cover jacket are respectively a piece of text art and a ‘useful art fairs directory’, which is anything but. A riff on emails that the editor has exchanged with galleries forms a typographic feature toward the end of the magazine and insinuates that many similarly-worded rejections have been received (above). For what, we don’t know, but it will resonate with anyone in a freelance creative position.
We’re interested to see whether this unusual and experimental pilot issue is purely concerned with launching the title, and if this compellingly irreverent approach will form a template for issue one and beyond. What will happen when the object actually is the magazine and those quotes for printing turn into ink on paper? Will those blank advert spaces turn into elaborate spreads featuring luxury goods? Will we continue to be surprised by what this process-based approach generates?
Editor-in-chief: Roni Monhait
Art direction: VLF