A highlight of last November’s magCulture Live was seeing Theseus Chan show copies of his Werk magazine. And when I say show, I mean show.
Theseus Chan shows an earlier issue of Werk during magCulture Live, November 2020
Forced off the stage and onto Zoom, Theseus presented actual copies of the magazines, holding them to the camera and using the close-up view to display their physical attributes. This might not work so well for more ‘normal’ magazines but Werk is so strongly based on pushing the boundaries of physical production that Zoom was the ideal presentation tool.
The latest edition of Werk is another example of his focus on production. Created in collaboration with copy writer Eugene Chong, and dedicated to ‘the healthcare and frontline workers of the world,’ it chronicles the ups and downs of 2020 as coronavirus took over our lives. That’s the simple part: a plainly factual timeline of events and responses that we’ll perhaps look back at with amazement in future years. But the presentation of this information is anything but simple.
That timeline falls across two 16 page sections which are glued either side of a 50mm layered block of layered corrugated card (above). The result is a physically thick but very light publication that emphasises the issue title ‘The things that are not.’
The construction is complex in a manner only viable if handmade, with another series of pages opening from the 50mm spine (above). These carry the colophon and background details, including references to St Paul’s first letter to The Corinthians from the Bible. This is just one of the many contrasts here, on one hand the Bible, on another the science of the coronavirus.
Another contrast lies in the way the brown paper stock and rough black printing – ‘imperfection is inherent in a handmade product’ – give the impression of an urgent, emergency guidebook, while overall, as an object, the issue presents an almost poetic approach to magazine making. And the absolute solidity of the layered board is at odds with the lightness and slight distortion (the glue?) of the text pages.
We love design and writing that’s executed to convey carefully crafted stories and messages, but it’s exciting to see a piece of publishing break beyond those familiar parameters, to experiment with overt complexity and leave space for the reader to fill in the gaps. Werk always delivers something special and this latest issue is no exception.
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