London Calling (Other Little Magazines #08)

My latest trips to London were made on behalf of the Advisory Panel for the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

As already announced here and there, the British Council meetings led to the choice of MUF as curators of the Pavilion, with an appeal on collaborative practice, alternative resources and direct experiences of space.

While MUF also won the 2008 European Prize for Urban Public Space, they are indeed an excellent example of a kind of British practice that has consistently produced a triggering blend of art, architecture and social concerns.

Looking forward to Venice…

Meanwhile, visiting London on a frequent basis served to confirm that, as earlier proposed in the Space Invaders 2001 exhibition, this is still the true capital of a diverse and lively urban culture – an exciting place for doers and movers.

Even if Berlin comes closer and closer in several arenas, thanks to a constant influx of young people and raw creative energy, I would say this is still the major European magnet for cultural production… and consumption.

Even if you come back to the British megalopolis after only a month, there will be already new shows in, new discussions on the air and, of course, the odd couple of new magazines out…

This time, I brought back three mags that are good representatives of a new explosion of the hybrid, not purely academic journal… In times of crisis, particularly in advanced societies, it’s no wonder that people turn to further education. And, then, so much reflexive knowledge has to spill out somewhere.

MILK, for example, stands for More Informed Lifestyle Knowledge, and is one of about ten different Milk magazines, this one addressing communication, brand marketing and “progressive culture” in a rather self-conscious and graceful way…

Defining itself in between “a journal, a book, a magazine, and a blog” (and a great website intro), MILK is also another product of the new digital middlebrow, even if its editors cleverly position themselves beyond what I’ve otherwise called the digital turn and already propose the idea of a post-digital.

In case you’re wondering, their excuse for existing offline is a wish to condensate “shared influences into a format that could easily be read in quite moments and in transit when it’s better to reflect and take onboard inspiration.”

Another beautifully designed new publication is VESTOJ, a journal on all matters sartorial… Prompting the fashion magazine to the high-end intellectual status, the 1st issue of VESTOJ conjures phrases like “textile memento mori” and “theorizing of vintage clothing” to explore the theme of “Material Memories”.

The journal kicks off with a superb article on fashion photography’s melancholic death wish and ends up with a powerful double feature: a long essay on “Postmodernism and Fashion” – subtitled à la Frederic Jameson as “Imagined Nostalgia and False Memories” and written by the cinematic editor Anja Aronowsky Cronberg herself – intercepted by the enigmatic and performative “The Dinner Club,” a photo-essay by Martina Hoogland Ivanow.

For me, the lavish first edition of VESTOJ came complete with a statement by cult singer Lydia Lunch (of whom I hereby suggest the ideal soundtrack for this post) and a bold manifesto that one may consult online, on VESTOJ’s blog.

“A Year in the Death of the British Music Press” is the symptomatic title of one of the interesting texts in LOOPS, another re-apparition of the “journal” format still in the shelves, at this stance dedicated to writing and music.

Opening with an excerpt from Nick Cave’s latest novel, the outrageous “The Death of Bunny Monroe,” and a beautiful account from one of the upcoming young British writers of recent crop, Hari Kunzru, LOOPS comes to occupy the place left empty by the decline of the music press tradition that gave us the Melody Maker, The Face and the once indie-glorious NME

As said of the Inky Fingers blog, maybe this mag turns out to be “a repository for music journalism’s finest tradition of unfettered idealism, syntactical overload, and industrial-strength sarcasm…”

As for myself, slightly nostalgic of the music writings of my youth – my first published text ever was indeed a nearly fictional interview with Nick Cave himself – I’ve enjoyed LOOPS to the very last bit…

But then I’m partial, because in the very last LOOPS story, “Sonic Fiction… or, If This Is The Future, How Come The Music Sounds So Lame?”, author Simon Reynolds digs into the lost world of science fiction movies soundtracks just like the one from fabulous and unforgettable “Forbidden Planet”…



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