Other Little Magazines #11 – An Eastern Outlook

It is always enriching to enjoy another perspective on the peculiar views we are used to. And as for the portraits of contemporary culture that are carried in magazines this certainly applies as a refreshing rule.

While traveling in China, although there were so many publications available in all cultural areas, I wasn’t exactly expecting to be so lucky as to come across many inaugurating magazine issues. But in Beijing they finally came about.

Span, for instance, published for the first time in December 2009, has precisely that quality of offering a slightly dislocated view on a sea we swim already at relative ease: that of the crossings between architecture, interiors and design.

One could almost say that Span primarily covers the field of communication, even if expressed spatially, and precisely at the point in which the referred disciplines of creation intersect – including, of course, brand and graphic design.

In this sense, and even if most text is in Chinese, it was fun to discover an outlook on Nordic design that goes beyond Bjarke Ingels and is able to introduce the interesting practices of Bosch & Fjord or Tham & Videgard; a vision of post-industrial China that goes beyond the most notorious and lofty art districts; a section on exhibition makers that includes new Chinese curators but also the surprise of familiar Elias Redstone; or even an overture into product design that calls attention to a fantastic Slovenian creator, Nika Zupanc.

My second premiére issue today is yet another example of what I would call a specialized middlebrow. Pixel’s chosen title is, on the other hand, also a statement on the digital turn of contemporary photography…

Edited by Inter Art Space – “the most authoritative photo collecting organization in China” – the magazine is, in addition, a window onto another Chinese “booming” cultural field, that of photographic self-reflection.

The very best of this lot, however, has to be LEAP, the “bilingual art magazine of contemporary China” that, currently at its third issue, was kindly and wholy offered to me by independent curator editor Philip Tinari – an American in Beijing on a mission to link East and West.

The first issue offers a truly comprehensive account of the last 10 years of Chinese art boom by its own protagonists; the full story of the 798 district; and, besides the classical exhibition reviews, also some delicious sections such as the Ba-Ba Watch (where they “read China’s favourite art-world bulletin board art ba-ba and translate the good parts into English…”); the Videos You Didn’t Finished Watching, or a fashion shoot based on the lifestyle of artists…

Last but not least, Fat/Art is the more alien of all these mags – being, in its own terms, a journal of “creative & cultural updates from Contemporary China.”

Going through FAT/ART’s selected players in the areas of video, graphics, new media, painting or music, you truly enter unknown territory and feel that there is still an immense lot to be discovered here. China is quickly moving beyond the realm of pure copy and is rediscovering its own milenar impulses.

As in everything cultural, you have to be immersed in a certain reality to really understand its protagonists, its hidden meanings and its true potential – even if that reality is transcribed into the wonderful superficiality of magazines.

However, this very few examples may unveil the growing vitality of a cultural world that too many disregard too fast – in what can be a gross historical mistake of an Europe whose welfare state piramidal scheme is now crumbling.

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