To start a new year – 365 whole new days ready to be wiped out, like a dear friend used to say – there’s nothing like a rebirth. So, as I have accumulated newspapers’ première issues for quite a while, this seems to be a pretty decent moment to go into this apparently resurgent medium.
It’s not that newspapers are here to stay, at least as we know them, but during this year the specialist newspaper kind of re-emerged for its own brief, highly expert swan’s song. As such, celebrations like the one Mimi Zeiger of Loud Paper reported a couple of weeks ago are also fit for this particular zeitgeist.
Going one year back into an old newspaper can be painful. I can assure you – I dug into 15 years of the Portuguese daily Público to write the book I’m soon launching and I can assure you the whole experience can be a weird trip.
There are funny things, of course. The way style is so unflattering after only one season, for instance. But mostly you just feel the passing of time like the excruciating flattening out of whatever seemed important at certain instants onto an indistinct, mishmash passé.
These were my unbecoming thoughts as I was quickly going along Panorama, a Spanish architecture newspaper that published its second year first issue (and possibly its last) in January-February 2010. The sensation of microwaved dejá vu was unsurpassable.
Panorama takes the concept of a quick news section, like adopted in Pasages or Mark, onto an unexpected level of emptiness. What I initially thought was only its starting section – Zoom – spread cancerously to fill the whole paper. A sort of bloggy superficiality entirely made of press releases, but without the hyper links and the unexpected connections.
Given the respectable weight of their subjects, the interviews at least promised some juice. After the lighter than light caressing of Toyo Ito and Valerio Olgiati’s egos, however, I only became enlightened on how to turn high profile content into surface scrap. At some point, I even became suspicious that Mr. Olgiati was a superficial chap after all. Which would seem unjust.
However, there was something in which this shallow Panorama was still truly revealing. It was able to boast the amazing average quality and high level of experimentation in recent Spanish architecture, at least while the boom lasted. Then the bubble burst and these vistas became instantly archeological.
Auspiciously, in these years of print crisis architects didn’t return to newspapers only for the cheap paper. The New City Reader, launched October 6th 2010 by Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis, and London’s MAP – Manual of Architecture Possibilities, set in 2009 by David A. Garcia, are more strategic on their retakes of the newspaper – or newsletter – format.
The NCR’s first issue was a most graphic statement opened and closed by Kazys’ succinct and yet historically succulent editorials. With its contents driven by Kazy’s doppelganger lab at Columbia, its theme is a cautionary one-off story, a specific happenstance in the life of New York and all the stuff that surrounded it. It is an historian’s take on the medium, full with deemed reflexivity.
And just like similarly monothematic MAP opens into an A1 poster, the NYCR is also fully spreadable: it can be spread onto a carefully designed wall assembly; and it actually was spread over a season by launching its separate thematic sections along last Fall and until next week…
Image via Archleague.org
Unlike the NYCR insightful return to its own city’s past so as to produce a fresh take on the megalopolis’ present, MAP’s initial issue took flight from the present-day urban mess into the cold, welcoming steppes of tomorrow, visiting this period’s ever-fashionable Antarctica.
And the fieldtrip is exciting, as it should. After a savory endorsement by Peter Cook, we learn about the geography, and the climate, and the extreme life conditions of the new “out there” for the architectural field…
And after the research data comes the “encyclopedia of the future,” and also the barely fictional projects for the new colonization, courtesy of Garcia’s studio. It’s a practitioner’s take on the medium, full with deemed reflexivity.
The last of new newspapers I managed to grab lately is Pie. Out of distant New Zealand, Pie, just like MAP and the NYCR, is quite a conceptual object.
While responding to the motto of Repetition, Pie’s issue #01 sequence is so amazingly curated that you may start playing with the word ‘sequence’ in your mind, turn the page and… find a small ironic article on Fibbonaci.
Being an art newspaper that is also artistic, Pie favors a medley of stories over the traditional information mosaic. After an article on Kyr Royale’s human copy machine performance, you’re also naturally bound to bump into the amazing images of North-Korean mass choreographies. An authentic page-turner.
Pie alters your aesthetic and graphic notion of what a newspaper is supposed to be, and that is already something else. But it also offers you the notion that ‘news’ themselves are claiming for a much-needed resumption. The stories are short, but unlike in Panorama they are masterly crafted into maximum, spin-wheeling content. More like a 1000-character Twitter with its own permalinks.
As I have started to heavily suspect, beyond politics, economics and our somewhat stale social world, maybe indeed the (fortunately expanded) field of art is the only one that is still able to produce interesting ‘news’ – new ideas, new concepts, ever new ways of holding up reality to take a good look into it.
Which also means that, as it always should have been the case, even the ‘news’ are to be a permanent subject of critical self-enquiry. Whether we are talking video-art or architecture. Like one reads in Leonard Emmerling’s review of a classic performance by Jim Allen:
Jim Allen’s piece NEWS reflects the dilemma in which we are stuck. To be caught in the web of opinions with no other value than to keep the communication alive, and the want for a truth that would cut through that web, the need to live in the human web and the desire to go beyond. There is no conclusion to be drawn out of Jim Allen’s piece. The only thing we can do is to take seriously what we observe: a certain kind of anger and melancholy, desire and despair, hope and sadness.
As you will perfectly understand, finally it is Pie that is happily going up onto my classroom wall…