As soon as I’ve grabbed the latest issue of DAMnº – where my micro-narratives on Luanda have just come out – I felt like going back to my cherished magazine collection and grab DAMnº’s first issue from seven years ago, along with another two classy and classic, memorable, yet defunct mags.
DAMn first came out in November 2004 and already in its inaugural issue it revealed a penchant to ally the production of informal culture to the latest design novelty, a feature which is still its trademark – now perhaps more in tune with current times than ever before.
The opening issue of the Belgian magazine conflated no less than three alternative covers: one on the illegal beach constructions in the south of Lisbon, one on Rem Koolhaas’ Casa da Música cast against its pseudo-rural surroundings, and another one on Belgian design no longer being a bore…
Curiously, features in both the first and latest issue of DAMnº confirm a strong, global pulse that comes right from the auspicious beginnings of this cross-cultural magazine. While, for instance, DAMnº 0 went to Khinshasa via Venice Biennale, its 27th edition goes to Casablanca, Luanda via Lisbon Architecture Triennale, and Africa in general via NY’s MAD museum.
While issue one goes to Lille 2004 European Cultural Capital, the other visits Turku and Tallin to assess the current status of this yearly European event. And while seven years ago the interview went to James Irvine, in early 2011 it goes to the DeLucchi brothers, thus continuing its task to give voice to the most important contemporary product designers today.
Combining design, art, architecture and popular culture at its broadest, DAMnº seems today unrivalled in the European periodical scene, prompting writing that escapes the unbearable lightness of lifestyle mags and yet is truly and widely informative of the current status of alternative culture production.
Ultimately, its appealing approach derives from the fact that, as stated in its opening editorial, 12 of the 15 good reasons to start the magazine were… people. And this also maybe true of both other cult magazines I bring here today.
Amelia’s Magazine was published between 2004 and 2009, before it turned onto a website that totally lacks the print version’s sensuous appeal. While it lasted – for 10 issues – this was probably one of the most absurdly delightful magazines around the UK covering pop music, fashion, fun, illustration, photo-stories… and other everyday stuff.
Here, the personal touch undoubtedly came from the fact that, along with its name, the magazine was almost single-handedly made by its initiator Amelia Gregory. Together with the collectible artist giveaways – like Pete Doherty’s single in issue #01! – the personal touch was certainly what made this mag gullible and beautiful.
Another magazine that had the magic stroke of a strong personality behind it, was, of course, NEST, A Magazine of Interiors, the crucial camp journal that in its opening cover paid tribute to 80’s TV idol Farrah Fawcett through the reproduction of a crazy teenager’s dream bedroom.
NEST’s premier issue kicked off in 1997 with the ambitious question of “What is human?”, swiftly responding that “however illusive the answer, part of it is always found in our houses.” Thus started Joseph Holtzman’s celebration of “self-invention at home,” until the end of the lavish magazine in 2004.
Unlike the over-styled, glacial approach to interiors seen in most interiors magazines – originating at their best the hilarious sort of micro-fictions that Unhappy Hipsters offers – NEST excelled in stories and visuals that added yet another subjective filter to a choice of incredibly unusual domestic landscapes.
In true eclectic manner, its first issue could thus both pay tribute to Joep van Lieshout mobile homes, Bob Knox’s 50’s decoration inspired paintings, Gilbert & George’s domestic settings or Keith Haring’s toilette interventions, all lavishly portrayed and graphically echoed throughout the publication.
Ever verging on the explorations of kitsch and the furtive admiration of dandy eccentricity, NEST had the quality to shake up conventions of what is it that makes us modern. Like if inheriting the spirit of Oscar Wilde, it challenged the status quo with irony and elegance. And that was in itself a unique quality.