Monthly Archives: August 2011

Other Little Magazines #21 – From Blog to Print

The launch of the Portuguese edition of The Printed Blog inspired me to review the growing fad of blogs that want to become magazines. This being said, the pile of new magazines awaiting a reference in my desk was also about to crumble as spectacularly as the tower of Babel and I had to trim it down in anyway I could.

It is not that the new franchise of the apparently sucessful The Printed Blog deserves too much consideration. Being launched in the silly season,* this seems to have convinced its editors to look for ultra-lite, fast-consuming, totally unconsequential “literature” found in the Portuguese internet.

Perhaps they hoped that this would reflect a general local attitude of postponing the need for serious thinking on the current state-of-affairs of this small Atlantic backyard. Or on anything else, for that matter. Like the t-shirt I saw the other day, this edition tells me “I smile because I have no idea of what’s going on.”

As such, the only memorable fragment of writing I found in this entire, shallow publication was a curious, self-aware quote by my Facebook friend Marta Lança – who incidentally I’ve never met in real life – who rightly hints that in the blogosphere “only a few follow Deleuze’s advice: to resist the social forces which compel us to talk when we have nothing to say.”

Unfortunately, this compilation of original pieces by supposedly “important” Portuguese blogguers – who to appear in print apparently need the moral support from some television figures and a vaguely erotic wrapping – tends to confirm a rather depressing truth.

Indeed, if it’s penible enough to sometimes have certain thoughts perpetuated in personal weblogs, it’s downright thick to go through the trouble of selecting, editing and assembling those into a glossy, resource-wasting paper product…

At least, however, the new publication has induced me to look at better examples of blogs that resist embracing the potential forgetfulness of an internet which is becoming the giant graveyard of our fleeting beliefs and opinions.

These are the blogs that, tending to be specialized rather than general, and normally being based on the sharing of relevant information and commentary, obviously felt that there was enough substance in them to justify the move into the realm of the presumed eternity of print.

As suggested by Chris Pearson we are indeed at the forefront of a petit paradigm shift. Firstly there was the time in which the well-known, Goliath magazines went on to grab a good chunk of the internet’s growing share of attention. Now it’s time for those who kickstarted and consolidated their audience in the web to try and convince it that they should pay for the correspondent physical versions.

Within this scenario, some people are simultaneously more and less ambitious and they go directly from their ultra-popular blogs into the book format. In the field of architecture, we have our very own Jeoff Manaugh as a good example.  Books are hopefully more timeless than mags and they require considerably less effort if one has already abundant material for a one shot enterprise.

Magazines, on the other hand, being to lasting literature what tweets are to blogs, are more akin to some blog’s idiosyncrasies. Magazines too, at least the niche ones, normally rely on presenting new trends, new authors, new products as part of their essential presence in the middlebrow mediasphere.

Following on the pioneering spirit of Its’ Nice That – with its faithful reproduction of the blog’s shorthand logic of one image and a few words onto the printed page, out since April 2009 and now at its 6th issue – let me then introduce you to two recent examples of this revealing trend.

M|I|S|C is published from Toronto since the Spring of 2011 and it’s true to another important characteristic of blogs: it is totally and exclusively written, published, edited and directed by Idris Mootee. Idris also provide us with most pictures courtesy of his Leica and travels. Way to go, Idris!

Being a little too obsessively focused on branding, i.e. marketing, the collection of posts from one year of Idris’ Innovation Playground has the peculiar quality of being more didactical than usual – which, together with its portfolio presentations, explains why adverts come mostly from design institutions.

The mag’s first edition is indeed almost entirely dedicated to issues connected with its motto title Movement|Innovation|Structure|Complexity, thus extensively coaching us through jargon concepts like “design thinking,” “wild card scenarios,” “creativity,” “crowdsourcing,” or “corporate imagination.”

This is like as if magazines are being induced to become ever more specific by the very specialization of blogs. Which also suggests that our education manuals may about to go through severe changes so as to become sexier and cooler – so as to actually again have some lonely soul reading them.

Circus, on the other hand, first (and lastly) presented itself as another bookazine compiling “the best of the web”(as The Printed Blog also claims), so becoming another result of “the ultimate clash between online and print.”

Loyal to the high level specialization of blogs, Circus’ premiére issue was totally dedicated to fashion, asserting right at its first pages that the internet has definitely altered the very perception and functioning of such creative fields.

As such, Circus goes beyond your usual fashion magazine and it too is a pedagogical journey through unexpected fetishes of the fashion blogscape, basically relating fashion to everything, including architecture.

In this densely packed bundle you may go from the life of models and the perils of the profession’s journalists, to the more obscure aspects of the “woolie scene,” the “fashion disabled,” “fleckologie” and other such personal slot preferences.

While most effectively illustrating the notion of “bloggers gone wild”, as others “blogger’s magazines” will certainly do in the near future, Circus is finally and ultimately self-reflexive on the very nature of the different media it bridges. Be it when blogging, fashion, or blogs turning to mags are echoed, reflexivity arises as the stronger trait of this new territory of communication’s precursors.

In this sense, these publications also subtly disclose that people are starting to acknowledge a renewed phenomenon. In a world riddled with information overload we more than ever seem to long for those figures or media that will digest, reference and point us to relevant content.

And this is ultimately why, despite the cultural or publishing financial crisis, the editorial, curatorial and consultant professions are on the rise and give place to entirely new forms of stardom. As Bruce Sterling recently put it, it’s all about “the trained pig and the rare truffle.”

Flooded by “intelligent noise” – a notion urban strategist Arun Jain suggested at the recent “Another Urban Future” think tank  – many people increasingly cherish those who can somehow reassure them that they are investing their precious time in the piece of information or opinion that best suits their needs.

And yet, even with a little help from my guru – and as philosopher Modjtaba Sadria reminded us in the same discussion of future cities  – there is still a crucial difference between information and knowledge. You have to first know what to do with the former, so that the latter may eventually become an integral part of what you are or want to be.

The Rise of Performance Architecture

In the last decade, ephemeral architecture practices of numerous architects and artists collectives have been developing as a critical answer to the results of growing mobility in the recent neo-liberal context, using various performative tactics for “activation” of the local potentialities for social change. The most interesting ephemeral architecture projects are fast-statement critical practices, collective actions towards the creation of temporary places for encounters in an ever-changing urban environment.
 But, because these actions have to be strongly connected to longer-term local actions, they must assume a transitory nature that calls for a social transformation, for a next step. This is very performative. And this is where the performative action becomes a radical social gesture that goes far beyond the production of an aesthetic object.

In TodaysArt Festival Brussels 

Sometimes one gets the funny idea that a certain trend is gathering memento. One thinks about it and presents the notion to a couple of friends. Given the opportunity, one writes an article about it. And then one organizes it as a proposal for a potential exhibition that will allow for further research.

With the notion of Performance Architecture most of these steps took place around 2006. My first article on it came out in a student archizine in 2007. The “exhibition” was first suggested to Mirko Zardini at the CCA, just before the 2008 finantial crash put an halt to all the institution’s external projects. And then it was again proposed to Laboral, and the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, and the Barbican. However, it seemed to be too soon* to all of them.

Finally, a few weeks ago I’ve signed the contract that signals the idea found its first partners at the Guimarães 2012 European Capital of Culture. As such an international competition is to be launched in October for five ephemeral interventions in the Portuguese “cradle city.” Look forward to it.

At the same time, events coincidentally started to pop-up across Europe suggesting that the unexpected relationship between Performance Art and Architecture is now something to watch for.

In fact, while Madrid-based Ariadna Cantis curated an event along similar lines in 2009, it seems that it is only this year that the notion is being more amply recognized and debated – when some of its noteworthy protagonists have reached already more than a decade of consistent urban interventions .

After the unexpected, yet historical and festive gathering of some relevant protagonists of this tendency at the disPlace conference, as organized by Dédalo magazine in Porto, new conference events around the theme will now take place in Den Hague and Brussels, at the TodaysArt Festival, and later this year again in Madrid, at the IV Encuentro Internacional El Arte Es Acción.

It might take a few years for certain tendencies to become clear. But when they do, they do. Or they will. Specially when they are coming from the streets. And this is not a bonfire of vanities. It is a matter of both emergency and urgency.