Tag Archives: magazines

Other Little Magazines #22 – The Unclassifiable

As I’ve briefly mentioned in my last Other Little Magazines post, there’s an enormous amount of extraordinary magazines piling in my desk that certainly deserve an urgent reference. Harvesting through them all, I now decided to pick on the unclassifiable ones.

As those who have actually once read books will remember, Jorge Luis Borges unsettled the notion of taxonomy in an eccentric tale called “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” The magazines that I hold here would precisely deserve something like the absurd categories Borges made up in his biblio-zoological incursion.

Toilet Paper, for a start, is quite an odd one. An artist’s project published by Maurizion Cattelan and Pier Paolo Ferrari since June 2010, it is already on its 8th issue in two years, which is something remarkable given its surrealistic contents.

Entirerly composed by a juxtaposition of highly narrative, vaguely retro-looking images Toilet Paper is intellectual porn at its provocative best. Self-proclaimed a “new generation magazine”, it is not clear if it should be filed under “ post-Warholian sick glam,” “anthropological studies” or simply “visual culture.”

A more orthodox, but similarly almost random collection of artist visuals appeared on the first issue of Toronto-based Hunter and Cook back in 2008.

And even if this magnificently named mag falls more typically under the category of the “art magazine”, the stuff in it is still untypical enough for you to be temporarily unsure if you’re flipping through a trash metal fanzine, a photo souvenir album or an alternative comic revue.

As for the equally Canadian Victor, even if it originated from a bunch of graphic design students, its omnivorous nature also makes it pretty undefineable.

Victor is part of a publication triumvirate that is centered in fictional characters, including issues dedicated to Bruno and Nadia. Following the wanderings and psychological landscape of such characters it goes into pretty anything, from weird everyday stories to favorite records, from conversations and messaging with friends and strangers to, above all, great illustration work.

Staying within the category of “magazines with person’s names” let me also introduce you to handsome Sebastian. Its cover says it all: just a first name – a supposed alter ego – and a slightly distorted, disturbing male figure.

Sebastian appeared in London in 2011 and while it promised to show up twice a year to talk about style and culture, it hasn’t yet produced any descendancy.

Meanwhile, its graceful and varied tour debut includes a very personal visit to a tainted  New York Architecture and interviews with remarkable figures like gallerist Maureen Paley, “artisan purist” Geoffrey B Small and delicious “expressionist cooks” Lily Vanilli and Margot Henderson.

Another beautiful tiny magazine full with amazing characters and personas is the smartly called Afterzine. Sonic Thurston Moore, pop* guru Peter Saville and classic Henry David Thoreau were my few previous acquaintances, which means Afterzine became for me another feast of the unfamiliar.

Here, the variety goes from essays and fictions to photography and graphics, and from light waves and roundographs to book spines and –free food, all however connected by the notion of “negative space” and the affectionate curatorial direction of Vanity Fair editor Hamish Robertson.

The fact that more and more magazines are now curated by… – just remember the pioneer A Magazine Curated By… – naturally brings very individual idiosyncrasies into this particular media, making zines prone to quite subjective ravings and juxtapositions.

In the case of Science Poems, the articulation of science and art, i.e. the lasting dichotomy of C. P. Snow on the two cultures, but also the ghostly presence of science fiction as role model, leads to a most unsual publication, especially considering  it is curated by a collective with a design background.

Is it a mag? Is it a numbered book? Is it a catalogue? No, it’s Science Poems!…

The content packed in this 144 pages by OK Do‘s Anni Puolakka and Jenna Sutella, include anything from interviews with philosophers of science, curators, artists and designers to tales on heavenly bodies, brain visions, DNA junk, life-breeding meteorites, volcanic eruptions or big-bang machines, always with the bold intent to “avoid traditional categories or disciplinary boundaries.”

In the end, not only the format of the magazine has become elastic enough to accommodate the most extreme variations – from serial bookazines to artist experiences, from one-off objects to virtual catalogues – but this is also a media that allows for the unclassifiableness and wild diversity of the world to come at the reach of one’s hands in compact form.

This is, alas, part of the diffuse, abbondant phenomena that may today be preparing us for a dramatic post-oil scenario. The current media wealth, of which magazines are only a small example, ultimately allows anyone to gather relevant information and worldviews without necessarily having to be physically present in what used to be the traditional centres of knowledge and culture diffusion.

For the good part of an expanding Western Modern culture, being outside the centre would seem like a condemnation to locality and provincialism. Now sometimes feels as if the assumed centres of cultural production are those blind to the profusion of what’s going on.* (Even if the centre is always recruiting.)

One of the uncertain advantages of our networked, media societies lies precisely in the fact that connectivity makes it quite indifferent where you may presently be rooted. Rather, it’s all about where and how your senses are really pluggin’ in.

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.

Black and White (Other Little Magazines #10)

It seems like ages ago, but last time I was in London over Easter I was again left with another stream of new magazines, including the super lavish Twin, Arnolfini’s post-futurist Concept Store, the honest and neighborly Underscore, the user-generated I Like My Style, and the book-like Syntax full with C. S. Leigh’s “The Annotated Spectacle”…


After a while I passed through Paris and again I was submerged by a truck load of new titles such as the totally indie Angst, the commercially ambitious Blend, the starry and trendy Contributor, the weird Dorade, the all-cycling Fixé, and the Onitsuka celebratory Made of Japan


However, as I feel less and less inclined to contribute to the blogosphere’s excess of information and opinion, I decided to focus on only two of these titles, before they all hit the archive.

Even if the abundance of fresh French erotic mags – like L’Imparfaite and Edwarda – is always something to muse upon, as a sort of personal homage to austerity I will only pick two revues which have nothing in common but being in black and white.

Dapper Dan magazine is conceptually austere all the way through………. Appearing under the unlikely banner of “Men’s Fashion and Philosophy,(!…) this sober magazine is in perfect contrast with most men’s magazines typical and tit-illating Speedy Gonzalez bravado.

If one considers that the connection between fashion and philosophy – and architecture for that sake – was hype around 1905, as will resurface in Beyond’s forthcoming edition on Trends & Fads, than indeed here we’re facing fashion “as statement,” rather than “as phenomenon.”

It is yet another curatorial take on fashion, one could say, in which texts range from appealing essays on ubiquitous computing and electronic identities, on to enlightening short interviews with the likes of Jurgen Teller, Marc Le Bihan or, most interestingly, with photographer Daniele Tamagni on the street aesthetics of the Congo saveurs.

And speaking of matters curatorial, let me introduce you to the first ever magazine of curating for curators. As the profession grows and passes from its self-learning stages onto academic transmission, journals are evidently due and here comes the aptly entitled The Exhibitionist.

Appropriating the classic Les Cahiers du Cinema’s graphic lineage, and also declaredly adopting their initial, radical stance and its politics of auteurship, The Exhibitionist proudly –and rightly– presents art exhibition makers as auteurs in their own right.

Thus, subjects such as influence and reference, as well as the late 20th century most famous curators, obviously make their way into the journal’s pages so as to build up the discipline’s backgrounds and aspirations onto the future…

As I am about to announce my undoubtably irrelevant demise from exhibition making – jaded as I am with the decay of curating under the banner of a crisis that curiously affects only what lies outside the spectacular discourse of cultural tourism– I’m certainly curious to see where this revue is going….

Other (Architectural) Journals: Little Magazines #09

Over the last weeks, I received three academic magazines that confirm that in the field of architecture too new publications are popping up as if unaware of the “end of print” – that celebrated motto set off by Raygun’s founder, David Carson, a couple of decades ago…

Of course, as all of these journals emanate from the restricted circle of the university domain –and curiously are all of them of German-speaking provenance– that might explain how their venture is supported without much intervention from the so-called market forces.

When I first heard of Generalist, I thought “what a wonderful name for an architecture magazine.” It sounded a little bit like the counterpart of that English practice that goes by the very apt and ironic designation of Studio Superniche

As cast against a general tendency to embrace what Ortega y Gasset once called “the barbarism of specialization,” such bold label promised a return to the deeper cultural overtones of the architectural profession.

Alas, I was in for a deception, as with typical Germanic precision the magazine from Darmstadt precisely dedicates itself to dissect those tools of the trade that, precisely, make architects become specialists – and that make them sometimes forget about life and how to live it.

In this sense, in fact, I preferred the in-depth explorations of Architectural Papers #01 on and around a very specific pedagogical practice: that of Josep Lluis Mateo in his academic chair at the ETH architecture school in Zurich.

Started in 2005, and since 2007 at its provoking 4th issue, the opening edition was particularly imbalanced in favor of depicting Mateo’s pedagogical project, thus providing a rare and profound insight into a highly experimental method of teaching architecture and its surroundings – sound, nature, history and so on.

In one section that was to grow in weight within this ultra specialized magazine, the Found Papers, one could also find an early and quite interesting critique of what came to be generally called architecture’s star-system.

In this instance, Ernst Hubeli portrayed a so-called global architecture as against the stage set of a media hyperculture that, eventually, determined architecture’s virtual reality over the years to come.

And maybe because I’m particularly interested in architecture’s mediations and mediatizations, that also provided for my main interest in the most recent of the architecture journals proposed here.

Candide, named after Voltaire’s fictional character and well-known novella, is one of a surge of publications and events that swirls around the, uh, well, currently trendy notion of architectural knowledge.

Tightly separated into 5 different sections –Essay, Analysis, Project, Encounters, and Fiction – I guess Candide can be more alluring if in the future each of these parts features more than just one lonely, long essay. But maybe this is just my preference for the shorter, terser formats kicking in.

As it were, and as I was just saying earlier, I really happened to specially fancy the essay that was featured in the Fiction section. And this is not because the essay is a fiction, because it isn’t one, but because it is a curious take on how architectural “culture” gets passed onto the generalist public in primary school handbooks throughout German recent history.

More than scholarly, boring re-readings of Vitruvio, it is precisely such researches onto architectural mediation that today, more and more, are badly needed so that architects come to understand their failures and shortcomings in addressing their prosumers or, as they used to say, to serve the aspirations of their future buildings and urban spaces’ users.

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”…


Other little magazines (and their stores) #07

My humble, accidental collecting of new révues certainly pales besides a truly fierce love of magazines as strange objects – like the one you can check on this video or on the related book that came out in the States a couple of years ago…

Even so, I still feel compelled to give you a glimpse of my latest acquisitions before they are definitely assigned to the library archive…

Here is an end-of-the-year list of #01 issues gathered in my recent visits to stores and places that are also to be supported for their aesthetic belief in independent publishing – particularly when, as I’ve heard recently, Amazon cities like San Francisco are already seeing their last bookshops heading for disappearance…

The first bunch of mags I brought from RAS bookshop in Barcelona. This is the place you want to be browsing near the MACBA and CCCB, if you are interested in design, architecture, fashion or, actually, any form of alternative culture.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Here I found the first issue of the Belgian Tickl, an erotic cabinet that has a special penchant for polaroids and their intimate, blurry, peephole qualities, but also the Spanish Marikink, one of Paco & Manolo’s cult magazines (who ever they might be…) that is all about everyday nudies photographed in a sort of unglamorous post-Almodovar banality.

I would say these mags even deserve an appropriately 70’s retro soundtrack.

Also at RAS there was the Swiss Diary 16. Entirely shot in black and white, this is another photography and illustration magazine with the city and the urban world as its main inspiration.

“We couldn’t picture ourselves living in a place without bums, concrete, grafitti, department stores, banks, metros, or constant traffic and all kinds of different sirens.”

Another interesting set of magazines I found in the Concrete Hermit, a great small bookstore specialized in illustration that sits at the heart of London’s new hip-hop and graffiti zone, up from Brick Lane.

This lot includes Bonafide, an hip-hop magazine with great retrographics that is already on its second issue…

Popshot, an A5 edition that is also already at its #02 issue and gets poetry and illustration together under the banner of “the wonder of the ordinary”…

… And Making Do, which is an yearly magazine with a first issue from 2008 focusing on “methods of creative production”.

At the same time, other magazine stores in London offered the last two titles I have here today. One was the première issue of Blown, a magazine born in Wales to the idea of cultural intelligence – which is just another way of describing art, music, fashion and photography, but with actually some distinct local feel.

The very last item, though, it is the most delicious of them all – and one also exquisitely fit for the festive season at hand.

I just love the idea of a food journal mixed up with the bewildering notion of a “new writing for food lovers”, and Fire & Knives is definitely up to the challenge of being the most curious and beautiful answer to such a difficult riddle…

Filled with whammy archeological stories, visual essays on abandoned diners, retro kitchen ads, crunchy Victorian illustrations, Vincent Price’s secret talent for cooking, or architecture as a machine for eating, what a tasty way to finish 2009 in gourmet style.

Middlebrow (Other Little Magazines #06)

Like the expansion of middle class was the social synonym of modernity, the rise of middlebrow is the sure epitome of the current digital turn.

Beyond authorship legitimated within the strict circle of highbrow culture, now now everybody can finally be an artist. Pick up the right digital tools and the right taste handbook and you too can be an artist recognized by about 223 people around the world.

Or you can also be a successful middlebrow architect, as thousands of rather decent published buildings come to prove over the last 5 years, by happily entering the 15 minute hall of fame of daily internet blog platforms aiming to reveal yet another potential claim to stardom.

(The only wrong thing with this being that there are people out there that actually think this should be stopped, regulated, or somehow controlled, as I’ve heard last week in the BIArch symposium from none other than the bloggers themselves!)

Proving that the phenomenon of middlebrow is true, and relevant, and escapes gatekeepers, and is to be studied as a phenomenon that redefines the previously well-kept frontiers of creative disciplines, the truth is that new magazines seem to pop up by the month only to cover the diverse and immense sea of visual and material middlebrow production in which we are now fully immersed.

When one would think it is an insane moment to start print media, only the production of middlebrow seems to justify that new print objects do show up.

Marc Valli, the editor of Elephant (and also the owner of the exquisite Magma magazine shop), defends the new publication as serving to cover the “vast and vital space in the middle”, the production that neither doesn’t quite fit into the strict legitimating mechanisms of the “art world” nor is it overtly “commercial” (although, let’s face it, mostly the middlebrow work is only precisely that: a fair and proper means to a living).

Another example of the current funny play with one’s own brows (or the lack of them) is the also new Nobrow magazine, a publication that bears no text whatsoever as its most brilliant feature.

Somehow resounding of the lowbrow art movement, and not as outrageous as the Lowbrow Project, Nobrow is ultimately a magazine that also deals with one of those activities –illustration– that has always been pushed to the minor or middle arts’ corner and now wants to enjoy its own cult status on a worldly scale.

As Raymond Williams once suggested, one may also correctly state that highbrow culture had to be rescued from deadly ennui by letting itself plunge onto the wide hypnotic embrace of an endless popular culture. As for the world of architecture print –and while we reminisce for immersing architecture in popular culture or await for Icon’s other take on pulp fiction– it may be said that not many publications address middlebrow.

The new Scandinavian magazine Conditions does, however, address middlebrow when it both repudiates the commercial tendency of most technical architectural magazines around it, and, at the same time, does not really carry any intellectual pretensions to define the borders of an architectural highbrow culture.

With a first issue on Strategy for Evolution, Conditions defined the interdisciplinary as its horizon of ambition –and perhaps the interdisciplinary is indeed the new middlebrow. But it is only within its second issue on Copy and Interpretation that the magazine really shifts onto the ambiguous and interesting middle ground in which most current architecture must today be interrogated.

While the highbrow magazines of the past insist in plunging into obscurity by dwelling into ever boring disciplinary obsessions –and while there’s also basically nothing wrong with the fact that the architectural blogzines that surround us are carrying middlebrow architecture to new heights of a-critical visibility– there is still a huge lack of reflection on what is really going on in other than the starchitects’ heads at this point in history.

Other little magazines (#05)

I think it is more than time to clear my desk of a pile of magazines that has been waiting for some kind of mention, some kind of memory, before entering an archive where they will lay buried under a growing layer of micro-dust for many years, before they will eventually be again discovered by some visual archeologist from the future…


With distribution systems being what they are, one absurd goal of my traveling is to dig for new publications to incorporate into my by now impossible-to-catalogue magazine collection – alas, one of the reasons why moving to a new place would be considerably painful…

So what did I gullibly gathered this time?

First, there is New Geographies, the new Harvard-based journal, the collectible issue 00 of which I traded for Beyond #01. Since we are here and there touching on the same themes – and sometimes sharing the same authors – this was fair trade and the beginning of an hopefuly fulfilling exchange…

In New York I grabbed Evolo and The Play Ground.

Picture 16playground


Evolo is another architectural magazine somehow coming from the American Ivy League. That is, it is created by a group of ex-students from Columbia that suddenly discovered that there was a crisis out there and thus what the world needed now was yet another architectural magazine.

The curious thing is that, while the “famous architects” housing projects that make the supposed appeal of the publication seem like more of the same, and thus dull and unrevealing, some of the contributions and smaller stories do uncover that there’s something coming off from this growing presence of South American students in major architectural schools around the world. A hint of what I’ve been calling post-colonial trans-geographical knowledge exchanges… But I’ll keep that question for a future post.

The Play Ground is another matter altogether. A “celebration of family”(!) in times of “separatism and isolation,” as the editorial has it. While coming from London, it is wildly amazing that such a familiar endeavor finds its way into a cornershop in Soho… But then again you open it and you come across the amazing work of Terunobu Fujimori and all of it suddenly kind of makes sense.

Also the Freestyle Magazine has quite an unbelievable theme, considering that it too is making it to the world’s mag circuit. Yes, it is dedicated to Frisbies and it even comes in the form of one. Plus, you get the real thing as a gift, that is, the mag comes in a real frisbee ready to take to the beach.



After Karen, and other magazines dedicated to nothing in special (just like Seinfeld), imaginations will have to be stretched to come out with yet another fresh perspective for a new publication.

Back to London, the zinorama city, the Publish and Be Damned event proved to be a small paradise to a premiere issue collector. It was indeed one of those moments in which the fiercest gatherer had to refrain from an engulfing zinappetite… Typically stressed by the so-called syndrome of overabundance, …. I kept to only four #01 titles.

Proximity, is an art magazine from Chicago that apart from graphically impeccable seems to reflect a certain conditions of our times. Most of the articles in the publication are more concerned with the art world – its context and its phenomena, the episodes from the everyday life of artists and the anecdotes of collectors and artophiles – than with artistic objects themselves.

And this detail, being somewhat more disguised or subdued in other publications, seems to make a lot of sense in an increasingly reflexive world. It is only logical that today you should go to art or design or architecture school not truly to understand how art or architecture are made but more so to learn how their respective worlds function. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu was never so up-to-date as today.



Other art premières present at the event were Monika, a small-sized arts journal from London with a first issue that focuses on anonymity; Corridor 8, a big-sized art journal from Manchester with a first issue featuring artist and writer’s takes on the idea of supercity; and Garageland, a medium-sized arts journal also from London which started in 2006 with a take on machismo.    ………………………………………………..

Mise en page 1

Finally, in Amsterdam, I still had the courage to fill my overweighed bag with yet another first issue: on this occasion, a novelty from a Parisian “brand” that has already come up with four or five different titles.       Now it is time to welcome the again stylish and exquisite Les Cahiers Purple – a new yearly edition, which for its 2010 première, puts together stories and artwork that are more than enough to make you go through the whole winter.

Who said there was a publishing crisis going on? aasss ffffff ssssoosod sslssms. And with so much stuff out there, how can one ever get bored?

On collecting… (Little magazines & others…)

It’s the silly season and, as I prepare my next exhibition, I managed to go back to my collection of premier issues and find the by now sold-out O.K. Collections (not to be confused with the infamous OK celebrity magazine…).


The O.K. periodical, appears twice a year and is the result of a new phenomenon: blogs that turn into magazines or books after they’ve built an audience, thus betraying the still pervasive ambition to go into print – even when print is supposedly going down the drain.

Collections are always a catchy theme, so this issue caught my eye just like minimal music goes well into my ear. I guess pattern repetition – and the obsessiveness it entails – is strangely attractive to the inquisitive mind…

I remember collecting, more or less in chronological order, glass marbles, political parties’ graphics (it was Portugal in 1974), world coins, soft-drink cans, cigarette boxes (stuff from abroad: my uncle was a traveller), 70’s erotic music stickers, UFO clippings, science fiction books, LPs by The Fall, Kafka novels, film postcards, Jorge Luis Borges short stories collections, films, all the books from Woolf, Mishima, Kundera, McEwan, Carver, Auster, Kureishi and a few others… And whatever else, until more recently I’ve apparently acquired a grown-up and “mature” taste and started collecting photography…


Via “uberwert’s photostream” in Flickr…

Some collections I must have forgotten, some are comprised of only 5 or 6 items – like the African or Mexican masks – and others will go on forever – like cheap tin cars and the inevitable magazines. Others still are prompted by work itself, like when I started to get together daily images of architecture in delirium… (A set I’ve used in some conferences to illustrate a certain “state of the art”…)

axis mundi

Axis Mundi, via ArchDaily: stacking it after MVRDV…

Other’s collections also fascinate me, probably because they are on stuff I would never dream gathering. This happens with some of the weird collections in O.K. but also, more curiously, with the ones that originated the exhibition on OMA co-founder and RK’s wife, Madelon Vriesendorp.


“The world of Madelon Vriesendorp” (also a book) started at the AA, pictured here in Aedes, and has just passed by the Swiss Architecture Museum.

How can one even think of being a cultural actor without a taste for collecting?

On Humour (Another little magazine)

“My house is repulsive. If you saw it, you wouldn’t believe that any well-minded human being could inhabit a place so vile. The floors are lined with rotting garbage. Most of the windows are either smashed or covered in grafitti. There’s no heating or hot water. The whole place smells like a combination of wet cigarettes and dries blood. There’s a mushroom growing out of the fucking toilet. It’s wildly depressing.”

Karley Sciortino, from “Slaves”, in Apartamento

A few weeks ago a famous writer started a book presentation stating that, like everybody else, he hated architects. I perfectly see his point in this little quote.     I want my squalor and no one, but no one, is going to tell me how to live.

That is also why eye-catching everyday-life-interiors-magazine Apartamento is such a wonderful anti-wallpaper statement – although it will tend to be as “trendy” with young people as the other one was during its heyday.


It’s another point of view. And, at least, humorous enough to start its 3rd issue with a piece like Enrique Giner de Los Rios’ “The Joke”. Forget marxism, forget minimalist chic, welcome the everyday life stories of the new fucked-up-and enjoying-it generation.

Coming from two cities overspammed by design, long after the yet-stylish Nest has disappeared, and even if it features one interview with three design gurus, Apartamento is what you can call the last resort manifesto for the personal design-free zone.

Little magazines (#02)

This image was floating on my desktop without any clear destination and I’ve thought it should land right here.


I can’t exactly remember where the image came from, but it was there on my desktop as a reminder of a media category that, specially in the field of architecture – but also maybe of music, the arts and the literary – captures extraordinary attention and dedication. It must be some tendency to cling to the glorious feel of those student days…

Cynthia Davidson and her endorsement for (a) small (portuguese) magazine back in 2004 immediately comes to my mind. But also, of course, Colomina’s Princeton research on the same subject, originating the “Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196x-197x” exhibition in places like the Storefront for Art and Architecture, at the CCA and later at the AA, always around the nostalgia of the “legacy and influence of 1960s and 70s print culture.

Now, I do think little mazines are still alive and kicking and there’s no reason to be mostalgic about some sort of primeval loss of a revolutionary printing spirit. Even in the midst of much web publishing the gloss and originality of small magazines lingers on – inside or outside the architecture field.

ArchdhIt is true that “little magazines” like Casabella (yes, Casabella was on the exhibition) are now shrinking into oblivion – just like other referential publications met their end at the hands of a merciless publishing market. L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui finished in 2007 – after 77 year of publication! – with a last issue on the ultimate surviving modernist, Oscar Niemeyer… Ironically, another last issue was announced on luxury in architecture, but I don’t think this has come out…

But every other day, everywhere, new small magazines appear to carry the flame of independent radical thought – or simply the new trends that will soon go mainstream – even if only for the small print reading minority. Digital print-on-demand will also take care that this can always be the case.

I wouldn’t know where to start to pick up the interesting examples. So I left my first choices to pure randomness. And I ended up with this two little magazines…


Last wednesday, I lazily streched my hand from bed on to my bedside library and out came the premiere issue of SCRUB to enlighten my holyday lie in.      I didn’t even know what this was about. Any premiere issue that looks vaguely interesting deserves an immediate place in my magazine collection. It didn’t take much time to realise, though, that this was a gay magazine that, while being published in Berlin back in 2006, was totally focussed on New York.           (How’s that for a 70s revival?)

The very best piece there was undoubtedly a 32-page interview (how’s that for radical?!) with a 70s NY club-goer and fashionista that immediately makes you dive into the wild nightlife of an almost fictional pre-AIDS New York. I say, how’s that for youth nostalgics? My only disappointment came from the fact that a quick google revealed this one issue of SCRUB to be totally exposé online… Good news for those who feel like reading the Ruben Espinosa interview, though!

Another good (and more serious) read arrived through the snail-mail, and it was sent by Beyond’s contributor-to-be Valéry Didelon: another small magazine with important intentions, Paris-based CRITICAT.

criticat03couvertCurrently displaying its third issue, Criticat appears because, as its editors say, there is still a need for magazines that, while offering a space for critical reflection, are actually not tied to institutions – such as, I would say, universities, museums and big media groups… – and are therefore open to the “other actors of intellectual and artistic life.”

As such, this issue of Criticat again offers good food for thought on the return of modernism’s “others” (see my previous post). Somehow aligning with the very commendable sociologists that claim that late modernity never really left the scene – despite being under strong fire by post-modernist discourse – the magazine presents several interesting articles on the ideological recuperation of post-war modernism.

New heroes and narratives are discovered of course (as in the very interesting Marilena Kourniati revision of revisions), ideology itself is seen as a potential part of the problem, if not it’s Achilles heel (as in brilliant as usual Wouter Vanstiphout,  whose article I discovered also here…) and, last but not least, the political implications of the architect’s action is brought back to actuality by Didelon’s own editorial note on how today we’re already dealing with the “au-delà du spectacle.”

Little magazines are still there to offer us the most radical visions of architecture and its cultural (dis)contents. The problem is to discover and identify them in the midst of all the pseudo-theoretical mumbo jumbo that, like some digital wallpaper, now surround us from all sides.

Time & Magazines

A visit to Harvard GSD was postponed and, suddenly, having prepared to be away for a week, I found myself with some extra time in my hands. Which is extraordinary and welcomed. The  weather was great in Lisbon this week, and taking the laptop to the beach was a first – a specially enjoyable first if one wants to start working leisurably on a new piece of fiction. 

The other good thing about the spare time was catching up with the magazines. One day, when I have the patience, I’ll feed you on my collection of premiere issues – which I consider a most revealing anthropological survey of our times. But for now, I just felt like spreading the word about three items that caught my attention.

First comes DAMnº, one of the most interesting magazine around Europe these days, specially for the omnivorous reader that has abandoned Wallpaper around the turn of the century, got tired of Surface soon after, and never really got into both Monocle‘s need to be a trendier Intelligent Life and Tank‘s secret desire to substitute Interview‘s classical lure in the mind of the selfconscious culture vulture… 

DAMnº is mostly design based but goes into architecture and art with quite poignant articles that manage to provide you with a sort of an essential air du temps… As such, issue 21 ends up revealing how, after Africa, after recently oilstruck Brasil and after all the rest of the developing world, everybody else is now trying to make the most out of their own waste. From Mathieu Maingourd’s great piracy acts and Stuart Haygarth’s scrap sculptures to Cindy Sherman’s cynical social garbage or Thorsten Brinkman’s investigations from the bin, there’s a real trend out there…

More importantly, though, there is an excellent interview with Elemental‘s Alejandro Aravena – who I was seeing coming up everywhere in the media without really understanding why… Now that I do, I can only say he deserves all the media exposure coming from his Venice Silver Lion for Promising Young Architect. An interesting blow at the current architectural star-system… and legitimated by the star-system itself! Well done, Alejandro!

The second reference goes to Bypass, a new Portuguese architecture magazine that deserves a compliment for its ambition. The glossy book-like bilingual publication describes itself as hyperdisciplinary – which is the sort of epitome that makes me nostalgic for a time in which interdisciplinarity had to be fought for – against the academic stance of the moment. That was the time when I started publishing texts right after architecture school and quoted Swedenborg and Baudelaire and their correspondances. Now that we have welcomed inter-, trans- and multi-disciplinarity, let’s see what we’ll make of the concept in the age of hypertext…

My third reference is also biographically biased… As an architect with a penchant for interiors I cannot but welcome the idea that the insides of architecture are finally a theme of high public concern. With Nest long gone, and Apartamento filling the gaps for only a small audience, the latest issue of the Harvard Design Magazine is aptly named “What about the inside?” and, as far as I’m concerned and Mohsen Mostafavi suggests, it finally brings forth the question of the significance and frailty of the architectural interior as against the modernist promotion and protection of the wholesome shoebox.

As many architects today have only the arena of interiors to express their ideas about the world, one should not forget that this is also the most temporary and unconsidered of architecture’s operative fields. As such, and as interiors subsume to ever faster economic cycles, many of these expressions will vanish sooner than anything else… Never again to be the potential objects of beautiful acts of rereading, such as those suggested by Sigmund Kracauer.