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Fresh Dialogue Seven / New Voices in Graphic Design

Making Magazines Princeton Architectural Press American Institute of Graphic Arts New York Chapter New York, 2007


Published by Princeton Architectural Press 37 East Seventh Street New York, New York 10003 For a free catalog of books, call 1.800.722.6657. Visit our website at www.papress.com. Š 2007 Princeton Architectural Press All rights reserved Printed and bound in China 10 09 08 07 4 3 2 1 First edition No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher, except in the context of reviews. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions. Editing: Nicola Bednarek Series design: Jan Haux and Deb Wood Design: Jan Haux Special thanks to: Nettie Aljian, Sara Bader, Dorothy Ball, Janet Behning, Becca Casbon, Penny (Yuen Pik) Chu, Russell Fernandez, Pete Fitzpatrick, Sara Hart, Clare Jacobson, John King, Nancy Eklund Later, Linda Lee, Katharine Myers, Lauren Nelson Packard, Scott Tennent, Jennifer Thompson, Paul Wagner, and Joseph Weston of Princeton Architectural Press —Kevin C. Lippert, publisher

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the publisher.


Contributors: Lisa Farjam David Haskell Tod Lippy Moderator: James Truman Date: 7 June 2006 Location: Fashion Institute of Technology

Contents: 12

Foreword By Peter Buchanan-Smith and Barbara de Wilde

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116

Panel Discussion

Project Credits


Music/background conversation The three panelists sit center stage in front of a large projection screen. To their left, a podium is set up. Enter J A M E S TRUMAN

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to Fresh Dialogue. I’m sitting here this evening with three people who have each done one of the most reckless things a person could do: they’ve started their own magazine. It’s a great ambition, and one that I suspect many people in this room have had. What could be better? You sculpt a picture of the world according to your own personal vision. You hire and hang out with creative people such as writers and photographers and artists. You get yourself written about and photographed. You receive fabulous invitations. And if you’re really good, you get a 30 percent discount at Prada and free access to MoMA. [Laughter] So what’s the catch? Well, here’re a few. The first is, it’s really expensive. It costs a lot of money to launch a new magazine, and it typically takes about five years, if you’re successful, to stop bleeding cash. So you need a benefactor. It’s not going to be Wall Street; they JAMES

Laughter

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TRUMAN


don’t like magazine publishing very much. It’s not going to be one of the big publishing houses; they don’t like unproven talent very much. So typically, you scour your address book for someone, anyone, with some savings. Very likely it’s someone in your family. It’s a poignant moment when your rich uncle hands you that first check for $50,000. You both know you’ve just fleeced him, that he’s never going to see the money again, [Laughter] but you need it and that’s that. Around this time, your apartment becomes global headquarters. Your friends become unpaid labor, and anyone who ever worked for a magazine before becomes your counselor. Suddenly you have three months to produce a first issue. You have to find an art director, you have to sign up a printer, you have to find a distributor, you have to buy paper, you have to find advertisers to pay for all of this, or you have to find a foundation to underwrite you. None of these things is straightforward, not even buying paper. The cost of paper changes constantly, and it never goes down. Of course, there’s always a fantastic reason for it going up: [ The rising literacy rate in China. [Laughter] I’m serious. [Laughter] Union problems in Finland. The rising literacy rate in India. The impending civil war in Canada. [Laughter] 15

Laughter

Laughter Laughter Laughter

Laughter


Laughter

Laughter

Laughter

And finally, if you’re lucky, you’ll get your magazine printed. It sits in a warehouse for what seems like a year and then is distributed around the world. You know this only because your distributor tells you so. [Laughter] In fact, half the copies may stay in the warehouse, and the other half may return there if they don’t get unpacked in the bookstores and newsstands that supposedly agreed to take them. The best you can hope for is to sell 50 percent of all copies; the industry average last year was 34 percent. The rest of your expensive paper gets pulped. And then you have your next issue to prepare, and then your next. Some time around this moment, a few people start to point out to you that 70 percent of new magazines fail in the first two years. Ladies and gentlemen, the three panelists we’re hearing from tonight are not mere editors and publishers, they are warriors. They’ve not only survived the two-year deathwatch, they’ve done so with magazines that are bold, original, and not obviously commercial. So let’s start by hearing from each of them individually. How they started, why they started, and how the hell they’ve gotten away with it. [Laughter] First of all, I’d like to introduce Lisa Farjam. Lisa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bidoun, a remarkable magazine in English 16


about the art, culture, and politics of the Middle East. Lisa graduated from Bard College with a BA in writing and worked as a secretary to the Iranian Delegation of UNESCO in Paris before launching Bidoun in the spring of 2004. In two years, the magazine has grown from 5,000 to 15,000 copies sold; it is distributed worldwide and has been heralded as the barometer of contemporary Middle Eastern culture. [Applause]

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Applause


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top: Bidoun 03 (winter 2005), Hair, My Black Dress, by Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Aliabadi, from the project Freedom is Boring, Censorship is Fun bottom: Bidoun 03, Hair, Ajram Beach, illustration by Lamia ZiadĂŠ


Bidoun 03, Hair, cover, Untitled, photography by A. L. Steiner

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We founded Bidoun in 2003 as an experiment, out of recognition that there was no publication that linked what was happening in cities such as Cairo, Tehran, and Beirut to readers in London, New York, L.A., and beyond. Equally, there were things that were happening in those cities that were unknown in the Middle East. So our mandate became to connect people from East and West through a magazine—what may sound like some sort of handholding United Colors of Benetton vision of diplomacy, but, we felt, was enormously important all the same. Our first task was outreach, so Alia Rayyan, my co-editor at the time, and I started traveling, talking about our vision and collecting feedback. We soon realized that there was an enormous interest in a publication like this one, perhaps first and foremost because it could be a repository for documentation of the extraordinary things that were happening in the region, whether it was an arts movement in Beirut, a new space opening in Cairo, or artists producing unparalleled work—some of which had never been written about critically and was unknown to Western audiences. At the same time, there was great interest in the East in what was happening “over there” in the West—especially with some of the developments following 9/11. And so we began, over the span of four months, to meet with curators, artists, writers, and

L i sa

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F arjam


musicians, taking buses from city to city, staying on people’s couches, and getting a sense of what they would want from a publication on arts and culture. We collected writers all along the way through word of mouth and emails, creating a network that today is significant and continues to grow. Beginning a magazine with no publishing experience and a team of three people that came from art school was a challenge. We built a business plan by asking a friend to plug in some numbers into a model she was using for her business classes at grad school. I put together some visuals and became a traveling salesman, going from office to office in Dubai and Tehran with my big idea. Most people laughed in my face. In Dubai I was told that no one would ever read a magazine about art based over there. Three years later, there are two Bidoun rip-offs, both claiming to be the first cultural magazine of the Arab world. I finally managed to collect enough investment capital to float us for the first two years. When the two years were up, I returned and raised another year’s worth, but we don’t plan to rely on investors forever and are working on receiving funding from organizations. Of course, there were initial stumbling blocks, obstacles, mistakes—we even had some trouble defining our audience in a single sentence. Trying to strike a balance between an audience 21

Scattered Laughter


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top: Bidoun 04 (spring/summer 2005), United Arab Emirates, cover, photography by Lara Baladi bottom: Bidoun 04, United Arab Emirates, Emirates Towers, Dubai, photography by Armin Linke, 2004


top: Bidoun 04, United Arab Emirates, Map of the United Arab Emirates, illustration by Cindy Heller bottom: Bidoun 04, United Arab Emirates, Palm Island, Dubai, photography by Armin Linke, 2004

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of so-called Middle East insiders, who may have heard of, say, the ultra-famous and hyped Beirutbased architect Bernard Khoury, and so-called outsiders, who may very well have never heard of him, was a challenge. At the same time we wanted our magazine to reach an audience far beyond those with an immediate link to the Middle East. This isn’t just a magazine about the Middle East. We talk about urbanism, cosmopolitanism, terrorism, war, economics, censorship, and globalization in general. Another issue was the task of representation: is our mandate and mission geared toward the Middle East first, or are we to serve as a tool for cultural diplomacy—showing the West that the Middle East is in fact more nuanced and dynamic than the popular consciousness tends to think? Do we privilege younger artists or more established ones? What do we do with censorship—a reality in many parts of the world where we want to be read? Do we aim to be glossy and seductive, pulling people in by privileging visual culture and even exotica à la Tank magazine or do we pursue a more pared-down, literary option like the New Yorker? And how can we be accessible to the part of the world we are talking about when we are printed entirely in English? Who are we really making this magazine for? So what next? We have a lot left to do. We’ve come a long way since our beginnings, 24


but I think we have managed to sustain a strong, critical, idiosyncratic voice. We base each issue around a theme, be it hair, tourism, or politics— a structure that allows us to pull apart an idea and attack it in a completely new way. This has kind of become a Bidoun trademark. We rely on a stable of young writers and are continually seeking out new voices. Our contributors range from young bloggers in Tehran and activists in Cairo who’ve never had a wider platform for their work to the blue-chip figures such as Christopher Hitchens or Walid Raad. And what about politics? We consider ourselves as positioned at the intersection of art and politics. Yet we are not overtly political in any sort of partisan or rhetorical sense. Rather, we examine ideas of human rights, law, and democracy and focus on work from the Middle East that addresses these issues in a political context. We’re also starting a talk series on art and politics, the first of which will debut at P.S.1 at the end of June with Trevor Paglen, an artist, writer, and experimental geographer based in Berkeley, whose work involves deliberately blurring the lines between social science, contemporary art, and a host of even more obscure disciplines. His most recent projects take up secret military bases, the California prison system, and the CIA’s practice of “extraordinary rendition.” 25


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Bidoun 04, United Arab Emirates, images of visitors at the war museum, collected by Negar Azimi


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Laughs

We are also beginning to address the question of translation by launching a translation project that we hope will serve as a platform for exchange among young writers from the East and the West. A starting point will be a supplement to the magazine with translations of a selection of articles in each issue into Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish. Beyond that, we’re planning to curate a film series, getting into book publication, and we’ve acted as curators for a number of shows in Europe this past year. Bidoun isn’t only a magazine, but a particular way of dealing with geography, travel, and representation. And that’s just the beginning. [Laughs] We aren’t kidding when we say Bidoun is a work in progress. Our small team is spread out across the globe, and even though we have a staff of six, we have never all actually been in the same room together. We do everything via the Internet, which allows us to be a truly globalized magazine but also makes the logistics that much harder. Yet it is very exciting to work closely with, say, an Iranian artist living in Switzerland and then finally meet face to face a year and half later in Istanbul. We are not just standing on the outside and reviewing; we are also creating by commissioning projects and collaborating with artists—working over multiple time zones for weeks to produce something that we are all very proud of. It’s challenging day in and day out as we make our 28


way through these growing pains, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thank you. [Applause] Thank you, Lisa, that was great. I actually want to work for your magazine. [L] Let me ask you, do you pay your contributors? J ames

L i sa

J ames

L i sa

truman

F arjam

We pay everybody.

truman

F arjam

Laughter

You pay?

Everybody.

Okay. We’ll talk later. [Laughter] Our next speaker is Tod Lippy. Tod is the editor of Esopus magazine, a not-for-profit publication. He pushes the boundaries of magazine publishing by making each issue an art object in itself and an embodiment of the creative impulse. His first book of interviews, Projections 11: New York Film-makers on Filmmaking, was published by Faber & Faber in 2000. Tod’s short film Cookies was featured in over twenty film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. [Applause] J ames

Applause

truman

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Laughter

Applause


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top: Esopus 1 (fall 2003), “100 Frames: Baran,” photography by Mohammad Davudi bottom: Esopus 1, Victor and Judy, photography by Eva Vives

Fresh Dialogue 7: Making Magazines  

The New York Chapter of AIGA's Fresh Dialogue series brings together emerging designers in annual panel discussions and provides them with a...

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