Category: People

Magazines as Muses: The Muse Issue by Verities

Following my previous post on CLOG Magazine, a themed architectural digest, I’m excited to dig into the book bag and pull out a different type of themed magazine: Verities. A London-based biannual, Verities “reveals the arresting and irrational in the everyday,” and the latest issue, titled The Muse Issue, doesn’t miss the mark.

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Muses are an interesting topic for anyone within the creative industries. As Verities aptly points out, inspiration is a commodity, and developing a system to spark inspiration is vital for a successful creative. The issue uncovers “muses” in the everyday, while at the same time critiquing the established idea of the vixen as the sole source of stimulation.

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In lieu of advertisements at the front, the first spread kicks off with a well-written Letter from the Editor, which is something that I miss from most magazines. Verities utilizes what I call an “atomized layout,” where images and text are scattered around each spread, creating a collage feel. The text provides shining moments and is further emphasized by sparse, moody photographs.

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Verities goes beyond providing content that a reader could find online by sourcing a series of well-researched stories on Eleanor Callahan (muse, and wife of Harry Callahan), an illuminating story of transgressive artists with Catholic backgrounds by Philippa Snow, and a powerful, fictitious (I would find out later) photo essay titled “Dora Fobert” by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, that masquerades as a set of found images of female prisoners at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.

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A well-designed and well-curated magazine is an amazing source for inspiration: a Muse. Jean-Louis Cohen is quoted in one of the stories saying, “Exhibitions construct narratives, and they tell them with spatial, visual means,” and this is an apt description of this issue of Verities. Pick up your copy here.

The Sexiest of Sexys: TISSUE Magazine

TISSUE first caught my eye almost a year ago at McNally Jackson, tucked on a hidden half-shelf between the glossy fashion section and the cafe. The cover was nondescript, but the edginess of the darkly patterned background combined with an atypical layout promised a few punches. It was love at first sight.

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That was the first issue, and now TISSUE is officially launching their third issue in Berlin on February 26th at their big sister’s office, 032c. Unfortunately the commute is a little too long for me, but I encourage any of my German friends to make the trip – it will be well worth it.

TISSUE is all about sex, and it flaunts its sexiness in a shockingly honest, voyeuristic way. It is both anti-stylized and highly refined. The content begs the questions: Is it porn or art? Is it erotic? Is erotic a fitting term to place something between sex and art?

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What does not exist in TISSUE is the high-gloss, high-photoshop, highly-implanted corpulence of porn. There are no snarling 40 year olds with boob jobs, oompa-loompa-orange skin, patterned knee-high socks and pigtails. Gone, even, are the couples, triples, gang bangers and gay brothers. In their stead are artful (through composition, texture and lighting) nudes gracing the likes of spare art galleries, window ledges, horses and suburban bedrooms. TISSUE tasks itself with creating a new eroticism that proves it is possible to communicate sexuality by completely devoting itself to exhibition and whimsy.

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Breaking into the publication world is not easy. There is a growing genre of magazines that toe the lines between fashion, art and porn. The result of this often finds its home in highly stylized editorials, done in the name of Art but often lacking it, filled with soft-core porn. This approach dresses up porn a bit, kind of like putting lipstick on a bulldog, but in the end its still porn. At the same time, typical editorials are stuck in a nether world where people lay around in ridiculous poses and situations. It reaks of the same staged fakeness as porn.

Luckily enough, TISSUE is at the other end of the spectrum by avoiding the pitfalls and cliches of both porn (hard and soft) and fashion (HIGH and low) and sets out to take “sexy to the most unsexy of places” through a host of subjects including “women, men, horses, architecture, fire-breathing and porn paraphernalia.” The result is a new understanding of eroticism that unites very talented contributors within a graphically unique format.

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The layout is minimal, but it’s not lazy. Infact it must take a massive amount of work to craft a magazine like this. I have a theory that TISSUE could be about anything, the graphic quality and layout are so unique that it would still be a fantastic magazine even if it traded cake decorating pics for the nudie shots.

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There are only a few magazines that I swear by (032c, Purple Fashion, Pin-Up) — magazines that hold their weight every issue, magazines that are recognizable on every spread, and TISSUE is the newest to the list. Lazy magazines rely on the success (and consequently the failures) of their contributors like crutches, doing little more than placing content on the page. TISSUE breaks the mold by crafting a singular, immersive landscape for themselves, their collaborators and most importantly, their readers. The result is a very special magazine.

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We managed to catch-up with the mastermind behind TISSUE, Uwe Jens Bermeitinger and set out to uncover a bit about the magazine and its mission.

Matthew Hoffman & Francesca Giuliani Firstly, can you tell us, why the name TISSUE?

Uwe Jens Bermeitinger Well, the title refers to the tissue you use to clean up your mess. And of course, the biological term “tissue” fits very well with what it’s all about. At least on the surface…

MH/FG Before embarking on TISSUE, you created and directed Nude Paper, which unfortunately only lived to see three issues. Can you talk a bit about your adventures with Nude Paper, and what the similarities and differences are with TISSUE?

UJB Nude Paper was big fun. I was sharpening my tools. We had a few difficulties with the publisher of Nude Paper so the whole team split up. Now we’ve started something deeper: TISSUE Magazine. Melanie Jeske and I publish it on our own, along with an ambitious team, the best contributors, and a lot of support from colleagues, friends and readers. TISSUE is a collective. It only works because nobody, except the printing house, is asking for money. I fund it with my own savings and the money I earn as a freelance art director. Nude Paper explored the ways of expressing nudity – a much simpler and short-dated concept. TISSUE Magazine goes deeper into human sexuality. We like to call it a “bedroom produced art and sex manual.”

MH/FG You mention that TISSUE takes “sex to the unsexiest of places.” Can you elaborate on that? What place is the unsexiest?

UJB This is a pretty cool quote from our friends over at 032c from an article on Nude Paper in their 20th issue. We loved it so much, we just stole it for TISSUE. It’s like having the Midas touch in sexy matters.

To answer your second question, the waiting room of a urologist is the unsexiest place. The unsexiest of things are definitely foot orthotics – which I should wear. But I don’t.

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MH/FG As far as TISSUE is concerned, is there an added value in approaching the topic of sex from a German perspective?

UJB Germans are hardcore. Like Kurt Tucholsky said: “Deutsch sein heißt eine Sache um ihrer selbst willen tun.” It means: doing something for its own sake. This is exactly what we are doing. We have no business plan and don’t do marketing – we just do what we want and give it all to the project.

TISSUE is proud of its German origin and we also know that it’s an international product with contributors and influences from around the world. Germany had some very dark times in history, but there has also always been a strong will for freedom. There were nudist movements in the first decades of 20th century, as well as in the 60’s and 70’s; people were striving for sexual freedom. On the other side of the wall, too. There have always been feminist and gay movements in Germany, and these influenced me a lot in my youth.

At the end, I think TISSUE is about freedom!

MH/FG What would you say is vulgar?

UJB Constantly complaining about one’s life while not recognizing that life itself is the highest gift of all. The privilege of living in the western world where everything is available at anytime in big amounts. Not seeing the opportunities of the freedom you live in. That’s vulgar.

MH/FG How do you go about selecting contributors for each issue?

UJB The best results show when the artist has total freedom and the guts to use it. I chose artists because of their special view on things; on sex, on life. I want them to dig deeper into the universe of human sexuality and the human factor. At least it just has to look cool.

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MH/FG You made a leap from Issue #1 to a much more substantial Issue #2, from “underground fanzine to wannabe-highbrow magazine.” Is this natural growth or is there something more to it?

UJB This is natural growth, or better: we’re accomplishing our objective issue by issue and we will never stop improving or re-inventing ourself. With issue 2 we obviously gained more color without getting glossy. We fight against stupidity, convenience and the visual fascism the mass media forces on us. We are searching for the truth.

MH/FG What publications inspire you, and who do you look up to? Do you collect magazines yourself? What makes you choose one magazine over another?

UJB I love and collect magazines. It’s my fuel and a big spring of inspiration. I look up to our big sister 032c from Berlin. 032c is the best magazine in the world. Richardson Magazine is a benchmark for us too.

MH/FG Last question, what is next for TISSUE?

UJB We are releasing issue N°3 right now. We are looking for a small distributor in the U.S. and more outlets. We are thinking about opening a gallery in our hometown of Hamburg, Germany, at least for a few months to bring all of our friends and artists from around the world together in one place. Japan is our biggest market, maybe we should release issue N°3 there. Let’s see what happens!

The Beginning of the New Year Compilations…

It’s that time of the year again – when every news source, blog, and Jack Nicholson-type OCD co-worker (we all have one) takes stock of the year and posts a “Best Of” list consolidating and ranking whatever their favorite hobby might be. The New Year seems to turn every person into an Ebert or a Roeper. This year is no exception, and as we gain momentum towards the end of the year (end of the world?) the lists are beginning to pop-up like whack-a-moles.

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Here is a good one by Designers & Books — although this falls outside of the magazine target of this blog – its still pretty enough to post here. A few notables are the Torre David book which includes the photography of Iwan Baan (whom I previously posted about here), alongside the ever entertaining Abstract City by the New York Times visual-blogger Christoph Niemann, and a book called Hippopposites which I’ve never actually had a chance to page through, but whose cover (look at those Hippos!) I distinctly remember walking past many times in Rome last Christmas. I hope that it is still there this Christmas (leaving for Rome in a little over a week! yay) or else I’ll bathe myself in guilt for not getting it last year…

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HIPPOS!

How Pentagram Influenced 40 Years of Magazines

This year Pentagram, one of the world’s most far-reaching design firms, turns 40. This past Friday they hosted a red and rockin’ party in Times Square to fully embrace their 40 years. My wife and I were lucky enough to attend the event which brought all of the existing Pentagram partners plus lots from the past – and about 1,000 of their friends and party crashers. There are already a few tributes floating around the interwebs that showcase Pentagram’s impact on the world, and in honor of the 40 year anniversary I wanted to make a special post on the many ways that Pentagram has influenced and participated in magazine design over the past 40 years, with big name publications alongside smaller (but no less influential) titles.

The Atlantic // Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Luke Hayman redesign the 150+ year old The Atlantic in 2008 to uncover what Bierut calls “the right visual analogue for a distinctive editorial voice.”

TIME // Pentagram’s Luke Hayman orchestrates a major redesign of Time Magazine in 2007 bringing the publication fully into the 21st Century. Pentagram is also involved in launching the “Frames” project for Time Magazine a few years later.

2wice // Pentagram partner Abbott Miller serves as co-editor and designer of 2wice – a landmark publication that focuses on performance arts. 2wice also recently moved to a nifty digital format on the ipad.

RADAR // Pentagram Partner Luke Hayman leads the redesign of Radarmagazine that launches with the July/August issue in 2008, sadly just a few months before the magazine is shuttered.

METROPOLIS // Paula Scher, a partner at Pentagram, re-designs Metropolis in 1999. The magazine size is cut down, the logo gets cropped. Inside, the design shifts to a cinematic approach.

New York Magazine // Pentagram Partner Luke Hayward also directs the redesign of New York Magazine in 2006 and wins Magazine of the Year at the Society of Publication Designers’42nd Annual Awards for the iconic overhaul.

ARCHITECT // Pentagram partner Abbott Miller and his team design Architect Magazine when it launches in 2006. The highly accessible format has helped the magazine remain a visible and informative publication on the profession of architecture ever since.

TRAVEL + LEISURE // One of the world’s top travel magazines, Travel + Leisure reaches out to Luke Hayward and his team for a design overhaul earlier this year. Hayward previously served as Creative Director at the publication, so the collaboration came with ease.

Looking at the breadth of Pentagram’s history – and how their work has shaped entire industries (magazines and far beyond), often with surprisingly simple, clean and timeless designs serves as a refreshing reminder that design can and should be made to last. Thank you to Pentagram for the amazing party and here is looking at 40 more years of design excellence!

Sandy’s Iconic Cover and The Story Behind It

Perhaps the most iconic photo to emerge post-Sandy is this cover of New York Magazine – shot by architecture photographer Iwan Baan (whom I actually just met a few weeks ago at a Halloween Party hosted by Storefront for Art and Architecture). Following the storm, Manhattan was left divided in two, that is “SOPO” and “NOPO” (“South of Power” and “North of Power”) for almost a week.

By now this cover image has already gained lots and lots of coverage. There is one anecdote that I’ve read in a few places that goes like this:

“What was on your mind when you took this picture?” Iwan replied, “As I looked at the glowing Goldman Sachs tower and the bright buildings surrounding this financial icon—I saw who has the power and how problematic that is for this country.”

I think that the conclusion that Iwan reaches is forced. The fact is that Goldman Sachs was crazily prepared for the storm, while others brushed off the severity of impending Sandy (_cough NYU Hospital _cough). In an interview with the CEO of Goldman Sachs he states their borderline OCD preparation for the storm, and frustration following criticisms of Goldman Sachs after the storm.

All in all the cover is gorgeous and bound to be remembered down that line as an iconic image – but it is also important to remember that “iconic” can cause vast over-simplifications of complex circumstances.