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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 revival of nudie magazines a la Richardson and Jacques over the past few years is nothing new. Increased interest in promoting sexuality without resorting to the low art of pornography has led to a slew of new publications, some retro, others glossy, focused on communicating sexiness in alternative ways. Enter Gypsé Eyes…
Gypsé Eyes is a magazine lovingly crafted from inside a Brooklyn studio that prides itself on “plumbing the depths and dimensions of sex, love, and relationships.” Led by designer-cum-publisher Tyler Lafreniere, each issue is brimming with work from up-and-coming designers, all within a well-crafted format that shifts dramatically from issue to issue. From its humble photocopied zine-ish beginnings in Issue 1 to a glossy Issue 3 (The Make Out Issue), to Issue 4 on large sheets of newsprint (The Magic Issue), the ever-changing style provides for surprising moments along the way.
Last week I received a very special package on my desk containing no less than 5 issues of Gypsé Eyes, a handful of magic buttons, a plastic necklace, a mix tape, a mysterious baggie labeled “Make-Out Powder” and two tiny phalli. The party bag is closely related to the mission of the magazine: to toe the line of in-your-face erotica alongside kitschy, tongue-in-cheek and unquestionably awkward moments that make it feel voyeuristic and amateur (in a good way). The general campy-ness of the content is something unique that I haven’t seen in this genre of magazine, but it comes off as a kind of love-child between Vice Magazine and Giddyheft. Hipster loving here we come!
Gypsé Eyes “investigates the hilarity and loneliness of sex, love, and relationships,” and it does a hell of a job at capturing every possible face of sex from downright sleaziness and hipster pretentiousness to the humorous, clumsy and authentic. The themed structure creates highly digestible issues that effectively cross-breed erotica with outside topics, like magic and food, uncovering sexiness in previously unsexed locations.
But of course there is more to it than that, Gypsé Eyes publishes each issue in limited runs, and incorporates hand-made techniques like silkscreen and letterpress printing. Issues are framed within well structured layouts that gives each contributor’s work the center stage. High-quality graphic flourishes (especially in the Food & Drink issue, and I love the logo!) and careful production lets each issue shine in its own unique ways. Helpful charts and diagrams alongside well written stories add an additional layer to delve into within each issue.
It is no small feat to publish a magazine in this day and age, as a result Gypsé Eyes has harnessed the power of crowd-funding on more than one occasion via Kickstarter to raise the necessary funds. Every issue can also be downloaded here, but I strongly encourage you to spend a few bucks and get the printed editions. Gypsé Eyes is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf… or night stand.