We’re massive fans of online/offline art publication This Is A Magazine. On the occasion of the release of their latest Compendium, co-creator Andy Simionato kindly granted us an email interview.
BST: What was/is the vision behind This Is A Magazine? Has it changed/evolved over time?
This is a magazine about nothing.
The production values of TIAM are extraordinary — what is the nature of the relationship between This Is A Magazine and its printers/paper suppliers?
The Compendia are published with the help of a paper sponsor (Sappi) and the long standing collaboration with the print-suppliers Nava Milano. We work very closely with Nava on the production of the books which in a way become the result of the conversion of industrial processes into ideas and back again. “Who I Think I Am” was awarded one of the print industry’s most prestigious honors, the Gold Ink Award for Best Hard-cover Book world-wide thanks to our partners Nava.
Does your publication generate business and leads for the artists involved?
Each artist relationship is unique, some publishing for the first time such as Atsushi Hasegawa or Boogie, others are already established such as David Shrigley or Antonio Riello. Each collaboration evolves into a world in itself, each with its own particular orbit.
Personally, between making our own artworks and producing the various editions Karen, Ann and I rarely become fully conscious of the notoriety the project brings. Sometimes we get invited to art fairs and openings, which is always nice. But ultimately I think business does not always know what to do with us.
Is there any brief to the artists involved or is it simply ‘whatever you want to do’/'go crazy’?
Although we don’t offer predetermined themes or briefs to artists, much of what you see published is the result of a dialogue and (sometimes) several exchanges of varying vivacity between ourselves and the artists.
The content of this Compendium seems less political than previous ones — was this a conscious decision?
The short answer is that each edition is a by-product of our experiences.
The long answer is that with “Who I think I am” we wanted to make a collection of psycho-dramas played out in determining the parameters of that social-contract called “identity”. The book begins by asking for the reader’s signature of agreement that he/she will be required to “complete” the book, and therefore the reader is implied as an explicit and necessary part in determining the artist’s individual works, and ultimately the book’s collective vision. The book ends with a bag of cutouts from all the Compendia to date that can be used to complete the final chapter, which is presented as empty pages of coloured craft-paper. This is a game of empowerment where the political structure of publishing, where the roles of passive-reader and dead-author are inverted.
Who are your target market?
We are not organized or systematic in our approach to marketing, in our very first issue we opened with a warning: “Marketing studies have shown that you probably will not like this magazine”. We work directly with some bookstores mainly because we like them and know the owners and people who shop there, otherwise we trust that we can connect with potential readers through whatever means available, for example word-of-web.
What is the intended reaction to the content (if there is one)?
We want everything to come up to the surface, like in an earthquake. Then the reader can sift through and find whatever is of interest/use, and (we hope) rebuild new meanings.
Where do you see This Is A Magazine going next?
The publication started as an online flipbook, with micro-animations, from there we moved to streaming QuickTime editions (which we called Peepshows), followed by a PowerPoint issue which was intended to be performed, an animated-gif issue and most recently we are exploring raw programming languages so that the issues can be generated in real-time viewing. During these years we have produced a full-length DVD and read-along giant-picture folio book, a bunch of other Compendia which took various forms, the most recent being “Who I think I am”. Where to next? We have 2 squeaky-new online issues ready to launch including the hidden “jonkers worst comic ever”, and we have started production on a new 2008 compendium called “Trust me, you will not be sorry”, all made from smoke and mirrors and other magic.
With thanks to Andy and Karen Donnachie and also Simon and David at Someone.