Marc Asekhame in conversation with Matthew Hanson
(Published in issue 002 12 17)
Matthew Hanson Can you describe the process for producing this issue?
Marc Asekhame Yes, it’s sort of a backwards process—usually the editorial is meant to set the programme not question it. We begin with a simple invitation to someone or some group—artists that we are interested in or exhibitions that we want to know more about. We think of them as collaborators and start a conversation about how they might participate. We don’t prescribe a theme or narrative. Teo and I tend to think of the role of the editor as one who introduces certain structures as the first part in a process of production—then finds ways to step back. In their 1975 Glamour Issue General Idea famously wrote: With art at his heels the Art Director in us can’t help but asking: How much drama? How much mood? How much information? One question we are left with is, how much narrative and in what way does it inevitably enter the process?
MH Do you start with an idea of the type of content you want to produce?
MA Yes and no. Of course we are totally interested in the content and themes that are the result of this—but not necessarily in trying to define them, or what they are supposed to mean when bound together. I’m more interested in how ‘content’ might be something that happens once the magazine is published: for example, if it manages to create a discourse.
MH And is this done with an audience in mind?
MA Yes, but I don’t think readership is an external element to be found and mobilised, to engage with Periodico. I would argue that readership is subject to the process of production. Readership—or trust—has to be built. This is one of the most challenging aspects of publishing periodically. If we think of the magazine as a formal proposal, some of the stylistic decisions we have to make inevitably define the product, and if that and the content resonates with an audience, perhaps readership follows.
MH And what stylistic or formal decisions were made for this issue?
MA We wanted it to look and feel different from the first issue. I guess we are suspicious of how brand and identity are imposed through familiarity and repetition, and how a cover image can play into that. So, at first, we decided against a cover image but quickly realised that having no cover in itself becomes a brand. We were thinking about how to outsource these editorial decisions. We’ve recently asked five artists to produce proposals for future covers, which were exhibited at MAVRA in Berlin this year and come as a series of editions.
MH Despite starting without a concept, common themes bounce between contributions. The vocabulary of theatre, for example.
MA Yes, the function of costume in theatre, the dramaturgy of fashion—these things come up between Calla Henkel, Max Pitegoff and Anthony Symonds.
MH And that offers an interesting backdrop to Ilya Lipkin’s conversation with John Miller. In John Miller’s case a seemingly arbitrary image contains the potential for something ideologically loaded, but at what stage of the process does it surface?
MA It stays unclear to what extent an ‘ideological non-site’ manifests itself as staged, or whether that is located in a past event, the absence of a past event, or the photograph taken by Miller. So the consideration of time immediately becomes a significant undertaking. In his midday series, photographs are framed in a period where work-time and leisure-time overlap and potentially come into conflict.
MH And Heji Shin’s contribution ties these together in a curious way.
MA Yes, Heji’s contribution is a collection of images that have previously been shown in fashion magazines. They’ve had this other life, circulating with a different type of currency for a different type of audience. The images are staged, their role here is staged too and showing them in this way provokes some questions about image value that we are interested in… what Symonds might call ‘value contagion’.
MH It seems that the magazine plays with the idea of value contagion with its own content. The ads for example—what’s going on there?
MA We were interested in playing with what might traditionally be seen as the most coercive aspect of a magazine, what gives a mandate to consume. So we proposed a certain framework which had to be responded to—we asked each advertiser to nominate someone for a portrait shot, to be taken by Ilya Lipkin. Choosing to integrate these advertisements as a coherent part of the content was a moment where we as editors took on a more directorial role, but at the same time this framework left the subject (the content) of the portrait, open to the advertiser. We asked ourselves where do we leave things resolved and where do we propose them unresolved?