March 28, 2012  |  Library and Archives
Making Millennium Magazines

Installation view of the Millennium Magazines exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, 2012

As we were brainstorming a name for our Library exhibition of contemporary experimental magazines, Millennium Magazines stuck because of its concise alliteration. The name also specifically isolates this recent period of time—post-Y2K—during which these publications have been flourishing despite constant conversations about the end of print culture. Working in a library, this is a particularly hot topic as we think about the future and how best to accommodate new modes of publishing. The exhibition, now on view at MoMA in The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education Building at 4 West 54 Street, aims to complicate this assumption that print is dead. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that we’re living in a relatively “print unfriendly climate” when commercial publishing houses are scaling back and large bookstore chains are going out of business. But for artists and grassroots operations, it’s a very exciting time. Accessibility to printers and other resources needed to publish your own book or magazine is easier than ever, and the Internet, which is often blamed for the demise of print culture, has actually provided people with greater access to the tools needed to make, market, and distribute a book or magazine. The growing popularity of events like the annual Printed Matter NY Art Book Fair is a great example of the continued interest in printed material and the vitality of the community of publishers creating this material.

Millennium Magazines features about 100 artists’ magazines published since 2000. Traditionally we display library materials in glass vitrines, but for this exhibition it didn’t make sense to have the magazines frozen in cases. We wanted to give visitors the opportunity to handle the magazines, and displayed the issues tethered on tables. Included in the exhibition are a broad range of artists’ magazines, and they are arranged in alphabetical order, so as to be as democratic as possible in the organization. The participants generously provided handling copies of their publications, and it creates a very interactive show.

Selection of artists' magazines

Having all of the materials laid out on tables allows for a consideration of the different ways in which artists and designers are currently using the medium. One important aspect of the genre is artists’ magazines for which an individual or a group merge their practice(s) into a serial publication. One of our favorites, Album, is a superb example of this format. Made by two Norwegian artists, Eline Mugaas and Elise Storsveen, the magazine is very simple and clever in design—it’s just color xeroxes bound with staples. The visual content is so colorful and their juxtaposition of images is so hilarious that the cheap materials don’t matter at all. It’s a nice contrast to high-end glossy magazines, and it goes to show you don’t need to spend a lot of money to produce and distribute your own magazine.

Some of the magazines use the format to circumscribe and document particular social or political discourses across the field of contemporary art and design and/or within specific geographic communities. These magazines often feature creative editorial practices and shared sensibilities among collaborators. To name a few featured in this exhibition: LTTR, The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Megawords, Triple Canopy, Fillip, Journal of Radical Shimming, Infopool, Copenhagen Free University, Bidoun, Pages, and Chimurenga.

From left: LTTR; Megawords

The exhibition also includes a significant group of “lifestyle” magazines. Apartamento, Condiment, Club Donny, Knit Knit, Here & There, The Plant Journal, Threads, and White Zinfandel are all examples of this current trend. Plants, nature, crafts, fashion, food, and home decor are all common themes. Community is a central part of these publications, often expanding beyond the printed page. White Zinfandel, for example, hosts dinner parties. Issues of Apartamento, Condiment, Knit Knit, and The Plant Journal usually include recipes or instructions for DIY projects. These publications are often personal and intimate explorations of domestic spaces and their design.

Come visit the show and browse the materials at your leisure; it will be up through May 14. We have launched a website that describes the materials, and we are also excited to present—with MoMA’s Department of Education—a panel discussion with several of the show’s participants on April 9 at 6:00 p.m. in The Celeste Bartos Theater at MoMA.