Publication as Art Practice: Part III

This week’s contributing bloggers are Lindsey Larsen and Wes Larsen. Lindsey is an artist, writer, curator, and self-publisher currently based in Fort Worth, Texas. Wes is an independent designer focused on meaningful collaborations with institutions of art, craft, culture, and social practice. He is also a partner at the Fort Worth based digital design agency Tocco.

Together they are the creators of Dinnertime Magazine, an experimental publication project featuring process based content and collaborative conversations with artists. They recently sat down to discuss the project from its start. In the context of rethinking the publication’s identity, they examine its role in their respective creative practices, how it fits into the existing world of experimental publication, and what that means for the project moving forward.  (This is the third chapter of their three-part conversation; if you missed Part I or II, click HERE.)


W: So when you think about that, coupled with our open-ended publishing schedule, with no real set deadlines for releasing issues… where do you see it fitting into the world of other publications? To me, that’s the whole point of an experimental publication. It’s an experiment. Looking around and seeing what other people are doing and how we fit within those parameters, asking ourselves “What are other magazines doing, how do they look, what is their content like, what are their publishing schedules like…” The more we answer those questions and then start to apply them to our own practice, the less room we have to experiment, play with new ideas, and let the content evolve naturally.

L: Publication as a system comes with some parameters, especially when you think about your audience first. You want to anticipate their needs with a consistent publishing schedule, you want to appeal to a lot of different people with the content that you produce, etcetera… but that’s not really what I want to do. Experimental publications, or publication as part of my art practice have provided me with a lot of possibilities to consider. I have become aware that I don’t need to fit into what publication normally offers people, and that’s exciting because I think that places an emphasis on why we’re doing it which makes the content stronger. It feels more genuine than trying to make something for an audience.

Dinnertime, VoCA, Contemporary Art

Dinnertime Magazine, Issue I

W: Yeah, one of the keys has been finding the tools that make production accessible. It’s becoming a lot easier to avoid traditional publication parameters and kind of carve out our own path while still finding ways to get it in front of people. I think the audience understands this, too… people seek us out to ask about it, so there is something about building the anticipation that works to our advantage. Our struggle with how to exist on the web is also worth talking about. The more we’ve worked on Dinnertime, the more it’s become about the process of making this thing, and not the actual end product, so the focus on making it available on the web has become less of an issue. I’m still drawn to the idea of utilizing tools that exist to potentially promote it and get it out there, but still allowing it to only exist in print – as a tangible, singular object.

L: It definitely adds a lot of value to that object. There’s something to say about not trying to repurpose the content for web for the sake of getting it out there – that speaks to how we feel about the value of that content and emphasizes the importance of it as the process of the thing that we’re making.

VoCA, Dinnertime, Contemporary Art

Nathan Green in his studio, Manhattan, New York, NY

W: Right, we’re not trying to sell it and move on to the next one so we can sell it, and move on to the next one, etcetera… that also allows for continued flexibility in the future. The ideas that we’re putting into it and the reasons we’re doing it continue to change and shift as our practices evolve. We’re allowing ourselves to develop with it and because of that, as new tools become available and accessible, we avoid getting stuck.

L: Sustainability is something that is always forefront in my mind. I am constantly asking myself “Why am I doing this?”, “What purpose is it serving?”, and “Is it a sustainable activity?”, because I want it to be as meaningful as possible. I think that’s really the only way to be genuine. W: That’s great – I’ve just finished reading Norman Potter’s ‘What is a designer?’, which is written for “students.” His definition of a student is anybody who asks themselves “What am I doing?”, and “Why am I doing it?”. So for us, if this publication is something that we intend to continue using as a learning device – to teach ourselves new things about contemporary art, our own practices, conversation, and art criticism, and if we’re maintaining that student mindset of constantly asking ourselves those questions, then that’s never going to go away.

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