4478ZINE’s Publishing Manifesto — by Erik van der Weijde




Publishing is an important part of my artistic practice.


The text below is an attempt to explain and introduce my PUBLISHING MANIFEST as I wrote it down a couple of years ago. All 14 points apply to my working method and remind me of which path to follow. The first 8 points lead through the various stages of making a book, whereas the last 6 consider the finished book(s).





01. The book is the carrier for my (photographic) series.

As an artist working with photography, I always build series. To keep these series together and present them as a whole, the book is the perfect format. The collection of the images is more important than the single photograph within my work.




02. The printed page is the perfect form for the reproducibility of the photographic image.

To prevent any photograph from floating in the void, letʼs say on your cell phone or harddisk, you need to take action. Assigning an image to a specific page could be one of these first actions. The reproducibility of both the photograph and the printed page blend easily into a new form.













03. The spread contextualizes the single images.

Using the spread, the single image becomes part of something bigger. Through formal decisions images start to create direct relations with each other, possibly through repetition, contrast, or links within the photographs.





04. The sequence of pages may provide yet another context.

Apart from formal decisions in designing a spread, what enters here is a storyline, a sequence. By mixing other photographs and the turning of the pages a story evolves and grows. In this part of the process the rhythm of the reading is decided.













05. The collections of images are mirrored in the collectability of the actual book.

As well as the photographic images are collections, so are the actual publications. Different books from the same catalogue tell yet another story. As it is important to keep the series of pictures together, the different books together also have a distinct weight. The value of the individual books lies partly in their collectability.




06. The ratio between the quality of the printing and the quality of the image is more complex than to be read 1:1.

Of course there are a million ways to print a photograph, by combining printing techniques and papers. The first step to come to a specific printing technique is to carefully read the quality of the image. Not only the outer, or immediately visible quality, but also the inner quality should be taken into consideration. These different levels of qualities could be represented on different levels by the quality of the printed matter. One should try to look deeper into the used techniques, both for the print and for the image, to understand the connections between them.













07. The relation between form and content is as equally important as both parts separately, but all parts may represent different values.

The content of the photographic projects is always the starting point, but one of the roles of the form is strengthen this content. Some projects may use a very bold form to point out a subtle theme, whereas others use a subtle design to make a bold statement. Depending on each project the form should be dosed accordingly. Especially when the form is an actual part of the content, their different values can strengthen meaning.




08. The fetishistic character of the printed matter may provide the extra layers to strengthen the iconic value of its images.

The choice of exotic papers or printing techniques can be used to surprise the viewer. This sudden appreciation of the scent of ink, texture of the paper or look of the binding can help elevating the meaning of some images. Images that have been chosen in the first place, because they represent an iconic view on a specific subject, will grow through the immediate surroundings in which theyʼre shown, i.e. the printed matter.













09. The book, as an object, gains strength as it gets re-contextualized by its viewer, owner or bookcase in which it stands.

As soon as the finished book leaves the publisher, its re-contextualization begins. Imagine a project on a specific architectural theme, standing in the bookcase of an architect, held between other architecture books that have been gathered and collected over the years. The meaning of that single book will be evaluated by each owner and judged on different merits.




10. The connections between different publications may be invisible, but are always present.

All books grow out of a little seed from deep within the maker. There are only a few themes touched upon, but treated in as many different ways as possible. If you track back these, sometimes, underlying themes, youʼll find connections within all published titles. Even if connections are only minimal, they should always be strong enough to hold the web together.













11.The steps made in the publishing process are solely based on artistic principles.

There can be many reasons to publish a book, but there can be only one reason to become an artist. If you choose to make books as an outlet for your artistic work, you should stay true to that and put aside other reasons. A merely financial reason, for example, will be visible in the project and will weaken the work. Donʼt underestimate your viewers. Most of them will be smart enough to see your true reasons behind the project. If you are an artist, than make art. If not, than donʼt.




12. If the book is like a building, then, the publishersʼ catalogue needs proper urban planning.

I compare my work to a building, just like Fassbinder did. Some works function as the bricks, some as the windows and even some as the wallpaper. So in that same logic, if you consider your book to be as a built structure or object, all these different books or structures together, should show some clarity. Buildings on top of each other, or parallel roads leading to nowhere will not make the body of work stronger. You have the power the carefully plan that city of yours and thus invite people to come and visit again and again.













13. Each published title must add value to the existing.

With each upcoming title you should ask yourself: ʻWhy am I making this book? What will this project add to all those already existing out there?ʼ Just because you can make a book does not necessarily make it a good one. Is the subject or theme strong enough? If your project turns out to be a copy, be it in subject, design or whatever, no one, except your family and close friends, will find it interesting. Your book should be strong enough to make it on its own outside in the big world. If not think of all the paper, ink, money and time wasted.




14. All books that are not made are, at least, just as important.

We make decisions all the time. Left or right, big or small, yes or no… All those times you say no to something or someone can help you make your body of work stronger. On first sight it might seem youʼd be losing out by saying ʻnoʼ that event or publisher or gallery, but in the end people that really matter for your work will praise your decisions and determinacy. The difficulty is that almost nobody knows about any of those times you said no. But that doesnʼt make it less important. Always say no to those proposals that will not strengthen your vision on the project.





Erik van der Weijde (Dordrecht, 1977) studied photography at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He has published over 30 titles, most under his independent label 4478ZINE, but also with other renowned publishers such as ROMA Publications and Rollo-Press.






Changing Channels — by Christopher Schreck

In my last article for Paperweight, I spoke with Daniel Pianetti of No Layout, an online archive and bookstore whose business model, based on charging contributors an annual participation fee in lieu of a commission on sales, has attracted the attention of smaller art book publishers eager to explore methods of promotion, presentation, and distribution that better reflect an increasingly digital landscape.


What’s most exciting to me about projects like No Layout is that they reinforce for artists and publishers alike that now more than ever, one needn’t think of publishing in terms of “standard practices.” As conventions give way to new possibilities and greater autonomy, those committed to producing limited-run art publications have found that there are as many distinct potential audiences for a given item as there are existing modes of presentation. As a result, one finds today’s publishers developing diverse, idiosyncratic strategies for displaying and disseminating their products, inventing models that span multiple platforms (both physical and digital) and allow readers to choose how they access and experience printed content.


To gain a better sense of how art books are making their way to readers, I solicited insight from a few of my favorite publishers: Shelter Press, Gottlund Verlag, Editions FP & CF, Hassla Books, and Pau Wau Publications. While each stressed the crucial role of the internet in facilitating sales and cost-effective distribution, they also spoke to the continued importance of traditional modes of dissemination, such as international distributors, book fairs, and bookstores as means of gaining legitimacy, promoting strategically, and maintaining a presence within their given communities.




(Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)




1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Shelter Press?


Basically, we have 4 main distribution channels:

a) Our own online store

b) Our worldwide distributor (Amsterdam-based Idea Books, who specialize in art books, and are mainly known for being Roma Publications’ distributor, as well as many good Japanese publishers’.)

c) Some “special” bookstores that work with us very closely – like Yvon Lambert in Paris, for example. They order everything we do, in a good quantity, and really support us.

d) Bookfairs. We try to go as much as possible to the fairs, but it can be super expensive, and since Shelter Press is still a very new project, we can’t go to all the fairs we are invited to (ie, NY, Tokyo, and so on…)


2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?


As I said, we are now working with Idea Books, and they handle all the distribution worldwide. Money-wise, it’s not too interesting, since they take something like 65% on the public price. But it’s a very good way to spread some copies around the world, and to go to some unexpected or hard-to-reach stores.


When I was running Kaugummi Books (our previous imprint), I was selling TONS of zines online. Sometimes a whole run of 100 copies could be out of print in 1 day or so. But we moved to Belgium a year ago, where the shipping costs are INSANELY high, and it’s become kind of complicated for us to sell through our online store. For example, we are selling our vinyl at 12€, and the shipping to Japan is 22 €. This is just crazy! It’s way different from France, where the shipping costs were super low.


So we sell less online right now and more in bookstores… which is kind of tricky. You get 100% of sales from your online store and only 45% through your distributor, whereas Kaugummi was really different, because we’d be selling 80% online (good money) and 20% in bookstores (good visibility). That was a good balance. I hope to find a good balance for Shelter Press – it’s still a bit difficult for me to have a clear view on all of this since Shelter is a very new project. But for now, with the combination of online and bookstores, along with the bookfairs, Shelter Press can work on new projects, so it’s OK!


Aside from books, we also put out records, and it helps a lot economically. Everyone is saying that the record industry is dying, but it’s still way easier to sell records than art books!


3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?


Not really; I almost feel like we are all in the same situation. One thing comes to my mind, but it’s more like a conceptual bookstore project. It’s called POST, and they are based in Japan. They feature one publisher every month, their whole catalogue, and then change the publisher the next month. I really like this approach, of displaying the publishing project as a whole thing, to give the prefect view on what each publisher is trying to say with his very own imprint.


Shelter Press





(Los Angeles, CA / Kutztown, PA)



1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Gottlund Verlag?


I primarily sell books directly through my own website. I also distribute to a handful (5-10) bookstores in the states and abroad. I have a distributor for Japan as well. I would estimate I send close to half of a given edition to Japan. The reason I sell directly through my site though, is that as a publisher who is also the designer, printer, and binder, doing all of the production in house and all by hand, I don’t make any profit if I sell to shops at 50% of retail. The wholesale cost is the same as the production cost. I only break even that way. So the only way for me to remain profitable or have any money for the next project is to have customers buy the books directly from me. I do the New York and L.A. Art Book Fairs, which are fun and good exposure. It’s always the best to speak with people in person about the books and for them to be able to deal with them physically.


2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?


I ship to 5-10 stores and 1-2 distributors. I use Twelve books in Japan and Motto for Europe. I send very few books to Europe for distro, mainly for Motto’s own stores. I send around 50% of my print runs to Japan if it’s a title that does well there. Basically, because of the small edition size and huge amount of energy spent creating each book by hand, I have to sell as many books as I can through my own website. It would be different if I made bigger editions of 1-2,000 copies and could send a bunch to stores. The stores know the way I work and take as many as I can spare and they can sell. It’s a very open and honest relationship for the most part. As I mentioned, though, I only really make any money on a book if I sell it myself. The wholesale price to a bookstore is about equal to what it costs me to produce a given book.


3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?


I’m curious about this myself, and feel like I’m a bad person to ask. I think everyone has used the existing technology so far as well as they can. Sales are the part of the business I dislike the most and shy away from. But as far as display, I’ve been toying with the idea of scanning all my books (especially for the unique ones, such as Sam Fall’s Light Work or Jason Fulford’s Variations) and creating an accessible page so that people can see them before they become privately owned. Another thought was to have people send me pictures of the books I’ve made or published that they own when they get it, or a year later or 10 years later. I’m always so interested in where all these books go and how people keep them. People keep their books so differently! It’s so telling and interesting. I enjoy keeping the blog to show the book making process and related work that artists are doing. Hopefully people follow that and now and then buy a book because it falls in line with their own interests. I try to bring what I do to the Internet in as honest a way as possible. So that’s what I look for in other publishers and platforms online as well.


Gottlund Verlag




(Paris, France)



1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for FP&CF?


Our primary means for distributing our products is via our website. We have a basic online store, and it’s the best way to sell our books. Then we also work with bookstores around the world. It depends, but generally we sell like 30% to 40% of our production through bookstores. We also take part in fairs and festivals, but we do not run after it.


2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?


Working with bookstores is a good way to be known by people who would maybe never come to our website. It provides new potential and new readers. We choose every shop with whom we work, so the list is small but strong. Working with bookstores allows us to sell books to people who don’t know our organization but it also represents a significant loss for us. The bookstores take 30%to 40% of the whole price, and we do not make any money from the deal. In France, we are lucky to have a special price for the shipping of books (exclusive price for the shipping of books only), so it’s very cheap to send parcels outside the country. The other thing about bookstores is that you never know if the transaction will be safe for you. We’ve already had problems with some bookstores and distributors who do not understand that we are a small organization with low means. Once the books are sold and the deadline of 100 days is over, I think it would be normal to be paid for the books we sent, but sometimes it it’s taken more than six months. It’s really trying to have to write and call each week to claim the money for a bill…


3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?


I don’t want to fall into any marketing practice. I don’t want to push people to buy something. If you like a book and want to have it with you, take it. If a website has some great pictures of the books with a quality description and a link for the payment (Paypal or otherwise), I think that’s sufficient.


Editions FP&CF




(New York, NY)



1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Hassla?


I distribute through the Hassla site, bookstores, distributors, and book fairs.


2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?


I think it’s important to have books in physical stores and not just online. People need to see the books in person and be able to pick them up and hold them. Sales-wise it varies, I might sell more to bookstores of one title and more online of another. I also sell books to artists’ galleries when possible, as they can also expose the books to a crowd that might not normally come across Hassla.


3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?


Nieves has been digitizing all of their sold-out zines and making them available for the iPad and iPhone. Not a new idea, but some small publishers have been offering subscriptions at a discounted rate. I find fairs to be really good as it’s an opportunity for people to get a chance to see a lot (or all) of a publisher’s books together all in one spot.






(Brooklyn, NY)



1. What are the different distribution avenues you use for Pau Wau?


We use different avenues of distribution in various ways. We have always felt it was important to maintain a diverse distribution model, as it helps to reach different audiences and provides different benefits. The online store generates most of the profit but, more importantly, allows access to the micro audiences in Luxembourg that you never even knew existed. The independent bookstores help reach your main audience, but also provide a certain level of legitimacy and prestige in a climate in which everyone seems to be publishing and making books and zines. However, our favorite way to distribute and sell is at fairs, because it allows for great interactions between the people who actually spend their hard-earned money on our publications and us. All in all, each channel plays an integral part of the equation. In the future, we may focus more on a certain side of that equation, but ultimately, I think you need all of them to be successful and relevant.


2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with physical bookstores?


I think these stores provide a certain level of exposure and legitimacy in this small culture of self-publishing that is invaluable. For example, David at Dashwood Books was an early supporter of ours, and without a doubt delivered our books to certain people who would have never seen it if we had gone at it alone. We have since gotten much better about announcing and publicizing our books, but there are still people who will only end up buying them because they are stocked on certain shelves. Lastly, I think it’s important to remember these bookstores, in most part, are just like everyone involved in this small publishing movement: they are doing something they love and are probably not getting rich off it. It’s a symbiotic relationship – they provide a place for people to find these beautiful books, and we make sure they have plenty of beautiful books to be found. Of course, using bookstores is becoming more difficult due to the Internet and the ability of e-commerce. As I said above, it’s an incredibly important relationship, but when you’re looking at losing 40% of your profit, it makes the decision that much harder. Ideally, we set out with the idea that a certain percent of the edition, say 50%, will be saved for bookstores and the remainder will be sold directly either at fairs or online. With our latest publication, however, we are doing an edition of 300 with only 100 of those being signed by the artist. The idea is that the bookstores will sell the unsigned ones and we’ll be exclusively selling the signed ones. I think this is a nice compromise to the problem, as it makes those first 100 slightly more sought after, yet we still maintain the presence in the physical stores. Other than the benefits I have already mentioned, I think one major advantage to working with bookstores is the sense of community, which is created and celebrated through events, signings, and so forth. Dashwood, Printed Matter and Ed. Varie here in New York understand and execute this flawlessly. Each event builds a stronger and stronger community that allows for more collaboration, exposure to each other’s work, and conversations, all of which ultimate sparks new creation.


3. Are there any other publishers/platforms you’ve come across who are using interesting strategies for displaying or distributing their publications online?


The first time I saw Preston is My Paris, I was extremely impressed with some of the ideas they were exploring. It was mainly an app for the iPhone they had developed. I think they only released one issue, but the idea of exploring photo books on an iPhone was fascinating. I strongly believe in the future of the digital; it’s not going anywhere and is becoming more and more ubiquitous in our culture. As someone who is obsessed with print, this realization can be challenging at times, but also exciting. Personally, we are starting to heavily present our work online via videos and are currently working on re-designing our site to be much more video-friendly. To simply digitize something that is physical is somewhat boring to me; reinterpreting that idea or object into a digital landscape is much more where my interest lies right now.


Pau Wau Publications

The Curtain Rises — by Martine Syms

I’ve struggled to define successful independent art publishing because the accepted standard of success looks a lot like failure to me. I’m admitting this in hope of reconciling two divergent impulses; my desire for commercial validation and my interest in unpopular culture.


In a recent interview, musician and label owner Ian MacKaye insists that he didn’t care if he sold 100,000 records or 500,000 records or 100 records. Would he care if he didn’t sell any records? “Success is in the doing,” he argues. “Did you make what you were trying to make?” I believe in this idea, but it strikes me as solipsistic in practice.


I want to participate in the book economy, but I’m still determining the form of my endeavor and how I’ll measure its success. I’m interested in creating a sustainable ecosystem to invest in artists, designers, writers and other authors that is driven by books. And “books” is really just shorthand for all reading experiences.


Speaking to Stanford business students, Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, suggests that publishers are the venture capitalists of the creative industry. “You think about the role we play, it’s the financing… it’s the editorial, helping shape and package the book for the best possible sales that you can get, and the marketing to actually deliver it.”


In the print-on-demand zine Economic Design: April 9, 2009 designer Zak Kyes proposes a similar idea. He wants to “establish, with a patron, a platform for the production of publications. Part of the edition would be housed in the physical structure of a private library/collection…and the rest would be distributed through the cultural economy.”


The premises above rely on a pool of someone else’s money. The publisher is the steward of this investment. At minimum, the publisher doesn’t lose the money, but the goal is growth. Murray says that at HarperCollins a book is successful when it “sells more than [it was] expected [to] sell.”


It’s not helpful to analyze independent art publishing by strict financial metrics. Good to Great author Jim Collins recommends another approach for establishing an “economic engine” in the absence of a profit motive. He asks us to consider, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” Collins divides resources into three parts: time, money and brand.


“Time” (how well you attract people willing to contribute their efforts for free, or at rates below what their talents would yield in business), “money” (sustained cash flow), and “brand” (how well your organization can cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mind-share of potential supporters).


How much capital a publisher needs is dependent on the aims of her program. The publisher must establish specific, meaningful, attainable, relevant and timely performance goals in line with her mission. More importantly, she must be disciplined and accountable to the “brutal facts.”


I have a few hypotheses about what metrics will be important for my imprint Dominica. I’m sharing these to encourage others to set their own standards.


Get Money


Everyone involved in the production of a book should be paid. In theory, this widens the available talent pool. Free work often aligns unevenly against social and racial identities. I’m committed to expanding our community. While money is primarily an “input” in the social sector, in this case it’s directly related to one of my outputs, investment.


Read It And Weep


I make books for the reader. Described by writer Jeffrey Eugenides as “That one person, alone in a room, whose time I’m asking for. I want my books to be worth the reader’s time…” I am interested in the people Mat Johnson calls geeks, those with an “overwhelming passion for the idiosyncratic intellectual crush.” iPad, Kindle, browser, link, book, blog, zine, screen. Follow the reader.


Subject Not Object


Poet Nikky Finney reminds us of The Slave Codes of SC in her 2011 National Book Award acceptance speech:


A fine of one hundred dollars and six months in prison will be imposed for anyone found teaching a slave to read, or write, and death is the penalty for circulating any incendiary literature.


This is the legacy that I inherited. Dominica is a publishing company dedicated to exploring blackness as a topic, reference, marker and audience in visual culture. I don’t feel comfortable asserting myself as “black,” but I’m excited to explore that tension.


“Success” is a misleading concept. It’s often discussed as if it were fixed rather than mutable. My personal formulation of achievement has changed dramatically in the past year. It’s liable to change again. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, it matters that I’m accountable to my own idea of greatness.

A Conversation With Romke Hoogwaerts — by Rebecca O’Keefe



I met Romke Hoogwaerts over three years ago at a house party in the East Village. We were sitting next to each other on a couch when he introduced himself. I had just started an internship at Printed Matter and he was well in to his online project Mossless.


Since then, our paths continued to cross as we both became more involved with the independent publishing community. When Romke told me that he would shift Mossless to a physical magazine, I could not have been more anxious to see it come to life.


Mossless, in its original format, was a website that published an interview with a photographer every two days. Most of the interviews were conducted by Romke himself, along with a gang of contributors. Each interview started with the artist’s age and a sentence to describe themselves, followed by four questions. Those interviewed range in age, nationality, and level of recognition for their work.


After about 300 interviews, Romke published Mossless Magazine Issue 1 through a Kickstarter campaign that utilized the enthusiasm of the artists he had interviewed and the readers he had gained. While Mossless Magazine as a physical publication will most likely continue to expand in a variety of formats, Mossless the website now exists as a time capsule of contemporary photography from May 2009–May 2011.


Mossless has mainly focused on young photographers, and some of those featured can surely attest to the impact that having an interview online can have. Many were still students when their interview was posted, and undoubtedly Mossless served as a motivator for young photographers who fell upon the site to share their work online. Out of the four photographers featured in Mossless Magazine Issue 1, one recently published a hardcover book through fourteen-nineteen, another has had three magazine covers this past year, and another shoots for Bloomberg Businessweek.


I’ve grown to respect Romke over the past few years, but I can’t say I really know much about him. He’s not the type to talk about himself.  We usually just talk about books we like, and our mutual love of e-mailing strangers that we admire. I was excited to chat over e-mail, typing away my wandering thoughts while he responded thoughtfully.


I urge you to check out the Mossless online archive, and order Mossless Magazine Issue 2. The new issue features an essay by Romke entitled, Swimming in the Center of the Earth, and features contributions from a host of talented individuals.  This issue was a dual effort between Romke and his partner Grace Leigh.  It is a beautiful piece of printed matter. To keep up with what is to come for Mossless, you can follow MOSSfull, a blog dedicated to inspiration and behind-the scenes posts.


Romke in his apartment / studio. Photo courtesy of Susan Patrice.





Hi there,


I’m so excited that we are doing this! To be honest, it’s a bit selfish. You know that I think Mossless is a great project, and now I get to learn more about it. I’d like to start off by getting to know how Mossless began, and then later talking about how it went from online to print.


I was thinking about how I got to know Mossless and realized that it was from a t-shirt you were wearing once. I remember meeting you for the first time at Chelsea, Michelle, and Avi’s old apartment: I sat down next to you on the couch and I thought you were much older than me. At another party I saw you wearing a homemade t-shirt that said Mossless. I later looked it up and realized it was YOUR site, and I was very impressed. I’m not a photographer, nor will I pretend to know anything about photography, but I was meeting a lot of photographers at the time, and my best friend is one, so I guess I just found myself becoming one of those people who look at photographs on the internet a lot. Mossless was the best place for me because I love interviews.


My initial question to you is, how did you decide, at 18 years old, that you would start Mossless?  What guided you toward interviewing photographers, and why every other day? It seems like a lot to take on. I believe you started out with people you knew somewhat, later branching out to other photographers. One of the best aspects of Mossless for me was seeing people I knew—like Bobby, Jake, and Dave—all interviewed on the site. It elevated their work in a way that they deserved. They are talented photographers, but weren’t yet receiving much recognition elsewhere because they were still students. Later on, there were interviews with people who you only knew through Flickr, and again, I think the interviews elevated them the same way.


Lastly, why did you choose Tumblr as the initial way to build the site? It’s an easy way to start an online project because people can follow you, and are therefore automatically exposed to each interview. I discovered Mossless right when I started “Tumbling”, so I read almost every interview.


Write me back about baby Mossless, and then we can move on to the adolescent stage. It was great to see you and Grace at the fair; you guys are seriously the cutest.







Those parties were really great and I miss them. We must have all been together several times a week—and with us I mean this crazy admirable band of artists. I had actually interviewed a couple way before meeting them just because I knew them through Flickr. That’s actually how many of my interviews on Mossless started.


I was living in Singapore at the time. Singapore’s art scene was newly blooming but it was missing something that I was seeing from those I knew online. For a long time Mossless existed only as a record of emails. Tumblr was the new thing, I had experience with all the blog formats before it and it was just way better for something visual. It also has RSS but I didn’t implement it very well.


Anyway, I use the internet a lot, but I used to use it even more and it sometimes felt like a home away from home. There were a few photo websites but it wasn’t enough to fulfill my craving for that stuff. I thought I could post images too! It got boring quickly so I decided to up the ante. An interview every other day just felt right, if I forgot about actually doing the interviews. They’re not too hard though. When I do it right, I look at the work for a while and write down the first few things in the works that I wish I could find out about, even strange details. I would always do them in bunches, like four or five in a good two hour session. Oh! That’s why I liked Tumblr too; you could easily queue posts up.


Baby Mossless! It was so good to see you this weekend. It was an amazing fair. Grace and I are totally elated.





A screenshot of mosslessmagazine.com, featuring a photograph by Jake McNulty.





Hey again,


I read the pre-order booklet, and what I’d like to talk about next is why you were initially drawn to photography, and then obviously to photography blogs and New York. I know you were in Singapore before coming here for college, and you’ve had a very different and more global pre-NY experience than most people I know. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about how that may have prompted you to be looking out at the world through the internet. I’m interested in how you were connecting to artwork and people through the internet at such a young age. It’s great that you were e-mailing people on your own at first, before even putting it out in public. I even wonder how you first found Flickr, as silly as that may sound.


The reason this interests me so much is that when I was a teenager I didn’t have my own computer, so my family’s desktop was something I used to chat with friends and do my homework. I didn’t spend a lot of time surfing the web, because I was sharing the thing and also didn’t have much privacy. I did spend a lot of time watching TV, reading, and driving around, which I think played a role in how I seek out information. The internet didn’t come naturally for me. I’ve gotten to know a lot of creative people through books, magazines, mentors, and my solo walks around NYC, usually searching the internet later on for more information.


The last question I have in this area is, what was it like to come to NYC and meet some of the artists you had interviewed via e-mail in person? And how did the outreach you had with Mossless lead you to your circle of friends and colleagues? Was it surreal or weird at first? This past weekend I met Erik van der Weijde in person, someone who I have e-mailed with many times to order books from. It was strange to shake his hand and try to have a quick conversation with this person who I only know through books. I’ve had that experience many times. In fact, I met my friend Sara by asking her for books for Printed Matter, and I remember the first time she came in to the shop I was actually really nervous, which is funny to remember now. I imagine you have a lot of friends from all over the world because of Mossless.


I’m so happy you made the booklet. The writing was much more abstract than I expected, which is a nice contrast to the interviews.


Talk soon,





Photography had an honesty to it that appealed to me in my early youth. Before I really understood the deeper concepts of art I felt that the human hand was incapable of the kind of precision you’d need to depict the world and introspective concepts without error. And it was something I was capable of trying. I could borrow my dad’s camera when we were on trips or I’d save up for a disposable. I didn’t know any other art forms that were so affordable, save the childish ones. I didn’t like childish things much as a child. I always had this hatred for adults who didn’t understand children yet still forced this cheap useless junk onto us through our hapless parents. I told myself I should write down what I’d really like… okay, I’m really drifting off here, but I’ve been thinking about youth a lot lately. I honestly believe that the developed world’s youth are cripplingly socially disabled.


Singapore is great: it’s entirely English speaking and it is incredibly technologically advanced. Growing up there was dope. Pretty much every other place I’d lived before that was foreign. Between the ages of two to ten I lived in Hong Kong, Italy and Spain, where I was that little white Dutch kid. The language barrier and my difficult home life turned me further inward, and I was already quiet to begin with. I feel like the solace in my youth lead me to be socially ill-equipped later in life. The internet was easy. I liked writing and reading over talking anyway, and I quickly got the hang of it. A lot of things are illegal and taboo in Singapore and back then there wasn’t as much on the internet and all I wanted to do was look into every corner. Flickr was hard to miss. God, I was even on DeviantArt. That was bad. I posted on message boards. A lot. Those were great though. I posted on Slap Magazine’s forum, which is like the 4chan of skateboarding. I was one of those superusers, one of the “Slap pals” there. As much work as it was, Mossless was all very much on the side.


Coming to New York and meeting a lot of these people I’d only known as words and pictures was very surreal. It feels like everything leading up to that point was all in a sandbox and priming me for this new life. What you have to know about growing up abroad like I did is that I have nothing to return to. My parents live in another country now on another continent and I don’t really know anybody there. My past is all memory. I have no old room with posters still hanging, no old familiar neighbors, no team to support and no town rooting me on. But I like to think that being so untethered helps me think objectively.





(At this point in our conversation, Romke shared with me his essay, Swimming in the Center of the Earth)



Romke at the Mossless Magazine Issue 1 launch at Printed Matter Inc.




Mossless Magazine Issue 1





I read the essay, and I’ll probably read it a few more times because it feels good to get to know it better.  Writing a response has been really confusing for me.  The reason I interview people for Paperweight is because I really struggle with writing, so you are challenging me!


Initially, I was thinking to myself that you should publish the essay online, because then more people could read it. But the question is whether people would. Not to say that people wouldn’t read your essay. I think I may need to back this up with a little more. I remember first seeing Mossless as a physical publication and feeling so much more for the project than I did in its online form. Not everyone feels this way I’m sure, but I’m more inclined to read something in my hand, and so I often wonder how much people actually read what they view online. This could be compared to someone who has a lot of books on their shelves that they’ve never read. Do you know what I mean? I wonder how you feel about publishing your writing online. 


What you said about having nothing to return to was a really powerful thing for me to read. The statement put a lot in to perspective in terms of how much of a community Mossless has fostered throughout its existence. I’ve always felt that you truly care about the people you feature, as opposed to just needing them to further your social or artistic goals. What I got from that last response, as well as talking to you more on Friday, is that when you don’t have something in the back of your life to cling on to, it sets you up to be more of a risk taker and extremely dedicated to the future. And I see that in your work a lot. I mean, you really had to put yourself out there when moving to the city; to connect to all of these people you had been in contact with online. And that led you to have a ton of personal friends because of Mossless. Friends who you are very interested in helping to advance in their careers as photographers.


Anyway, back to the essay, I wanted to hear what you had to say in laymen’s terms about the dichotomy of the internet in terms of exposure. What I mean is, I think you say that the internet opens up a platform for artists to expose people to their work, gain feedback on it, and publish what they do in a variety of ways. However, it also expands the competition that already exists in the art world.


I have to say, I recently deleted a lot of my “internet presence” because I felt like I was trying to market myself in a kind of immature way. Not to say that this is what other people are doing (I’m definitely only speaking for myself here) but I felt like I was trying to categorize myself and add to some kind of resume that really isn’t ready to be published yet. So I decided to turn a lot of these outlets off—like Tumblrs for my art and visual merchandising work—and instead take a step back and think about how I might better share my work in the future, and if I even need to right now. Maybe getting a little older I’m not as impatient as I once was. I wonder what you think the pros and cons are for using the internet to promote your work, or what you like and don’t like about the way people are currently doing this?


At times the internet can become a passive place. Like I stated before: I believe your community is important to you. I wonder how you think Mossless harbored an internet place that was active and positive. And I wonder how you feel about all of the constant, but subtle and non-confrontational competition that I think your essay points out.


Basically, give me your monologue about this essay. What are the most important things in there, the ideas that you feel the most passionate about. And then tell me how Mossless relates or related to those. I know this is probably a lot to ask, so focus on what’s important to you here. But since we’re friends I’m enjoying having an honest discussion. And since you’re such a nice guy, I want to challenge you to talk about what frustrates you and what you don’t like. I think what an artist doesn’t like can be just as motivating—if not more so — than what he or she does like.


Thanks so much for doing this; I think the end result is going to be really great.





I would love to publish my essay online but I would like to do it through a different outlet. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll be sending it out to a lot of people I read and admire. But being in print allows it to be just a little more objective, just a little bit more removed from the online.


What you said about how my past affects my approach to working and thinking is totally true. I do feel dedicated to the future; in fact, I feel devoted. I think it’s also a little true for everyone else who is dedicated to the online because that world has no real heritage either. What’s so exciting about that is that we have so much power over the internet because every click is a vote. I have complete confidence in saying that the internet (or whatever shape it will claim in the future) will overthrow Congress. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that, and I think there’s plenty of people who would want that to be true, because in any case it would be a purer Democracy.


The internet is a difficult place though. Lil B said that the internet “is a big booster of love and peace and bringing people together, and it can also keep you away from other people, and keep you judgmental and not really knowing who is who.” He’s right but it just depends on what you use the internet for. I left Facebook because it made me judgemental and cynical about my friendships. My essay is on how having an online profile is really a tailored duplication of oneself. There’s plenty of traces left behind with us all being present online—most often with our legal names—and those traces are evident in our art! That’s just inescapable! I don’t understand why that’s being overlooked so often. I honestly feel like it’s because there has been no real term for this psycho-social phenomenon. In my essay I call it post-monovialism1 because it’s necessarily after monovial life; or life without online representation, life with a single path.


But there are a lot of gritty little details. For instance, we don’t have a good outlet for aesthetic or conceptual discourse online other than comments sections on blogs. There aren’t really any satisfying social networks that cater to a niche crowd like that of artists. Like I wrote in the essay, that harms the art of those who publish work online because without discourse art loses density. And it’s easy to say that the internet for artists is just a place to promote work for offline means, but that’s not really true. Each artist’s website is also their own grand white cube. It is there out of pride and for collaboration. The internet has its own life.


Few people stand up for the internet in a way that I can be proud of. I felt there was a bit of a vacuum there and I can’t be the only one who’s tired of the misrepresentations! I wrote Swimming in the Center of the Earth as an attempt to represent our art—and there is an inspiringly huge amount of it—in the light it deserves.


What do you think?



Mossless Magazine Issue 2





Hey there,


That response is pretty much perfect to me. I think your writing is more cohesive than mine in terms of this conversation.


I liked what you said about print being a little more objective. I think I like more of what I read in print. Maybe that’s because when I read online I tend to be clicking links and Googling things to support whatever is interesting me, and therefore I’m internalizing what other people are writing about what I’m reading. But it could also just be that I don’t purchase things to read that I don’t think I’ll like, whereas on the internet I kind of enjoy clicking on links to things that I think will annoy me.


It’s strange for me to relate to your devotion to the future, or I guess to relate to the way your relationships have developed because of this devotion and your use of the internet. I don’t really want this conversation to be about my personal life, but I was raised a bi-racial kid in a white suburb, so I think growing up I felt much more connected to my family than to any friends or other community. Actually, maybe the internet would’ve served me well back then! I mean, I guess the silly question I could derive from that statement is, do you think that becoming a part of an internet community helped you to then branch out more in a physical one? I found my art community through working retail and gallery jobs. Obviously, I’m not really asking about personal friends here, but I guess that counts as well.


I don’t agree that the internet has no heritage. The history of the internet seems pretty rich to me at this point. I think what might be different is that the internet is not as historicized as everything else. Attempts have definitely been made, but they seem pretty awkward for the most part. Like when Vh1 did I love the 90s in 2004. I mean it’s never too early to historicize, but it’s a difficult thing to do.


Okay SO! Getting back to Mossless. I have three new questions.


First, tell me a bit about how Mossless developed over the course of the two years in which it solely existed online. As in, what kind of community did it harbor, and how did it serve to benefit both artists and readers. Also, you got a little political in that last answer. I hate when people use that word, because everything is political, but how does Mossless fit in to what you wrote there at the end? I mean, Mossless doesn’t seem like it was an outlet for discourse, which is totally fine. You gave people information about artists, and they could use that however they wanted and form their own opinions of the work. So then do you think Mossless was your white cube? Was it an online gallery of short solo shows? Is that a totally ridiculous question to ask?


Second, what role do you see yourself playing as editor of Mossless? Is it strictly an editorial one, or would you also identify it as part of an artistic practice? At this point, you’re also obviously a writer and a publisher, but I believe your degree is in photography. I ask this out of curiosity because I know a lot of people who dip in to many pools, who went to art school and then found themselves doing this other unnamed thing that they might find challenging to describe. I tell people I work in a gallery and go to school, and for my first semester back that really freaked me out. In my brain I’m an artist and eventually that part of my identity will come back to the forefront, but it’s tough to not portray myself that way. I admire that while juggling work, school, and life, you’ve managed to have this creative project take center stage. I don’t know if you realize it, but that is truly an achievement, and obviously being able to have this project exist online facilitated its creation and development.


Third, how did you know that it was time to pack up the blog aspect of Mossless and move on to publishing? Were you exhausted, or did it just feel like the right time to end? My inference here is that you really became involved in some of the artists lives and work in a way where I think you knew there was more that could be done, and publishing a physical magazine was an exciting direction to take it. I remember when you first told me about doing a magazine. I actually donated to the Kickstarter right before starting my job at Printed Matter, and then about a year later there we were having the launch! It’s really dorky to say, but that launch was really exciting for me because I had never done any programming for the shop and it was awesome to see those boxes show up.
I mean, it really says something that I was never involved in Mossless aside from being friends with you and people featured, but I felt really invested in watching the project get realized as a physical thing. I think a lot of our friends felt that way. Maybe I’m all mushy about it because I’m mushy about books, but it’s just another argument for the importance of physical objects to me.


Talk soon. Also, tell Grace happy belated birthday!!





The Internet has a heritage but the content itself isn’t concerned with it. Each user is just a user and their creed is irrelevant as is their place in time. That’s why it’s so weird to be connected to relatives. Those connections sometimes imply a higher significance which does not actually exist online, and it’s the generations that were not raised with the internet that most often have this misapprehension. I’m sure you feel the same! It’s just taboo to speak of it in that way.


You asked about our social politics—Mossless was in its own way a sort of white cube. It had a rigid format that presented each artist in a democratic light but with flexible questions. It wasn’t meant to be a place for discourse because I couldn’t figure out how to do that effectively anyway. I’m planning on building a website for art discourse but that’s a whole other dense matter. But with these things… you can’t bring in concepts from the offline. The internet is strange now because it’s done that.


Mossless was sort of an online gallery but isn’t a gallery just a physical art website? Writing the masthead or making business cards is only hard because I have to adapt what we do to common jargon. I chose editor but director could work too, as could publisher-in-chief, assistant designer, whatever. Why do we even need a masthead? Will the world not let us publish this on my printer if we don’t include it?


In Mossless I do what I can to make the result that would best suit the content. If there are things that I don’t know how to do then I take it to somebody who does and try to do it with them so I can also learn how to do it but in the end all you need is paper, ink and glue, maybe staples too.


I attend SVA for Visual & Critical Studies although I used to do film but that program wasn’t worth the debt it cost me. My nights and weekends are for Mossless, which really lives in spurts of energy that last days or weeks with months in between. Grace and I have this saying: the day is for making money but the night is for working hard.


To answer your last question: at some point I was so beleaguered from interviewing that it just had to stop. It wasn’t fun anymore! I wasn’t getting creative with my questions and it started feeling like a chore. At one point it became clear that the website had reached a plateau and it was time for a change if I wanted to keep being inspired. The paths we’ve taken since then have done just that, even if they were difficult. I was left speechless by the support for our Kickstarter and I still am with each bit of response the books get, but I like to think that happens when you choose the right artists to work with.


xx romke



Brea Souders’ book inside of the Mossless Magazine Issue 1 box.



Romke also explained to me how Mossless is produced:


We’ve used a couple of different printing techniques for the various components of our different publications, and we plan on experimenting with more in the future. For Issue 2 we used our Epson 3880 inkjet printer at home and then bound and trimmed it here too. Sales of Issue 1 and investments allowed us to buy the equipment we’re using and the sales of Issue 2 will go to equipment too.



Issue 1 was very different: we had the books printed at Magnum in Hong Kong, printed the posters at Linco here in LIC, the intro leaflet was printed on Jesse Hlebo’s Risograph and I silkscreened the boxes at my school. Jesse Hlebo does our art direction and for our first issue he was also a hands-on consultant.



The Mossless workspace. Photo courtesy of Susan Patrice.



1 —  “Our art is postmonovial: after a single path; after singular life.  Artists of our time are affected by postmonovialism even in relatively technologically developed regions. To define postmonovial artists, they: use social websites as the primary publishing and peer-review platform; communicate the desire for a connected disconnection, and; acknowledge the detachment from monovialism. I pray we end using reality as a term for the offline as it undermines the realness of our forthcoming existence.”

Printed Matter and Other Paperweight Friends Hit Hard by Sandy


As you may know, many small businesses are and will continue to struggle because of Hurricane Sandy.  Our friends over at Printed Matter have suffered considerable and in some cases irreparable damage.  If you would like to offer your support, you can make a donation here. You can also purchase an edition or become a member.


From James Jenkin, Director of Printed Matter:


Dear Friends of Printed Matter,

On behalf of the whole team here at Printed Matter I wanted to say thanks to the many of you who have reached out over the past few days–the response has been a bit overwhelming. I’m sorry we have been unable to respond directly to everyone, but I wanted to update everyone briefly on the situation here. Like much of Chelsea, our non-profit store was hit rather hard. While thankfully we were spared ground-level flooding, our basement storage facility took on more than 6 feet of water and as a result we have lost a sizeable amount of our inventory, including large quantities of Printed Matter publications, fundraising editions, as well a range of other stock, much of historical interest and value. (Additional Images


Unfortunately, the Printed Matter Archive was also badly damaged, a portion of it irretrievably. Compiled since the organization’s founding in 1976, the archive held important documentation pertaining to the field of artists’ books as well as a record of the non-profit’s own history. This included early ephemera relating to exhibitions and programming that was important to the field, printed catalogs featuring now rare artist books, and correspondence between the organization’s founders. In addition, an extensive collection of slides and photographs providing a visual history of the organization’s programs and activities was also damaged, including, notably, a full record of the window exhibition program organized by Lucy Lippard. About 20 boxes with archive material deemed to be possibly salvageable has since been sent for emergency conservation. While we are hopeful these efforts will be successful, we expect that it will be a difficult and costly process.   


And yet, while this has been a tough week, the overriding feeling at the shop today has been a positive one. During the week we have received a humbling show of support from artists in the community, local gallerists, ex-employees, present and former interns, passersby, our non-profit peers, and other volunteers. Friends and strangers have biked in and walked from Brooklyn and elsewhere to lend a hand with the daunting and rather messy clean up. This has meant so much to us. We would also like to thank those who have sent messages of support from all over the world. It has been of great comfort to hear that our small organization means so much to so many people.  


We have also been grateful for the kindness shown by individuals and organizations that have already approached us to offer support in various ways. Many others have asked how they can help. While we are still wading through the mess, getting a full sense of the damage, and planning our next steps, we do know that our first hope is to save what we can from the archive. We would like to see this material digitized, so that it continues to exist in some form, even if the printed version has been lost to water and mold. If anyone would like to contribute towards this urgent initiative, please feel free to reach out to me directly, or contributions are kindly accepted using the “donate” button on the right hand side of our homepage. You can also Paypal to mschumann@printedmatter.org  


Rest assured we are working hard to get Printed Matter open as soon as possible and are hopeful this will be soon. You will have to please excuse the mess (which is far worse than our usual).   I hope you are all getting by okay. We know many others in our community have been equally affected and Printed Matter wishes everyone the best getting back on their feet.



James Jenkin Executive Director



The staff at Printed Matter has been working hard, so once trains are back to normal and their doors are open, take moment to pop in (if you’re in New York) and thank them for all of the hard work that they continue to do! Other friends of Paperweight affected by the storm include Ed Varie, Mossless, Ryan Foerster, POWERHOUSE Arena, and Bjorn Copeland.  Keep them in your thoughts and do what you can to help any of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Also, if you or other artists/publishers you know were affected, please send along to paperweight@swillchildren.org so that we can add to this post. We hope you are safe and warm wherever you are!

An Interview with No Layout — by Christopher Schreck

No Layout, an online bookstore/digital library run by London-based art director Daniel Pianetti, is one of a series of platforms to have emerged in the past few years aimed at changing the way we discover, display, and purchase printed content online. Its approach falls somewhere between archival resource and promotional tool.


Established in 2010 as a digital library of art zines and fashion magazines (each item fully viewable through an intuitive, cleanly designed, non-app interface), the site recently expanded its format to include an online store specializing in independently published art books. While Pianetti is still in the process of expanding its selection of titles (among those currently featured are publications by Nieves and Morava Books), the store is perhaps most noteworthy for its business model: positioning itself as an “exposure intermediary;” No Layout doesn’t take any commission on its sales, instead allowing customers to purchase items directly from the publishers.


Those businesses wishing to sell items in the store, although required to pay an annual fee and handle the shipping process, are in turn relieved of costs otherwise incurred shipping and paying commissions to their distributors. It’s an interesting update on traditional distribution models – one that, according to Pianetti, effectively establishes No Layout as “the cheapest online bookstore.” Daniel was kind enough to answer a few questions about No Layout’s mission and model; you can read our interview below.







Christopher Schreck: I wanted to talk first about the new No Layout bookstore. It’s an interesting business model, in that it’s one of the few we’ve seen that specifically addresses the costs of distributing printed art publications.


Daniel Pianetti: I hear frustrated stories about distribution and shipping costs all the time from small publishers. I’d understand needing a distributor if they had to sell 10,000 copies around the world, but for only 100 copies, let’s say, I think you can handle it yourself, selling directly to your readers, and still go personally to these gallery-bookstores and ask if you can drop a copy there for the sake of the beauty of an object on display. If my thinking is right, No Layout could help in giving exposure and selling those 100 copies more easily, especially to people who had otherwise never heard of the publication.


Do you have a particular tone or content in mind for the site? Have you rejected many submissions? What makes a publication appropriate or inappropriate for No Layout?


I do make a selection—almost 50% of submissions are denied. But since I don’t have a precise style or content guidelines, I’m often asked about my unorthodox choices. With No Layout, you can find well-designed publications or a crap magazine containing one single picture I like.








When it was first established in 2010, the accessibility and straightforward design of the digital library was seen as a reaction to existing means of accessing printed materials digitally – i.e., e-book platforms, apps, PDF downloads, etc. Can you speak a bit as to how you feel the library functions within that conversation? Looking at other platforms, have you witnessed any notable changes or improvements in this area over the past two years?


When I was gathering feedback before the launch I received some aggressive reactions (“print is already dying, why would you do that?”), but for me it was obvious from the beginning that I wasn’t trying to replace the printed matter, just creating an archive for their aliases. I don’t think the value of No Layout is in the viewing experience, but rather in the discovery and archive. Maybe it is an improvement by having them all in the same basic format instead of uncomfortable files and links spread around, but really, the way we display the publication is the most basic and crude way possible. We didn’t want to create a new reading experience or anything—we’re just organizing, not reacting. VFiles launched last week, and they share the same approach.







No Layout is non-app and optimized for iPhone, iPad, and all browsers. Do you have any sense of how people are using the site—i.e., what percentage is browser usage, what percentage views the site on mobile devices, etc.? If so, has there been any effort made to tailor the site’s content to reflect those figures?


You can read a No Layout magazine on your couch with an iPad if you want, but few do: less than 5% of our visits come from mobile devices. From the beginning, I thought of the site more as an archive tool rather than a reading tool; I imagined people using it to flip through quickly for discovery or to research at work and school.


As it stands, both the store and the library present its content in a standard format. Moving forward, would you have any interest in collaborating with publishers on unique, site-specific content or formatting?


I don’t think that that will happen under No Layout’s roof; I’d like to focus on selling exclusive or signed items. On the side, however, I’d like to make some iPad publishing projects on my own as well.







Are there any independent publishers/platforms whose digital presence you find particularly interesting?


Usually I like publishers who are able to transpose their content or identity in every medium as subtly as possible; by understanding that they don’t have to recreate their magazine as an app, they can simply complement it. You can do it with no budget, but oddly enough, this is something that the smallest independent publishers have the hardest time understanding. One of the best cross-platform editorial examples is Fantastic Man–their daily online suggestions perfectly match their concept, yet it’s something easy and unique that you can’t have on print.


I’ve always thought that the day I work on an iPad app for a magazine, I will just make an endless scroll of full-screen images, because lazily swiping is simply the best experience on tablet.


Can you explain the meaning behind the name of the site?


Like the No Wave movement, it’s about the rejection of a restricted frame: the published content can be molded into other entities.


What’s next for you and No Layout?


During the next few months, we’ll focus on the store and on how people react to it. It’s an ongoing experiment, so it will probably morph until we find the best solution. On a personal level, I’m currently consulting for Stampsy, a publishing platform for the iPad focused on editorial design. It’s currently in a prototype stage; I’m helping with art direction for the established print publishers who will gradually join it. I’d also like to publish some (printed) books with photographers and artists soon.


No Layout

Daniel Pianetti

Love and Loss — by Martine Syms

I want to talk about loss; forgetting, disappearance, ends, deficits.


It’s been two weeks since my last article. I apologize for my tardiness. I had a feeling that I shouldn’t put a timeframe, but in a way it’s a continuation on the theme. I’m not being paid to write this series. And why should I be? No one else is being paid to do Paperweight. That’s fine. But I’m two weeks late and no one bothered me because I’m doing this for free. Or maybe no one bothered me because we (all 100 of us) were busy buying and selling artifacts at the NY Art Book Fair.


In business, profit and loss are related concepts. Income minus expenses equals profit (or loss). The helpful, but terribly written, how-to book Accounting Comes Alive defines income as “value generating activity” and expenses as “value sacrificing activity.”


It’s taken me a while to truly understand that “value generating activity” always comes with expenses. “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” is a pop song about cost of goods. You have to breakeven before you can profit.


Breakeven Point (BEP) is calculated using the formula below:

Breakeven point = fixed costs / (unit selling price – variable unit costs)


Let’s say I’m making a book. Each book cost me $5, I plan to sell it for $15. My fixed costs (editing, graphic design, marketing, etc.) are $2,000.


$2000 / ($15-$5) = 200.


My breakeven point is 200 books. But what if I only make 200 books? I won’t make a profit. What if I really want to sell my book for $8. I’ll need to sell 667 copies and expand my edition size, or lose money. What if I want to maintain a small edition size and make a profit? I’ll need to raise my selling price.


It may already be clear that art publishing has two major barriers to profit: 1) the audience is extremely small and 2) within that audience only a select group of people are willing to pay premium. I believe this despite the NY Art Book Fair’s attendance of over 20,000 visitors. While those numbers are promising, I’m more interested in the conversion rates. I’m proud to say that Golden Age maintained a 30% conversion rate. Unfortunately, our volume was too low for it to matter.


Last Time: Business Models
Next Week (Maybe): Success, that distant apex

I’m a Business, Man — by Martine Syms

What is a business model?


At Harvard Business School, Professor Tom Eisenmann teaches that “a business model is an integrated array of distinctive choices specifying a startup’s unique customer value proposition and how it will configure activities—including those of its partners—to deliver that value and earn sustainable profits.”


In Business Model Generation, authors Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur suggest that a business model “describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value.”


Both definitions hinge on the word “value.” This abstract concept hovers around “money,” and maybe “art.” Since the most recent Financial Crisis (and probably before, but I’m young) the art world has been searching for new models—disruption—to match the changing economic climate. The greater publishing industry has already been disrupted. Art publishing, the grey area in this venn diagram, is ripe for business model innovation.


Adam Huttler, Executive Director of Fractured Atlas, offers a helpful analogy for the current art publishing business model: “…Someone offers you a bet. He’s going to flip a coin; if it’s heads you lose $100; if it’s tails you win nothing.”


Would you take that bet?


Huttler uses this metaphor to explain the position of art administrators, but it works just as well for art publishers. But is breaking-even success?



Next week: Love and Loss

An Interview With Athena Tacha — by Rebecca O’Keefe


Athena Tacha is based in Oberlin, Ohio.  Born in Greece in 1936, she came to the United States in 1960 and since then has steadily produced public art works around the country as well as exhibited internationally. The amount of merits she has earned, both artistically and academically, makes summarizing her life a daunting endeavor for both of us.  When I approached Athena to conduct an interview through e-mail, she was quick to suggest we talk on the phone instead.  After writing a beautiful introduction to her life, she explained that she likes to talk a lot, and fast.  I was lucky enough to speak to Athena on the phone a few weeks ago and managed to gain a considered understanding of a varied and accomplished life.


Athena lived through both WWII and the Greek Civil War, spending her childhood with cousins, an adopted sister, and her loving parents. Even as a young girl Athena demonstrated exemplary talent. She was admitted to the Athens Academy of Fine Art, where she studied classical sculpture.  Since then, Athena has earned 7 higher education degrees (including a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne), a Fulbright Grant, an individual artists’ NEA grant, national commissions, and an honorary doctorate.


Aside from traveling the world with her husband (she cites Pre-Colombian cities as a great source of inspiration for her public sculpture), Athena is also an art historian, writer, curator, and professor.  My initial interest in contacting Athena was to learn more about her self published work, most notably her “Pocket Booklets,” of which there are over 20.  One of the first artists to be carried by Printed Matter Inc., Athena has also published books and fold-out posters like “Expressions 1,” pictured above.  But it is impossible to discuss Athena’s printed matter without delving deeper in to her greater body of work.


When researching Athena early on, I found that the only real source of information on her was her own website.  On this site, Athena meticulously documents her own work and keeps track of her accomplished biography.  There are images, essays, powerpoint presentations, and bibliographies.  This autobiographical website recalls Adrian Piper’s two volume book, Out of Order, Out of Sight.   Piper, like Tacha, is adamant about being her own critical voice, and creating a space for herself in history when no one else will.  I asked Athena if she felt any connection to Piper.  She explained that she had briefly met her contemporary, and felt that because she was not part of a “fashionable circle”, and also not based in New York, she was inclined to be responsible for her own memory as an artist and academic.


Athena believes that an artist knows her work better than anyone, and while the opinion and thoughtfulness of other artists and critics can be helpful, it is from the artist herself that you can learn the most.  Because of this, I chose not to transcribe any of our phone conversation, and instead have included small portions of it below.  Like Athena, I too like to talk a lot, and fast, but I found myself forgetting my prepared questions, and instead just listened as she told me about her inclination to write, her connection to Conceptual and Public Art, and her thoughts on aging.  What I learned was something I probably already knew, but had just forgotten.  You don’t have to be in New York or any other “fashionable” city to be connected and contribute to contemporary art.


Over a year ago, I saw Athena in Printed Matter.  I knew it was her because I own one of her “Expressions 1” posters and could recognize her face in any crowd. I was too shy to introduce myself and explain that I owned things she had created, and that I enjoyed them.  Similarly, this time around, I was shy in asking her to exchange emails with me.  By giving me her phone number, a privilege usually reserved for close friends and family, Athena surprised me with her approachability. I feel lucky to have gotten to know her even if just a little bit better.


(Click on the links to hear pieces of the interview)


Athena’s “Pocket Booklets;” Photo courtesy of Athena Tacha


Athena On Writing



Detail from “36 Years of Aging, 1972-2008;” Photo courtesy of Athena Tacha


Athena on Aging



“Green Acres,” at the Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton, New Jersey; photo courtesy of Athena Tacha



Athena On Public Art

Athena On Her Contemporaries




Athena Tacha’s Website

Different Notions of Time – By Athena Tacha

 A Bit about Athena’s Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Is Good Business Bad Art (Publishing)? — by Martine Syms

In a back issue of Proximity Magazine, now-defunct research group InCUBATE published a syllabus titled “Art/Life” that sketched the parameters of social practice. They interrogated the hierarchy between artists and other people who are creative by asking “[w]hy call oneself an artist, and how does this added layer detract or benefit from the work?”


Although the entire syllabus is noteworthy, Week 5 was particularly relevant to me.


WEEK 5: Is Bad Business Good Art?

Andy Warhol once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Yet, for artist-run businesses that are run more as conceptual enterprises, there are perhaps more open-ended standards of success. But what is the difference between an ethically minded, creatively organized small business and an artist who is basically starting the same thing, yet making money is beside the point? How can we talk about the privilege to experiment in this way and also appreciate creative failures?


I’d like to consider why making money is beside the point? In other words, why do artists (whose practice includes publishing) begin (and continue) failing businesses. By ‘failing’ I mean that the enterprise doesn’t make enough money to operate at a profit, which in turn prevents the hiring of employees. The owner is crushed by an overwhelming workload and eventually closes the business.


Why do we do this? Are we masochists?


For five years I was the co-owner of an art book shop in Chicago. I derived no meaningful income from the project, although I obtained substantial loss. I also gained friends, a professional network, knowledge, skills, and experience, but I would never do it again. Still, I didn’t start or continue to run a failing business for any of those reasons. I did it because I felt it was needed. I suspect you feel the same way about your own project.


Perhaps the primary difference between the artist and the “ethically minded, creatively organized small business” is that the artist allows his or her feelings to go unchecked. The small business owner begins with the same nebulous notion, but lets the market determine whether or not it is correct.


The indicators of success are different for each business model. However, if making money isn’t a key performance indicator, a project isn’t a business and shouldn’t be evaluated as such. That said, what about those of us who want to profit from our activities—are we still artists?



Next week I’ll look at business models.