Hello Mr. is a magazine about men who date men, published by Ryan Fitzgibbon.
Who Says Print is Dead?
The Perverse Rise of Artist Magazines
by Stephanie Fung
Boston-based Madeline Weisburg is one of the founders of Salad, an artist-run arts and culture magazine that celebrates and questions popular culture, the everyday, ephemera and the role of the handmade in printed matter today. Ryan Fitzgibbon, currently based in Brooklyn, is founder and creator of Hello Mr., a magazine about men who date men—an overdue response to the unending clichés that surround gay lifestyle publications and the representation of gay men in media. Both Salad and Hello Mr. will be exhibiting at the 2013 Vancouver Art/Book Fair.
In the years since the Ghostbusters’ character Egon prophesized the death of print in 1984, the industry has found ways to survive. In today’s digital age, where the latest news is simply a swipe away on a smartphone or tablet, one has to wonder if we can all finally agree that print is dead. But the recent rise of print artist magazines, such as Salad and Hello Mr., suggests otherwise. The internet hasn’t killed print—it’s just changed the nature of it.
These days, print artist magazines are redefining what a “print” publication is in order to survive. This means thinking beyond the dichotomy of “print” and “online.” It also means interrogating and transforming the idea of print as an artistic medium. Madeline Weisburg, co-founder and editor of the artist-run arts and culture magazine Salad agrees.
“There are some things you can do online that you can’t do with print, and there are some things that print does well and you can’t do online. There are also publications that dip their toes in both the print and digital worlds. It is not an either/or situation. There’s a lot of back and forth,” says Weisburg.
Ryan Fitzgibbon, founder and one-man-show behind Hello Mr., a publication “about men who date men,” sees print as only one piece of a larger brand story and digital as a large part of the same tale, as it “can enhance the experience in a number of ways. All our senses want to be stimulated, and for a brand to truly provide that, they must offer a range of ways for their fans to engage with their product that extend beyond even just print and digital.”
Which is exactly what Salad is creatively doing. “The handmade plays a big role in the appeal of Salad both from a maker’s and a viewer’s perspective,” says Weisburg. “For example Salad #2, the Camp issue, considers the dual meaning of the term camp—as an aesthetic sensibility and as the site from summers of our youth. Each issue comes with a magazine and one silkscreened mint green bandana, printed with an image that interprets the theme. We choose themes that are both relevant to contemporary art discourse and are also of interest to us personally as artists.”
For Fitzgibbon, however, the argument to make Hello Mr. predominately a print magazine rather than digital boils down to three things: “quality, frequency and permanence. To maintain readership in print, the content has to feel different than what can be found online—it has to be somewhat exclusive, timeless and elegant enough to warrant a place on the proverbial coffee table. Readers and collectors want to feel that the value that they’re getting from purchasing a magazine isn’t fleeting—that they’ll continue to find meaning in it over time.”
In a digital world, print publications still maintain appeal, and that, both Fitzgibbon and Weisburg also emphasize, is due to how the magazine becomes more than just a publication—it brings people together and generates new ideas. While Hello Mr. is more explicitly creating a global community of men who hope to rebrand their image by starting new conversations about their values, aspirations and fears, Weisburg also sees this unique dynamic between creators and viewers manifest through the production of Salad:
“When you make a physical publication you become part of a community along with other artists who make publications, and through distribution you also, very crucially, engage readers and bring them into that community. This all goes back to Arjun Appadurai’s idea about the ‘social lives’ of publications. Through circulation and use, publications accumulate new meanings.
“Events like the Vancouver Art Book Fair, the New York Art Book Fair and others show that there is still a lot happening in print and that a lot of printed material is being produced, which is counterintuitive to a lot of conversations about the end of traditional print culture.
“I think that artists who make print artists’ magazines are doing something unexpected considering the tools we have available, and this can be perverse in a kind of funny way,” says Weisburg.
Top: Photo of Hello Mr. by Daniel Seung Lee