Publishing, Inclusivity and the Berlin Quarterly
One would be hard-pressed to find a society more entrenched in – and imperative to – the history of publishing than the German volk. The advent of European printing practices might be attributed to Gutenberg – but really, one needn’t travel back so far to recognize the cultural value injected in the plethora of pamphlets, leaflets, DIY punk zines, and specialty magazines in existence today.
It seems like only yesterday that choosing a magazine to purchase meant heading to the local bookstore, glossing over the mediocre selection of flimsy paper stock and sensationalist titles – “25 Sex Positions You Should Try Right Now!,” “ Is Your Hair Style Why You’re Single?” – and choosing the one which provided the more perfect cover model. Sure, there have always been hobby and special-interest magazines for everyone from car enthusiasts to vegans and architects – but most will admit that even these publications are plagued with exhausting repetition and mediocrity at best.
In light of higher advertising costs, expensive printing and an increase in digital readership, in 2010 The New York Times announced its intentions of moving readers towards a digital subscription service. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal would soon follow and as American publishing staples like Newsweek and JET would cease print publishing all-together, naturally, panic would ensue within the publishing industry. In a time where a Tweet is heard around the world, how can the dated mechanism of newspaper dispensers and print keep up? What are editors to do when the most sensationalist news story of the day occurs after final proofing, printing – and especially distribution?
“Is print dead?” is a common question – but only one amongst a particular crowd. Those in the niche and indie publishing sectors already know the answer. Not only that, but they find it humorous and nonsensical that it’s even being asked at all. Globalization has connected economies, markets, trends and political affairs – and it has inexplicably connected niche communities, too. Focusing on bringing together those straddling the fringe of society are independent publications such as Œ, Flaneur and Kaltblut – each based right here in Berlin and having amassed loyal readership
With a dense expat and refugee population, large English-speaking community and flourishing creative market, Berlin has become the launching point for several independent publications – and in 2012, Berlin Quarterly joined the ranks. A collaboration between Cesare Alemanni and James Guerin, the publication is designed specifically for the English-speaking community in Berlin (although it has been widely adopted by many Berliners as well.) Alemanni and Guerin recognized the amount of magazines specifically functioning according to an “in Berlin, for Berlin” mindset and decided that by using Berlin as an editorial starting point, they would prefer to look outward, rather than inward. Operating under a profound sense of inclusivity, the Berlin Quarterly has successfully manifested what it is to be ‘of Berlin’.
Aesthetically, the editorial team has opted for a classic design that seemingly falls in contrast to the city where anything goes. At just 17cm x 24cm with a plethora of full-bleed images and varied portfolio of literary achievements, the Berlin Quarterly has created a distinct magazine for a distinct city. The most recent issue, distributed in December 2017, includes genre-defying works by Oksana Zabuzhko and William Ralston, while Mark Tardi curates an evocative selection of Polish poetry – of which you can find in the original languages and English translation. Closing the perfectly eerie Winter Issue is a portfolio by Guggenheim Fellow Taryn Simon, showcasing dried recreations of floral arrangements that embellished tables during (in)famous international treaty-signing ceremonies.
Disturbing world affairs, muddled conflicts and the current trend of globalization have all contributed to the rise in independent publishing. Now more than ever, readers are seeking a deeper connection to materials and aesthetics – there’s a willingness amongst writers, contributors and readers alike to either work for exposure or support grassroots publishing campaigns for those publications that speak freely and beautifully. From 80s DIY punk zines being scattered into the crowd at concerts, to editors featuring Instagram followers for new visual arts editorials, independent publishing has accepted the challenges of modernity and scarce funding. Now, five years later, the Berlin Quarterly has joined the independent publishing wake with a refined aesthetic and a distinct European sense of intellectualism – cleaning up the lines, blurring international borders and outwitting the increasing trend of exclusivity.