story #3 by MAURIZIO CATTELAN and MARTA PAPINI
portrait by ALESSIO COSTANTINO
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How did your publishing venture get started?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — It all started with my first curating job in Milan. It was a group exhibition of young artists, and over the course of that show, I started thinking about what to do next. Since Italy probably has more curators than artists, and I’d studied communications and journalism, the idea came naturally. So, we put out the first couple of issues just to see how it would go.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Was another magazine needed at the time? Why?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — Italy has quite a rich tradition of art magazines. And when we first came out, as I recall, there were about five or six others, but the difference always lies in your individual take on what’s out there, and how that content is conveyed. In that sense, we were strongly focused on contemporary work that reflected our interests. The tabloid format was a way to affordably print a lot of copies for free distribution. It was a cheap, rapid form of communication. Especially since money was tight, and the first office was my (tiny) living room.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — The magazine is not your sole activity. Why is that, and what is your platform about?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — At this point, Mousse has multiple activities, but the main ones are the magazine, the publishing house, and an agency that handles communication projects like publicity campaigns, branding, websites, and so on. People in the art world deal with all these areas. Sometimes, having a single reference makes their jobs easier and better integrated.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How do you start a new issue? Are there any studio rituals?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — We don’t have a rigid structure for the magazine. It develops in an almost organic way around topics or artists that have caught our interest and we think are important at the time. Then, of course, a theme or piece might grow into a whole section or spark another idea. As for rituals, I’d say the only one we have is to call the printer (always way behind schedule) to tell them the definitive files are on the way: that means the final rush is over, and it’s time for a drink.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you do a lot of advance research? For how long?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — We work at a rapid pace and, unfortunately, deadlines tend to come hard and fast. Research is parceled out among friends and associates we hold in high regard. Of course, we also take risks, especially with young artists, but that’s part of what makes this job so great.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — You save the audience from an overwhelming flood of content by selecting and choosing, distinguishing between what you love and what you don’t. Does that feel like a big responsibility?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — I’ve always preferred projects and magazines whose editorial slant is clearly visible. It’s a way of being honest with yourself and your readers. Nowadays, the amount of content online and in print is simply huge, and you need to produce quality material that offers readers some guidance. I don’t mean that platforms that present a range of information about everything going on aren’t useful — I rely on them a lot myself — but the value and appeal of a project lie in being and doing something unique.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you consider this selection process a sort of curatorial activity?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — The term “curatorial” gets overused in a lot of fields, as if gathering and selecting content were enough to make you a curator. It’s an increasingly blurry concept that’s been more and more challenged of late. Nowadays, you read about shows “organized by” someone — or instead of “curator,” you see “exhibition maker,” even “agent,” or a curtly authorial “by.” It’s an issue that goes beyond the art world; “curation” is now entangled with broader questions of legitimacy and cultural output.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Your magazine has helped change the way publishers think. How do you think the publishing scene will evolve in the future?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — Publishers have to come to grips with communication channels connected to the Web, which means new skills and integrated products. No creative figure or exhibition project today would rely on print as the sole method of content distribution, and that’s just a natural development. Publishers will continue to be important, but every medium obviously has its strengths and weaknesses. Print has to focus on technical specifications, attention to detail, depth. The digital economy and new forms of distribution will do away with a lot of the barriers to entering the publishing sector. Just think of the revolution in e-commerce, or how Instagram is thinking about new ways users can buy things. Still, you’ll have to know how to handle the fragmentation of content and services.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there something that you won’t print in your pages?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — I don’t always agree with some of the opinions we print, but that’s normal. In any case, I don’t intervene as long as they’re well motivated and respectful.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Why are images so important in your magazine?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — The oversize format, to start with! A large tabloid inevitably leads you to experiment with graphics and images. Plus, this is a contemporary art journal, and unless you’re taking a radically theory-oriented approach or a highly narrative, literary one, you’re talking about artists, hence their artworks.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you ever think about what your readers might want to read and see? In your view, should your magazine challenge readers or please them?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — Of course, you think about it, but that doesn’t mean chasing after readers or thinking in terms of numbers or “likes.” Maybe you’re just trying to offer a range of content that interests you. Underneath it all, what really counts is a relationship of mutual respect and recognition.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What would you change about your magazine? Are you ever afraid that changing dramatically might make you lose readers?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — We like to switch things around a lot — we think that’s healthy. We just put out a special anniversary issue that’s about half the size of our usual format, with a completely different look. Once a year, we publish a thematic issue where we have fun playing around with things. And, of course, there are always things you feel torn about. Mousse is printed on a rotary press, which sets us apart from all the glossies and offset publications. I’m not saying we don’t like that — it’s part of our history, and in some ways a statement — but on the other hand, you sometimes find yourself cursing about the image quality, the colors, or the perishability.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there an issue you’re most proud of? Why?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — It’s easier for me to think of certain interviews or pieces we’ve published, but to answer your question, I’d say maybe the issue we did for dOCUMENTA 13. I just hate flying, but for that project, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev managed to get me onto a flight to Kabul.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is slow consumption of the magazine an antidote to the disruptive acceleration of our time? Or is it part of the problem?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — That’s a complicated question, but of course, every cultural product has its own time frame. Still, you have to pay attention to changes in the way they’re consumed (I don’t read magazines from beginning to end) and to technology “migration.” A book tends to be read slowly, but if you have hundreds on your Kindle, then the way you use them is inevitably affected.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What is missing today from the publishing panorama?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — I imagine, and hope, we’ll figure that out soon enough.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is publishing irremediably linked to fetishism? Is this perversion the real reason why paper is still beating the Web?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — I don’t know who’s beating what, but there’s a deeply rooted fetishism in the publishing world, no question.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you ever think that you should deliver different content through different media? Or do you have the same content online and offline?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — I’m all for differentiating between content for different media. Parts of the magazine can be read online, and we also publish pieces just for the website. It depends on a lot of things. One project I’m very fond of is Vdrome, an online platform that offers regular, high-quality screenings of works directed by visual artists and filmmakers, midway between contemporary art and cinema. I’ve worked with some of these artists for the magazine, too, but obviously the content and approach were very different.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What will the next issue be?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — It won’t be thematic, but sometime soon I’d like to develop a section dedicated to artists who are trying to break out of museum conventions or challenging curators and institutions. We could call it “Right of First Refusal” or “No, Thank You.” I’m mulling that over.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Have you ever imagined the last issue of your magazine?
EDOARDO BONASPETTI — No, but I’ve imagined my own last issue. I don’t want to do this forever, and at some point I’ll want to move on to different projects and hand over the reins. Still, everybody in this profession knows there’s a bottomless curiosity that keeps you from envisioning the words “the end,” even in the distant future.
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