Felix Burrichter, the editor and creative director of PIN–UP (“the only biannual magazine for architectural entertainment”) and the curator of the current “Paper Weight — Genre-defining Magazines 2000 to Now” at Haus der Kunst explained his work process for the exhibit quite simply. The present-day print artifacts were chosen to reflect a range of well-known and unknown individuals showcased in magazines defiantly having a post-print life “off the reading table.”
More slickly produced and (seemingly) precisely targeted than Nick Logan’s The Face, which arguably is the forerunner, at least in typographic/photographic style of many of these volumes, the periodicals examined in Paper Weight are densely specific.
Visually, the exhibit at Haus der Kunst depends barely at all on a background knowledge of what are essentially very glossy ‘zines. Architect Andreas Angelidakis was clever to blow up the magazine covers to slightly-smaller-than-billboard sizes but particularly to make the finishes completely matte and impermeably saturated; they recall story boards but make visitors feel as if they are moving about the set of Lars von Trier film. (There are a few unfortunate Tracey Emin-recalling pieces of furniture here and there but nothing too invasive.
My favorite scene was the proximal juxtaposition of what happens to be the cover of the current edition of Fantastic Man featuring a stunning portrait of conceptual artist Jeremy Deller in a pink hoodie angled near a 2012 issue of The Gentlewoman featuring Angela Lansbury against a complementary tarama salada background. Fantastic Man of course is obviously trenchant and droll somewhat in the manner of the late Quentin Crisp while The Gentlewoman takes itself quite seriously (the Lansbury cover is somewhat of an anomaly with the usual sitters ranging within Beyonce and Christy Turlington to the same equestrienne-socialites you also don’t know from W and Town & Country.
This type of layering calls attention to the sort conceptual art/need-someone-to-explain aspect of the Paper Weight, which is, as Haus der Kunst director Okwui Enwzor pointed out in his introduction, among other things a commentary upon “fields of production”. But Paper Weight is circumscribed enough (literally also in a comfortably small gallery that prevents each cover from receding into a Medieval memory mnemonics game…), theory isn’t necessary to enjoy it on many levels.
I would also argue that the specialty populations profiled by, and ostensibly consumed by the
readers of, the magazines, are not really that tiny, since these type of publications cater to a monolithic interest rather than the panoplic tastes of whole personalities. Men dressing as women is common enough to be a not-very-stimulating pop-culture trope, as is the National Velvet fantasy. And as anyone who ever has taken public transportation or been at a sporting event or a nightclub will attest, if only body modification and tattoos would go back to being a subculture…