The current interest in printed matter seems to give an economic downturn the finger, and as a hoarder since pre-teen days who could quite feasibly be crushed by my tattered, yellowing library, meeting my fate like one of the Collyer brothers, it’s good to see faith in paper again. Most pricetagged publications, with page-upon-page of ad and advertorial should be free though. FACT and +1 manage it with plenty more innovation and integrity than most. I’ve no qualms funding a gargantuan, extensively researched Vanity Fair piece or Wired essay, but in the ‘style’ arena, the killer app to justify my outlay is often absent.
When Monocle first dropped, I wrote it off as The Economist in a well-fitting Slowear blouson, but I’ve come to respect the bureau usage, level of writing and commitment to Tyler’s initial mission statement. TAR’s debut issue oozes artful spot varnishes and big-name commissions, with some success, and the price tag, given the ads and budget behind it, is still a shocker. In all honesty, these are quick fixes if you’re looking for something more memorable. They’ll sit in stacks but revisiting is unlikely.
But there’s still some perfect-bound substance out there – with seemingly the entire populous marked for life there’s probably more money to be made by investing in tattoo removal spots than there is in publishing about the damned things. Maxime Buechi’s Anglo-Swiss Sang Bleu (Blue Blood) sits slickly between art and industry nitty gritty – occasionally recalling the flawless presentation, innovation and supplemental joys of Fantastic Man (always offering a little extra, from bookmarks to wilfully difficult elements like a image-free breakdown of what friends, staff and contributors are wearing), despite the subject matter – itself a subculture as steeped in seperatism, guards old and new and keyboard Conans as anything else attracting obsessives.
Without dwelling too hard on the costing, it just can’t be cheap to make something like this. In fact it must be an undertaking to rival Fitzcarraldo’s boat-based operatics. Custom typography, enviable design, dense text, made up of interviews, essays and cultural critique, participation from the elite (shouts to Bert Krak, who makes an appearance), flash sets and photography is just the tip of the iceberg. Left a one-year gap between issues? Why not make up for lost time by combining III and IV into a 550+ page behemoth? Add a CD, a couple of supplements, fold-out covers, and then few ads bar Edwin and Carhartt Europe’s contributions, and you’ve got something that truly deserves the oft-abused labour-of-love tag in this age of mediocrity.
The PR blurb reads, “Sang Bleu was initiated in 2004 in London as an attempt to create a publication proposing a contemporary and experimental vision of modern culture and style. Rejecting the usual categorizations and segmentations, Sang Bleu’s statement is to use Art, Fashion, Sociology, Literature, but also—more unexpectedly—Tattooing, Body Modification, Fetish and other subcultures to create a carefully composed image of modern urban societies and individuals. Whatever their background is, Sang Bleu will reach those with a poetic mind and a sensitivity for beauty and take them to countries they never knew about.”
Having evolved painstakingly from a slimline convention handout issue 0 in ’06, Maxime is to be applauded. It isn’t cheap, but buyer’s remorse is unlikely. I don’t profess to know a lot about the tattooists artform, and Sang Bleu isn’t out to dumb-down or spoonfeed, but I do know that beyond bragging rights, there’s little joy in nodding along to paragraph-upon-paragraph of familiarity. These are the pleasures of the paper that the internet can’t convey, replace or do justice to.
Enough of the cheerleading. Here’s a link to an informative chat with the man in charge from Diane Pernet’s blog. A lofty precedent, and an inspiration to anyone looking to take the plunge anytime soon.