Elise By Olsen
Voices (Towards Other Institutions) #7

“Publishing is by all means a form of architecture” writes editor and publisher Elise By Olsen in the preface of her “Pocket Pamphlet”.

Open? - the 2020 Russian Federation Pavilion - has invited By Olsen to contribute to “Voices (towards other institutions)”, a collection of interdisciplinary contributions and perspectives into new ways of thinking about and building institutions.

By Olsen responded to the invitation by creating a foldable one-sheet, zine-friendly, pocket-sized publication, for which she invited six fellow contemporary publishers who are constantly challenging the traditional institution of publishing.

Featuring Cecilia Dean, co-founder of VISIONAIRE; Kirill Rozhentsov, editor-in-chief of syg.ma; Yusuf Hassan, publisher of BlackMass Publishing; Isabelle Graw, publisher of Texte zur Kunst; Paul Soulellis, founder & publisher of Queer.Archive.Work and Olu Odukoya, publisher of Modern Matter & Kilimanjaro.

Created by Elise By Olsen and designed by Morteza Vaseghi as part of their joint venture ECUDORP.

Below are some extracts from Elise By Olsen’s “Pocket Pamphlet”. To download & print the zine, click below.

From Elise By Olsen’s preface to the ‘Pocket Pamphlet’

«What do we do when all existing institutional modes of production, publishing and distribution vanish in crisis? As a response, I wanted to create a publication that could be self-produced and self-distributed at home, or within a domestic or local space, while still defending the paper medium. I wanted to make use of the home printer – that of the amateur – and to consider self publishing in relation to autonomy and personal agency. I wanted the publication to be downloaded free online and translated into print – to avoid selling, shipping or sending the print-prepped file.»

«Paper publishing is in many ways the ultimate manifestation of many of the values arising amid this pandemic: attention, dedication and patience. What’s the enduring appeal or meaning of materiality, of the physical object, the time capsule, the artifact right now? Print media and the values it inhabits have been somewhat neglected in the context of the internet. Amid this ongoing viral pandemic, most of us have been completely immersed in the digital sphere and exposed to short-lived content, click-bait headlines and fast-food journalism on a scroll — formed by the ‘quantity over quality’ mentality that has imprinted the domain of digital media. As an antidote to this, printed matter is loaded with collectibility, stackability and longevity which allows us, as readers, to wrestle with our attention span, and for once fully retreat to something substantial.»

From the conversation between Elise By Olsen and Kirill Rozhentsov, the St.Petersburg-based editor-in-chief of the online platform syg.ma (400k views per month)

How do you understand the idea of ‘publishing as architecture’? As a publisher, do you see this framework that you exercise your creativity within as liberating, or as claustrophobic?

«This open structure of syg.ma can be understood as an architectural blueprint which lays out specific ways to create, distribute or consume content. I find the opposition between liberty and limitation highly problematic. I still call myself editor-in-chief although I don’t hold ultimate power over which article gets published. Me and my colleagues devise and put content in a system of filters that regulate distribution. I imagine syg.ma as a system in a metastable state which definitely requires a lot of engineering thinking.»

In talking about contemporary publishing, it is inevitable that we mention the predicted death of print. What’s the enduring appeal or meaning of materiality, of the physical object, the time capsule, the printed artifact right now? Will there be a new influx on the newsstand?

«When I joined the syg.ma project I found myself in a very rich environment, constantly in flux. Such quality can’t be easily transferred into material artefacts. However I don’t believe in the death of print, it is a unique medium that has potential for crystallizing an insane amount of organizational, intellectual and artistic effort into one object. Print is a costly enterprise so the idea for our upcoming physical publishing program is to try to experiment with offline
as well as online distribution and make the final product available in various forms – from exclusive risograph copies to those that can be produced using minimal home equipment.

Elise By Olsen is a Norwegian editor and publisher working within the realms of art, fashion and media. She founded youth culture magazine Recens Paper at age 13, where she held the position of editor-in-chief until her resignation in 2017. In 2018, she debuted her new fashion commentary publication Wallet, for which she now serves as editor-in-chief. With an expansive list of various projects, she has collaborated with institutions and brands such as Prada, British Fashion Council, Google Arts & Culture, Business of Fashion, TEDx, Central Saint Martins, Gucci, Facebook/Instagram, Thaddaeus Ropac.

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