Georgia Sagri is an artist and Gillian Sneed is an art historian. They are editors of Magazine Forté, a magazine of sound. What follows is a recent conversation they had about their project.
Gillian: So, Georgia, why don’t you tell me a little bit about how Forté started, because I came on-board after it had already been established. Oh, and just to say who we are: I am an editor at the magazine, and you are the editor-in-chief.
Georgia: In the beginning of 2009, I just had this idea of an audio magazine. It came up while I was thinking about how images affect us and how to translate them into a different medium, sound for example. But then I thought ‘Oh, do I wanna do another art project? No, it is kind of redundant to do this idea as an art project.’
Gillian: Well, it’s kind of really big, right? Like, it’s more than just an art project. It could be, potentially, a really big, whole separate project.
Gillian: So you were thinking about the audio sound aspects of an image, like how it can be translated?
Georgia: Yeah, how it can be translated into audio.
Gillian: Interesting, I didn’t know that. That’s cool.
Georgia: And then through that I thought I would bring more people into this idea and do an audio magazine. And instead of it being only me describing images or just doing an art project by myself, it could also be with texts and contributions and interviews and other pieces.
Gillian: So, basically, for those who are not familiar with the magazine, it is an audio magazine that uses the format of a magazine, or the genre of a magazine, as a sort of a loose frame, but we provide all of our content solely through sound. So, whereas a regular magazine would have different sections, essays, letters to the editors, interviews or images–whatever it may be–Forté provides that same sort of organization of content, but it is completely sound-based.
Gillian: Which is a very interesting challenge.
Georgia: It’s a challenge to format a publication with no material character in a non-printed form.
Gillian: And it is interesting, also, in terms of what genre we are working within because I feel we constantly have to invent a whole new genre. We are working outside of so many other established genres like radio, sound art, or other sound media. We are very distinct. We want to be different from other publications and we have this interesting niche that no one has quite done before. Even though in our research we discovered some of these historical sound magazines on cassette tapes in the 70s and 80s, various people in other countries, and even in New York, in the 60s and 70s had similar interests.
Georgia: But, on the other hand, I think what we do goes hand in hand with the expansion of technology and the Internet, which is something that obviously didn’t exist back then. We co-exist with this idea of what virtual space can provide for an immaterial project like ours.
Gillian: Exactly, and, also how virtual space provides access, how it conceives of time and space. I mean, there is a whole different way you would engage with the Internet than you would engage with, say, vinyl records or cassette tapes or radio. And it has infinite possibilities that we still are trying to understand.
Georgia: Yeah, we are exploring. The other issue is the idea of the distribution of the magazine. From the beginning, it was very clear to us that we would like it to be freely distributed. Also, the form of a website offers different kinds of features, such as different types of gadgets inside the magazine. For example, the promotion and the soundmail features.
Gillian: Ok, so why don’t you talk a little bit about what those features are?
Georgia: We are thinking that as a web site magazine we could be sponsored by advertisements, but in the form of sound. We could also somehow have the chance to alter the character of sound advertisements. We are trying to offer organizations a unique advertisement created by specific artists. This would be included on our web site on the section called promotion. In this way there is going to be a space on the website where listeners can click to hear the ads produced by specific artists. So ads are something more than just promotion, they become creative projects, and provide us with support, which we really need. They also offer a very intelligent form of promotion for the companies that will be presented on our advertisement page.
Gillian: So, it’s a way of providing sponsorship and promotion at the same time.
Gillian: But, let’s say it’s different than an art format, like some picture, as you might see in the major art magazine ads.
Georgia: Yeah, right, it would be an audio project. We provide space for parallel projects to be born with a unique value to each other. It’s a page for all these different ads and projects on our website and, you know, everyone can have access to it.
Gillian: I think that is a perfect example of how we are solving these kinds of problems and creating these new kinds of things that are unique to the possibilities of the Internet. Like, I don’t think that has ever been done before, a specially created sponsorship that is actually an artist project in-and-of itself. And, as a side note, in case people don’t know, Forté is available both as podcasts that you can download, but you can also just listen to it on our website which is www.magazineforte.com. And then we have the feedback feature called soundmail.
Georgia: Yeah, the feedback feature will be sort of embedded on the website and any listener can call our toll free phone number, which will be provided on the website, and leave his voice message on the website and it will be open and public to everyone to listen to all the different audio feedback comments. This could include responses to the different issues or responses to the editors or to the design of the website, anything that they wish to share, or they could also ask to contribute. If they have any ideas or any stories they would like to share on the website, that is also something the magazine provides a space for.
Gillian: Do you want talk a little bit about each issue, and how many issues we’ve done and sort of the way we format our issues?
Georgia: Yeah. We’ve done four issues. The first two were a little bit more structured. A little bit more section-based.
Gillian: Yeah, yeah. Because I came in on issue three. And that is when it became more…
Georgia: A little bit more lucid.
Gillian: … more focused, yet still very open-ended. The different contributors’ works really collaborate with each other’s projects and interact with each other and are layered together and it becomes this amorphous listening experience.
Georgia: And also the difference of the first two issues with how the magazine has evolved to right now is the format of the magazine. It really has a kind of belief that the experience of the whole track is unique as a unity, as a cohesive thing.
Gillian: Yes, and also, we usually have maybe like ten contributors …
Gillian: … who don’t necessarily know each other’s work. And so, we, as the people putting it together as the editors, we kind of construct that.
Georgia: So we can create a kind of a common ground or a common space in which all these contributors could share …
Gillian: … and interweave …
Georgia: … And interweave ideas. And also you have different opinions and different voices exchanging ideas and thoughts that become a part of this unified track that the magazine provides.
Gillian: And each issue has a theme. And, also the idea of the theme is that it works a little bit as a trigger …
Georgia: … to evolve into a discussion more like a kind of … a discourse of this theme, but it’s up to the contributors to alter the theme …
Gillian: … to contest it …
Georgia: … to contest it, to differentiate it, to have conflict with it. And we are very open to the changes and anything that evolves out of the contributors’ ideas.
Gillian: So, the first issue was value, and the second issue was fashion?
Georgia: No. The second issue was on time-travel. And the third issue was fashion, and the fourth issue was post-shamanism.
Gillian: Time travel, that’s right. And, so for the first few issues, the theme was not publicly announced.
Gillian: And so the idea, in the beginning, was that through listening to it, people might see some kind of resonance between pieces or a common thread, but then we decided to go ahead and just announce the theme and make that a little more concrete …
Georgia: Yeah, yeah.
Gillian: … which I think is fine, because it’s still so amorphous that even if you have the frame of the theme, it’s still very open.
Georgia: Yeah, and it’s also good to have this theme and then have the listeners travel through the different ideas of the contributors and how they relate with the theme or not.
Gillian: Yeah, and I would say that listening to an issue of Forté is really a journey, you know, like it really takes you on a voyage. First of all you have to commit time in a way that we’re not used to doing these days with, you know, YouTube and fast video clips. Everything is just in a different pace. Forté really forces you to not be based in visual culture, which really dominates us. It forces you to go inside yourself and just listen, and it’s very slow. You really have to be willing to go on that journey.
Gillian: and I think, just the way that it subverts our usual pacing provides a different experience than what other kinds of contemporary media provide.
Georgia: Yeah, and also the idea of what we would call challenging the informational attack, what the magazine provides, it’s micro-information, you know, it has a certain type of idea that information is not only report-based, or linear.
Gillian: Yeah, Forté is very non-linear. It’s funny because it’s on a linear time track, like you can actually watch your progression through the issue, and yet, it’s the most non-linear experience you’ll have, because in a way—I mean we do edit it together sequentially—but, in a way, there’s no beginning or end. I mean to a certain degree there is, but once you’re inside it, it’s a very open space.
Gillian: And it can take you in many different directions in an expansive way, rather than a linear direction.
Georgia: Yeah, but also in the idea that although we have a theme and although the track has a beginning and an end, we as the editors perceive it as more as a kind of an amorphous editing, which doesn’t perceive information as this kind of ‘A + B = C’ approach. It’s more the distribution of knowledge through an open platform.
Gillian: And that to me is the most rewarding part of our process. Actually, just to talk about our process a little bit, we have ongoing editorial meetings where we invite interested parties–people we’re interested in, and people who might have heard about us and are interested in us–to come to these sort of brainstorming meetings where we talk about how we work. It’s very collaborative, so we talk about the upcoming theme, ideas for the next issue, and how we operate, so people are prepared for that collaborative process, and then we reach out to people, and people reach out to us.
Georgia: Some other friends reach out to other people, and there’s a network of different people that become our contributors.
Gillian: We work collaboratively with our individual contributors. The level of finish of each contribution is very different. Some people give us fragments that we really edit together, while some people give us really finished polished things. It just depends on the individual contribution. And then in the end, we have the editing process when we, the editors, work together. We’ve been using the facilities at the Brooklyn College Radio Program and the director there, Miguel Macias, has been very generous to provide us access to the facilities there. That part of the process to me is the most fun part …
Georgia: Yeah, it’s the most fun part …
Gillian: … because it’s very instinctive. It’s very open. It’s not your average editing session, where it’s about logic and it’s about linearity …
Georgia: … what is first and what is next–no.
Gillian: It’s nothing to do with that.
Georgia: It works more like editing a film than editing printed matter.
Gillian: I think it’s more amorphous than the editing of a film, unless it was a really abstract film. [laughs]
Georgia: Yeah, an abstract film, exactly. [laughs]
Gillian: Yeah. Umm …
Georgia: What about our contributors? We have all kinds of contributors.
Gillian: It’s very genre bending: sound artists, visual artists, musicians …
Georgia: … philosophers, writers, literature writers, poets …
Gillian: … art critics …
Georgia: … political theorists … . So we have a very kind of diversity of people.
Gillian: And people who are attracted to contributing to us are the kind of people who are really interested in the kind of format that we offer that’s unlike other kinds of platforms they may have access to.
Georgia: And also, that people are challenged from the format to expand their ideas of their medium and their skills, let’s say.
Gillian: Yeah. And do we want to say something more about what about navigating the website or how to access it?
Georgia: Yeah. We can say that although there is one track, listeners can click on different sections and listen to different sections separately, if they want to.
Gillian: So if you don’t really have time to commit to a while issue, which is what I would personally recommend …
Georgia: … Yeah …
Gillian: … but, if you want to hear specific sections, it is possible to listen to different pieces.
Georgia: It’s possible on the website.
Gillian: The same way that you might not read a whole magazine from front to back, you might to just flip through it.
Georgia: So we provide that. We have a different page on the website for our editorial team too …
Gillian: … which consists of three editors and the editor-in-chief, and a broad network of editors-at-large that are from all over the world from Berlin to Baku, and Malmo to Athens, so we have a broad network of other people who are our …
Georgia: … international team …
Gillian: … and they’re always culling possible contributors as well. The thing about Forté is that we don’t want it to just be a New York-based project. We want to really expand out and to be more international and to really be pulling on lots of different people and including other languages besides just English. In fact, this upcoming fall issue is on the theme of ‘translation’, so we will have a more multi-lingual issue this time around. And we’re hoping to expand more on that in future issues.
Gillian: So, um, yeah if anyone out there is interested in contributing, learning more, or being involved in some way, they can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Georgia: Yes. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in participating in some way.