Interview with John Peter Nilson, Editor-in-chief nu: Nordic Art Review


FUSION: Art magazines have existed for a long time. Sometimes they keep their logotype, like parquet or flash art, and sometimes even the original version of their basic design – in which case one can imagine when the magazine in question must have been founded.

nu: the Nordic Art Review is perhaps the most recent publication of this kind – which is why I ask what is the thinking behind this magazine?

JPN: To do a paper magazine is quite costly compared to, for example, web magazines. We have two main reasons for doing a paper magazine (though we will be on the web next year): a/ the visual material b/ it can be picked up and saved in different contexts and at different times (sure, the same applies to a webzine, but my experience is that the latest edition of a webzine has a tendency to be forgotten after it has been read -- a paper magazine has a different value over time). To get the funding needed to do a professional magazine from the North we had to do a fusion between siksi and Index. The publishing idea is to write about contemporary art from the Nordic Countries and the Baltic Region as well as whatever interests us internationally. To be global and local - at the same time. We want to be critical independently of geographical origin, but it's important that our readers understand that we are based in this region, that there is a definite transmitter to identify us with. But for that matter we have no intention of celebrating anything just because it originates here.

F: The nu: is a child of the fusion between siksi and index, each of which had its own basic idea. What happened to these ideas in the course of fusion? Have they just been combined or did you take some new idea more suitable for the current situation?

JPN: siksi had a more cultural journalistic approach to the present, Index was more focused on essays and thematic issues. Hopefully we will combine the two approaches in an interesting way. We are trying - but making a magazine is not something you can do only from visions, ideas, concepts etc. It has to be tried out in the magazine itself. A good magazine is an interaction between its editors, writers and readers - a constant dialogue that changes as society and cultural references change.

F: What might your advice to founders of new art magazines be – apart from the obvious advice just not to found anything?

JPN: To have the patience, and economic resources, to find good writers, let them take the time needed to write good articles. There are many, many writers out there doing art criticism, art journalism, art essays etc, but very few are really good. Sometimes I can wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worrying about the imbalance between writing on art and the actual art. In many cases the artists have been spending a long time, thinking and re-thinking their art practice. The same can't be said about writers on art. The few that are really good are so sought after they can hardly write more than they do. A good magazine today must take the time to find talented writers, give them a couple of chances to develop their thoughts, give them advice, be critical, discuss. Writing on art is not about promotion - neither for the artists, the market nor the writers themselves. Writing on art today involves the challenge of finding a new language that can analyze the changes of art itself, but also the changing world. A good magazine should provide fuel for such ambitions.