DREAM THE END is proud to collaborate with Gagarin, a rare, limited circulation, artists’ magazine of especially written and unpublished texts by working artists from around the world. DREAM THE END features excerpts from each of the existing issues dating back to Gagarin’s launch.
Started by Wilfried Huet in 2000, Gagarin provides an unconventional, unedited look inside the mind of contemporary artists and historical documentary of the artists in their own words.
WHAT MADE YOU START GAGARIN?
Woepah! GAGARIN is an artists’ initiative. It started in the millennium year 2000. In the eighties/nineties, three major museums of contemporary art opened in Belgium. With them descended art workers into the art field. This was new. One wrote a series of three articles in the art newspaper “De Witte Raaf” (The White Raven) evaluating the three museums. He did so by listing up the artists and adding an evaluation behind their names. He concluded that a Museum of Contemporary Art, worthy of the name, should have a masterpiece by Bruce Nauman, one by Vito Acconci and one by Guillaume Bijl in its collection. After this, I decided to create a magazine that gave the word exclusively to the artists. In the period before, art was not institutionalized and all around in the city. I had lived in the Antwerp apartment where ‘Eurasienstab’ (Eurasian Staff, 1967/1968) the performance of Joseph Beuys, was filmed in collaboration with Danish artist and Fluxus composer Hennig Christiansen. It was the time of numerous artist initiatives, and the new groundbreaking gallery “Wide White Space” was located next door. On the sidewalk there one could meet the young Carl André, Gerhard Richter, Lawrence Weiner, Marcel Broodthaers, James Lee Byars, Daniel Buren, young Panamarenko and many other artists.
CAN YOU TELL US WHERE THE GAGARIN NAME COMES FROM?
The magazine is named after the Russian cosmonaut Youri Alekseiovitsj Gagarin, the first man in space. He is chosen for two reasons. 1. He is a metaphor for the type of artists featured in the magazine. Yuri Gagarin looked at the world from a distance (from outer space) and was eager to communicate. 2. He is the modern equivalent for Icarus, the Greek mythology figure, who flew too close to the sun. He neglected his father urging him not to go too close because his wings were made from feathers, wood and wax. So his wings melted and he fell down to the earth. Like “strohfeuer” (firework), he flew high and fell down low. When Yuri Gagarin was to be named “hero of the Soviet Union”, he had to walk across an endless red carpet to receive his medal from the cheering politburo. The atmosphere was exuberant. But the camera lowered down and showed one of his loose shoestrings, flapping wildly from left to right. Would he step on it and fall flat on his face, like Icarus? When I started the publication of GAGARIN, the magazine, in 2000, the project felt rather vulnerable. I called it “strohfeuer”.
“The putting together of each issue is a precious and delicate proceeding.”
YOU ARE BASED OUT OF BELGIUM, BUT FEATURE A WIDE RANGE OF ARTISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. HOW DO YOU PUT TOGETHER EACH EDITION?
GAGARIN wants to go global. The magazine prefers to publish the pieces of the artists in their original language and writing, with an overall translation into English added. Gagarin has published artists’ writings in Albanian, Arabic, Azari, Basaa, Bete, Bulgarian, Cherokee, Chinese, Cipher, Cyrillic, Dutch, English (American & standard), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Polish, Russian, Samoan, Slovak, Spanish, Thai, Transvaalian, Turkish, … Each issue contains eight artists from eight countries worldwide. It is not a “big” idea, but it warrants the diversity and reflects the globalization en course. For each issue, a first artist is invited, then a second one. A context is created, might be in harmony, might be in contrast. From there, the third one is chosen, and so on. The putting together of each issue is a precious and delicate proceeding. The texts are never edited and are published the way they come. The majority of the work is done beforehand. GAGARIN prefers not to publish visual material and advertisements are kept out. The individual artists are mounted into a whole, with a sensitivity for their specificity and for the most important white spaces in between.
THE ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS IS THE IDEA BEHIND THE PUBLICATION. DO YOU GIVE ARTISTS ANY PARAMETERS FOR SUBMISSIONS OR IS IT OPEN?
There are deliberately no themes, nor parameters given to the artists. GAGARIN strives to bundle texts that are situated in the context of the work of the artist. Its idea is artistic.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR PERIOD OR GROUP OF ARTISTS THAT FASCINATES YOU RIGHT NOW?
I want to keep my scope as wide as possible, but I am attracted to those artists who are eager to communicate (it shows in their work), who feel they are at terms with society and their environment, and give evidence of a certain approach/attitude towards it. The GAGARIN artists expect the viewer to talk back.
ARE THERE GAGARIN EDITIONS THAT ARE MORE POPULAR THAN OTHERS? ARE THERE CERTAIN EDITIONS THAT ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE?
The appreciation for certain editions is not outspoken, although it varies in a more subtle way indeed. Issues 1, 2, 3 and 5 are now sold out.
GAGARIN IS BEAUTIFULLY PRINTED IN A LIMITED RUN. HOW DO YOU THINK THE VALUE OF BOOKS HAS CHANGED WITH THE INTERNET?
I have chosen the book form in order to make a “physical” sign, a sign in the form of a massive series of books that are entirely dedicated to the publication of artists texts in the first decade(s) of this century. The internet is a brilliant communication and information tool, but it is an immense graveyard for numerous online text pieces of all sorts.
THE DESIGN OF THE COVERS SEEMS TO FOLLOW A SPECIFIC THEME, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
It is imperative that the inner concept of GAGARIN does not change in order to emphasize the artistic content to a maximum. The only thing that changes is the front cover. The first 11 issues had the editorial positioning on the cover, always written in another anonymous handwriting, covered with a bookmark. The second eleven issues carried a text-related image on the cover. The currently running third eleven issues show a stamp-size reproduction of the GAGARIN / ICARUS story on their cover.
AND HOW HAS GAGARIN CHANGED OVER THE YEARS SINCE YOU STARTED IT?
Remaining definitely and absolutely a magazine with only artists texts, GAGARIN has changed over the years slightly into a remarkable small battlefield between the word and the image. In that respect, the contribution of Philippe Parreno in GAGARIN #19 is significant: What do you believe your eyes or my words?
“The GAGARIN artists expect the viewer to talk back.”
TELL US ABOUT THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER WORKING WITH ARTISTS.
When I invited Andy Leleisi’uao for GAGARIN #4 in 2001, he returned a text immediately after. But when he received some copies of GAGARIN after that, he returned the following letter and pulled back his first submission: Andy Leleisi’uao Contributing Artist & Samoa activist Dead Mango Studio, Onnehunga, New Zealand. Faxing date Dear Wilfried, I received the 3 GAGARIN copies today. Thank you and amazing. I have never seen a publication like this before…it is like rocking horse shit. I now feel what I wrote earlier is not good enough to be published, I misunderstood the role. I had no idea of the extent GAGARIN supported artists against the mainstream until I began reading what you sent me. You guys are crazy. Fantastic, Wilfried. Continue to challenge. GAGARIN speaks for many. Consciously Polynesian, A. Leleisi’uao
WE WERE THRILLED TO DO A COLLABORATION WITH YOU AND FEATURE EXCERPTS FROM EACH EDITION ON OUR SITE. HOW DO YOU LIKE SEEING THE GAGARIN WORKS IN DIGITAL FORM?
It was a privilege and a great pleasure to meet you and to collaborate with DTE. Always delighted to see GAGARIN pop up, even in digital form.