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ArtstrA

A magazine in the making

Info/arts is a daring new magazine of the arts soon to be published on an international scale. Featuring the hottest and most exciting news, views and documentation from the broadest spectrum of activity ever considered as 'art' by any magazine yet seen... Information and critical features on manifestations and events of unorthodox kinds predominating, info/arts editorial content and lively style will appeal to the non-commercial, freethinking, avant-garde-orientated in all walks of life - because it isn't just an art magazine

Barbara Reise, in an unpublished document, Some information on Info/arts, 1975
 
Layout design for Info/arts
Layout design for Info/arts   © Tate Archive, 2003
Minutes of Info/arts meeting In 1975, Barbara Reise began to plan the publication of an art magazine, due to be launched the following year. The title of the magazine was originally to be Info/arts but was later changed to ArtstrA. Although ultimately unsuccessful (Reise was forced to abandon the project due to financial pressures), her archive contains a wealth of material relating to the magazine.

Through proposals, meeting minutes, letters to potential contributors, applications for funding and mock-up designs for the magazine, we gain a fascinating account of the practicalities involved in such a venture. The material also provides us with an insight into the wider art scene of that decade.

Minutes of Info/arts meeting, 2 September 1975
© Tate Archive, 2003


Aims and content

Reise stated that the aim of the magazine was to discuss and promote contemporary art, focusing on the avant-garde or unorthodox, which she felt was not represented by existing institutions or journals. She saw it as providing an information service about the international 'underground' scene 'both to professionals in the arts and to students and young people':

Covering as broad as possible a range of geography, style, and contemporary media-disciplines, selection would concentrate upon those places, people, and publications which are most concerned with "avant-garde" or "experimental" work done by "young" artists which act in terms of an international perspective, have a high professional quality, are not widely publicized, and are of especial interest to young people

Barbara Reise, ArtstrA Information Ltd, a proposal in support of funding, 1976

Notes by Barbara Reise
Notes by Barbara Reise,
Some info on INFO/ARTS, 1975
© Tate Archive, 2003
Document showing dummy 'hard info' contents
The emphasis of the magazine content would be on, what Reise referred to as 'hard information'. This was content created by artists rather than about them:

with artists' statements, interviews, and self-documentation dominating other material

Document showing dummy 'hard info' contents
© Tate Archive, 2003

The content planned for the first issue, ranged from an article about the performance artists, COUM (who in 1976 were prosecuted for indecency), to a feature about the minimalist musician Philip Glass.

Contact print from COUM action

 

Contact print from COUM action,
Paris, 1976, for inclusion in the magazine

© Cosey Fanni Tutti & Genesis P-Orridge

 
Letter from Barbara Reise to Brian Eno,
inviting him to write an article about Philip Glass, 1975

© Tate Archive, 2003

Letter from Barbara Reise to Brian Eno


Designs

It was not just the content of the magazine that Reise planned, how the magazine looked was extremely important. Letters to print companies requesting paper samples, and the many meeting minutes discussing issues such as font and layout, reflect her keen wish to get 'the look' of the magazine just right.

In a letter to Colin Naylor, Reise discusses the number of pages the magazine should have:

You did a very good job of convincing me that anything less than a 32-page mag didn't feel "enough" (this, by showing / counting-pages-of various little little mags which I agree look / feel like initiatives' newsletters and very non-pro). And I agreed that 50 pages was to be aimed for, definitely
ArtstrA layout design with double page internal contents
ArtstrA layout design with double page internal contents
© Tate Archive, 2003

These mock-ups show some of the different approaches to the design of the magazine. The first two also include early alternative names for the publication.

Info/Arts proposed cover
Info/Arts proposed cover

© Tate Archive, 2003
Page design for Senses
Page design for Senses

© Tate Archive, 2003
ArtsrA cover design
ArtsrA cover design

© Tate Archive, 2003

Lettering for ArtstrA
The gothic font originally used for the title ArtstrA, was abandoned, and a more neutral looking modern font was adopted. In a scribbled note to Catherine Wild and Ron Saxby, the designers, Collin Naylor suggested that:

Since the word 'ArtstrA' was primarily selected for its visual 'mirror effect' (read it left-to-right or right-to-left), the German gothic face seems too directionally oriented in one direction only

He included some sketches of alternative lettering ideas for the title.

Lettering for ArtstrA
© Tate Archive, 2003

Did you know?

Q. What do the words 'eye', 'radar' and 'toot' have in common with 'ArtstrA'?

A. They are all palindromes.

A palindrome is a word that is the same whether read backward or forward. As Colin Naylor suggests in his note to the designers, one of the reasons for choosing ArtstrA as a title for the magazine, was because it is a palindrome.

 
Artstra Design
© Tate Archive, 2003

Artstra Design


Collaborators, contributors and staff

Although Barbara Reise was the inspiration behind ArtstrA, it was too big a project to run by herself. As she states in a letter to Colin Naylor in June 1975, she wanted:

To do this in constant consultation with others who will be increasingly active participants (in terms of responsibility)

The international scope of the magazine envisioned by Reise (it was planned that ArtstrA would have offices in New York and London), also necessitated working with a team of collaborators.

In the document she created to support her applications for funding, she listed those involved with the magazine in a 'Who's Who' of ArtstrA. The list includes artists, art historians and writers from Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Mexico and America, reflecting the truly international nature of the project. She describes them as:

A group of people with first-hand and high-level professional experience in the arts and publications, who are sufficiently committed to the ArtstrA ideals to work for one year without pay (on an IOU basis)

Reise placed an advert in the 'Ham & High' (Hampstead and Highgate Express) in October 1976, for an administrator / secretary 'for avant-garde international art critic and new tax exempt art info co.' In addition to typing, filing and book-keeping skills, she requested that the candidate should have an 'unflappable head'.
Artstra office at York Mews, Kentish Town
Photograph of the Artstra office at York Mews in Kentish Town

© Tate Archive, 2003

Part of a 'Who's Who' of ArtstrA
Part of a 'Who's Who' of ArtstrA, prepared for a funding application

© Tate Archive, 2003
Minutes of Annual Meeting of ArtstrA Information Ltd
Minutes of Annual Meeting of
ArtstrA Information Ltd.

© Tate Archive, 2003
Although Barbara Reise remained enthusiastic, increasingly others involved in the magazine gradually dropped out as the fledgling magazine struggled to get off the ground. In the minutes of the annual meeting for ArtstrA Information Ltd., dated 22 November 1977, both the Co-Director and Secretary were listed as 'informally resigned'.

Of the long list included in the ArtstrA 'Who's Who', only three remained. Unperturbed, Reise, who listed herself as 'willing to slog through one more year plus as director or whatever...', drew up a new list of potential members, including Tate Director Nicholas Serota, who was at the time Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.


Fundraising

In order to launch the magazine, Reise needed to secure funding. She put 5,000 of her own money into the project (re-mortgaging her flat and securing an overdraft from the bank in order to do so). By 1976, this money had run out, and Reise had to seek funding from other sources. She also expected those directly involved with the project to also contribute financially:

If everybody has worked up available personal capital of 500 by July [1975], to be available as a "guarantee for an overdraft" even, we can begin. But I have no intention of doing that on my own, doing all the slog work while everyone else continues with their other (renumerative) jobs... July is shit-or-get-off-the-pot-day for everybody to show rather than to affirm their participation / commitment. And money talks louder than words
Letter from Barbara Reise to Colin Naylor, 7 June 1975
Barbara Reise note about funding
Note by Barbara Reise about who to approach for funding, 1976

© Tate Archive, 2003
Letter to Anthony Wraight
Letter to Anthony Wraight, Gulbenkian Foundation

© Tate Archive, 2003
Information in Support of Application for Funds
Information in Support of
Application for Funds

© Tate Archive, 2003

As well as approaching individuals whom she felt may be interested in providing finance for the magazine, Reise also applied to the Gulbenkian Foundation hoping to secure 10,000. In her document 'Information in Support of Application for Funds' she provides a detailed account of the project, including a projected budget for the period 1976 to 1980, and a list of other funding bodies that might be approached.

Sadly, funds were not forthcoming and with her co-directors dropping out one by one, support for what would have been an innovative publishing venture dwindled. Reise finally shelved plans to publish the magazine in 1977.

FACT FILE

Although ArtstrA the magazine was never published, through ArtstrA Information Ltd. Reise organised a performance by American writer and artist Constance de Jong at The Women's Free Arts Alliance.

 
Flyer for Constance de Jong performance at the Women's Free Arts Alliance
© Tate Archive, 2003

Flyer for Constance de Jong performance