Magma: The ‘Journal Without Qualities’

The new annual edition arrives like the full-package multimedia experience of the pre-digital age

To say that Magma is a lavish publication is an understatement. Clothbound, hardbacked, supported by Bottega Veneta, each (numbered) edition comes with a 7-inch single (etched on a medical X-ray) and a facsimile letter, folded in quarters and in its own envelope. It’s like the full-package multimedia experience of the pre-digital age. Indeed, editor-in-chief and creative director Paul Olivennes claims it’s inspired by old-fashioned revues d’art such as Surrealist journal Minotaure (1933) and Andy Warhol’s Interview (1969). The cover says that it’s ‘a forum for artistic expression’; the manifesto (by Olivennes) asserts that it is a (yearly) journal without qualities: ‘MAGMA has no theme. MAGMA takes no position. MAGMA adheres to no principle.’ One page later a foreword by Hans Ulrich Obrist (in the form of a handwritten note, which mainly reveals that he needs to improve his handwriting) says that it’s about Édouard Glissant’s ideal of mondialité and resisting the homogenising force of globalism. Although, when it comes to the artworld, Obrist is arguably that force.

Elsewhere there are photographic portfolios by Frida Orupabo (collaged in her case), Luigi Ghirri and wonderfully beautiful-creepy images of cakes and space (in Cairo) by French architect India Mahdavi. The 7-inch features Andra Ursuța; the letter is by René Char. Sophie Calle, Lucas Arruda, Agnès Varda and some guy called J.W. von Goethe are among the contributors. The layout is generous, suited to largescale imagery. But the extent to which one thing in this compendium is really in conversation with the next is debateable – it can, at times, feel like diving into someone else’s very neat handbag. And yet somehow this works. Part cabinet of curiosities, part gallery of nice things.

Magma 1, edited by Paul Olivennes. Documents Publishing, €60 (hardcover)

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