Editorial #10

/ Els Roelandt

© Ana Torfs, Ecran IV (2003)

Non-commercial magazines on contemporary art are a particular phenomenon. Often their existence is short-lived and most art magazines do not get as far as their tenth issue. On top of that their distribution is done badly, their visibility is close to zero and their content is often undefined and hardly consistent.
Naturally this does not mean that these non-commercial art magazines aren’t interesting. The non-determinate attitude of these magazines towards the art establishment, the lack of financial means and the amateurism (literally “for the love of it all”), often turn out as a breeding ground for permanent creativity and ingenuity.

Artists were often at the cradle of such art magazines, like Theo van Doesburg who set up the world-renowned and highly influential magazine “De Stijl” or Aubrey Beardsley, co-founder of “The Studio” or even, to name a more recent example, Maurizio Cattelan, founder of the lively but right now hardly known magazine “Charley”. Artists are also eagerly involved in the creation of art magazines. That is why art magazines often have a heroic outlook. They turn into collector’s items even before they reach the general audience, precisely because they enable a lively and unique expression of somebody’s artistic excursions, at the same time pungently and permanently recording the spirit of the times or a step in the development of the work of an artist.

A Prior Magazine is up to its tenth issue by now and this is more than a minor victory over the logic linked up with the coming and going of art magazines: it is also a good occasion to pause over the course A Prior Magazine will strike out on in the future.
From the start A Prior Magazine has opted for monographic publications, giving an instance from the development of the work of artists in an analytical way with pictures and text. In the process A Prior Magazine could always count on the passion and resourcefulness of the artists involved. This resulted in unique moments, manifesting themselves outside the publication an sich as well.
On the occasion of A Prior Magazine # 7, for instance, a project was brought about by Belgian photographer Dirk Braeckman in collaboration with Irish artist Orla Barry. This resulted in a text by Barry which was published in the magazine, but found its culmination in a performance Barry had carried out during the festive launching of that issue.
Artists also came up with the most splendid covers for A Prior Magazine, like Belgian artist Richard Venlet for # 3/4 or Japanese artist’s duo Chiko & Toko for # 5. Not infrequently artists also created new work — specifically for A Prior Magazine, like Dutch artists Daan van Golden and Barbara Visser — turning the magazine into some kind of free port where experiments within a specific body of work could be made known to the public.

These are the elements that gave the editorial staff of A Prior Magazine fresh heart to keep on believing in and fighting for an international platform for artists working in Belgium and the Netherlands, in spite of financial and organisational problems. We would also like to thank all the artists and authors who gave the magazine the aura it has today. In the future we would like to put even more focus on the contribution of the artists. The magazine will be conceived even further as a free port where experiment and a wide range of artistic expressions will be made possible. From now on A Prior Magazine will take the lack of professionalism which still characterizes our organisation in all of its aspects as an opportunity, rather than a deficiency. After all, it turns out that A Prior Magazine, which started out in 1999, still exists today.

This does not mean that A Prior Magazine is about to put aside its high ambitions with regards to quality, range and image. A Prior Magazine # 10, put together in collaboration with Belgian artist Ana Torfs, gives evidence of this. An option was made for a publication which tries to gain insight into the artistic development of this artist. First of all her love for image and text in all its appearances becomes apparent, for the tension between image and text, between reading and visualising. Another theme deals with the issue of the portrait (is it possible to contain a ‘truth’ within a portrait about the person portrayed?) and – in a broader sense – the tension between fiction and reality.
Ana Torfs invited three authors: Jean Torrent, Dirk Lauwaert and Dirk Pültau. They approached her body of work from various angles, putting down a sharp analysis. Torfs brought together a portfolio in four parts along with a selection providing an outline of her versatile work during the 1993-2003 period. Furthermore Torfs invited Belgian artist Franciska Lambrechts for the compilation of a sixteen-page quire. Finally Torfs chose to incorporate a formerly unpublished diary fragment by Belgian author Daniël Robberechts, who passed away in 1992.
It is not all clear where words turn into image in Torfs’ oeuvre, nor where the image is bestowed with the construction, openness and scope of a text. Still this issue gives a foretaste and possible interpretation of Torfs’ layered body of work. At times her work is defined as the creation of portraits, of impossible portraits. Impossible because there is no unequivocal reading or description: not of figures or characters, not of facts from the past — because even words might be deceitful. How much, but most of all: how little can be read from a human face? In my opinion Torfs points towards the scene of the imagination, of projection and the meaning of personal interpretation. I think this embodies the wealth and generosity of this work which – without ever being authoritative – invites a permanent search for and interpretation of given images and texts.
A Prior Magazine could hardly wish for a finer guideline for the future.