I am a savage devourer and a highly active advocate of long form interviews with creative professionals. So when Berlin based publication mono.kultur was first handed over to me, I felt like a complete idiot who had lived under a gigantic rock all these years. Mono.kultur is the Mecca of long form interviews. Their concept is ostensibly very simple – one in-depth interview of a creative personality per issue in a cozy A5 format.
Of course, as I said, it’s just ostensibly simple. Each issue is a collectible in the truest sense of the word. There is this one centre and an absolutely magnificent whirlpool is created around it. The content and the personality of the person being interviewed are deeply embedded in the layout. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of thought and work involved in intertwining the subjects with the inimitable layout for each and every issue.
Unsurprisingly, there are different designers and interviewers for each issue. Mono. kultur is published by Kai von Rabenau. Rabenau studied in London at Central Saint Martins and moved to Berlin in 2001. He soon started his photography practice here and then started publishing mono.kultur in 2005 with a small team of people.
The latest issue (39th) on electronic music producer, guitar hater, and “political participant” Terre Thaemlitz, titled ‘The Arrogance of Optimism’, starts from the back cover and ends, well, on the front cover. The issue is printed on six different stocks of paper. The unconventionality of Thaemlitz's; work - be it about identity, transgender issues, music industry, etc. - is personified through the dark and upside down layout. Scattered amidst the interview are illustrations by Thaemlitz, an integral part of her work.
Reading Thaemlitz's interview is like eavesdropping into a deeply private and intense conversation between two people. In one part of the interview, for example, Thaemlitz completely thrashes the idea of optimism and calls it a ‘sleazy sales pitch of western globalization’. “Optimism, dreams, hope…these are ideological weapons wielded for domination time and again. They are the opium of the masses. They soothe and sustain through the insufferable, thereby sustaining the insufferable”. The honesty and the extent of the dialogue are mind-blowing.
In fact, I am six issues down at the time of writing this and this idea of a private conversation between two people applies to all the issues I have read so far. Be it writer, filmmaker, performer and artist Miranda July reminiscing about recording herself on tapes as a five year child where she had even talked about sex, in a beautiful issue wrapped in a poster with artwork by July herself. Or actress Tilda Swinton’s constant and honest declaration that she just does not see herself as a performer, in a black & white issue which contains foldouts of color photographs by Swinton. Or when cartoonist and graphic novelist Chris Ware talks about his creative process, a ‘‘sprawl, and getting to a point where I’ve completely forgotten what my original idea was…’’, in a beautiful and effortless red and white layout.
Each issue of mono.kultur is bound to make you feel like you are sitting in the same room as the interviewer and interviewee, and are privy to their conversations. The content of the conversation and the paraphernalia of this room are bound to surprise and intrigue you each and every time.