With Issue 7 of Modern Matter freshly launched, we're pleased to be able to chat with art director, publisher and curator of the magazine, Olu Odukoya. As a key independent publisher of Modern Matter along with another outstanding magazine Kilimanjargo, he covers visual art, technology, style and culture within his publications. Along with sharing some exclusive outtakes, he also discusses issue 7's collaborations and shows us a few glimpses of the new issue.
Outtakes from the magazine
Tell us about your idea behind creating Modern Matter?
I suppose our main aim at Modern Matter is to create an arts, style and culture journal which isn’t dictated by trends or by the zeitgeist, and which doesn’t put boundaries between any disciplines. We’ll have very current content — our fashion, for example, or a feature with an artist who is currently mounting a show — but we’ll also have things which deal with archives, or with art history, or with things which are currently of interest to us. It’s less about what’s new that what feels contemporary and relevant to the team behind the magazine at the time. We also try to work with an internationally-diverse range of contributors, but we’re London-based, so the magazine by nature offers something of a British perspective on the art world, as well as on fashion.
What's exciting in this new Modern Matter issue?
As with every issue of Modern Matter, I didn't set out to have a theme: I find that typically, an idea for an issue presents itself organically as the content comes together. We had been working on the two pieces which appear in the magazine about the ICA — Gregor Muir's interview with Eddie Peake about their 2014 Gala, which is very much about the Institute's present, and the overview of its in-house Bulletin, which is very much about its past — and I started thinking about the idea of an issue which combines the past with the present: the idea of Postmodernism, and creating new forms by subverting classic ones. Eventually, this became the way that we compiled things.
So you have Oscar Murillo, who is a very “now” painter, talking to Kerry James Marshall — a more established artist, schooled at a very different point in time, in a very different environment — or the combination of a Hans Ulrich Obrist interview with the writer Paul Nizon from the year 2000 with some profiles of very new, very contemporary Swiss artists, like Valentin Carron or Nicolas Party. Old and new together, but neither more important than the other: part of what I always try to do with Modern Matter is to subvert the idea that's often held up by the magazine industry that newer is always better. The Postmodern theme was really an extension of that idea.
And of course, the Sarah Lucas piece for the cover, which came from a gift that she had given me some time ago when we were working on a book together — the photographs and Polaroids which make up the curated archive in the magazine.
What collaborations are you really happy about in this new issue?
Conceptually, I thought that Sarah's feature was a great encapsulation of the issue theme, as in terms of our readership, I believe that she's an artist whose work speaks quite strongly to a broad group of people. Sarah is a very unusual person in that she seems to be always making art, and she encourages those around her to do the same; actually, I think it might be harder not to be creative in her presence! I've met very few people like that in my life, and I love that art school mentality: the sense of adventure and discovery that comes from being around people who make art as a part of their life. My previous magazine, Kilimanjaro, had the tagline “Art, Love & Everyday Life,” and as I say about Sarah's photographs, I think that the living itself can be as much a part of art practice as the work that results.
"Modern Matter isn’t dictated by trends or by the zeitgeist"
I first met Sarah through Sadie Coles because I had been working with Juergen Teller, who is Sadie's husband. Our first project together was a publication, After 2005, Before 2012, which my studio produced for her to document those years within her practice: I have to say, with the book, I did very little, as it was all dictated by time. I thought it might be interesting to allow her piece in this issue to be dictated by the passage of time, as well, which is the case with these photographs. And time has passed in our relationship, too! We spent a fair bit of time together in Mexico when she was installing a show, and I've done a talk with her at Sadie Coles Gallery, and even took part in a performance she did, frying eggs, at DRAF during Frieze this year. Working on this together really felt like a fitting continuation.