How do people and topics outside the mainstream gain a voice? The Hamburg Indiecon organised by Die Brueder Publishing takes up this question once a year with its festival for independent publishers. National and international publishers provide creative, political and concrete answers with their publications.
We took a look at the indie publishing scene withNina Prader. The artist, author and independent publisher curated the Indiecon Conference 2021 with us in HafenCity and spoke with indie publishers over two days about the industry in the context of the future and society.
Isabel Neuendorf: What does independent publishing mean?
Nina Prader: For me, indie publishing goes hand in hand with giving a platform to people or groups who don't have a voice in "mainstream society". Whether identity, niche hobbies, hidden places, foodie culture, political attitudes: All this finds space in independent publishing.
So the indie publishing scene is very heterogeneous in terms of people, topics and work organisation?
Yes, the scene is growing and social media is increasingly playing a role.
The way independent publishing is mediatised is becoming more and more exciting.
The fact that the magazines have different goals and are financed by self-financing, cultural funding or solidarity supporters influences the magazines themselves. Basically, the magazines create their own structures. Established media houses can learn a lot from independent publishers. But learning these new values and working structures should not lead to the exploitation of indie magazines.
What are practical issues in the work that young independent publishers should deal with?
It is important to professionalise so that you have a strong platform that is not questioned. In my experience as an independent publisher, it is good to have access to your own means of production. Be it your own printer or your own tools.
At the Indiecon Conference, the first day focused on "Publishing for Social Change", the second day on "Critical Design for Critical Futures". Why did you choose these focal points?
The theme that Die Brueder, as organisers of the festival, invited me and the publishers exhibiting was Reflections. We used the term to ask where we currently stand and how socio-political developments such as a global increase in hate crimes affect society. As curator of the conference, I tried to make a selection of publications that make a statement for this present and create a vision for the future. The publishers of Club Sandwich, This is Badland, DADDY Magazine , and OFF TO like position themselves in their magazines in a very exciting way.
What did you personally take away from the conference?
What I took away from This is Badland was how much love goes into independent magazines. The often glamorous appearance of a magazine makes you forget how much hard work is needed. With Daddy Magazine, I remember how many people want to capitalise on the magazine but don't respect their structures and values.
I was very intrigued by the humour of Club Sandwich. In each issue, the magazine takes a food item as a hook to go in depth and ask a socio-political question about food. You look at your Spreewald gherkins and chocolate very differently afterwards. Liz Gomis from OFF TO mag is a powerhouse and unleashes a lot of energy onto the stage. I was very inspired by her enthusiasm for her work and her job.
You stressed at the beginning that it is so important to find approaches to narratives that are not mainstream. What exactly do you mean by that?
At the conference it was emphasised again and again how important, but also difficult, it is to critically question established narratives and to bring new stories into circulation. E.g. Liz Gomis from OFF TO mag said at the conference that she wants to make the next issue about Kigali. However, she wants to present the future of Rwanda's capital. The genocide is of course addressed because it is a transnational trauma, but there are other stories about the city that need to be told.
Why is this so difficult?
Narratives are often stuck. As publishers, we have to be careful not to tell stories that don't belong to us or only speak from one perspective. I have also felt this challenge as a curator. I only have a limited number of seats on the panel and many voices could not be heard when they should have been on stage.
Photos: Malte Spindler © The Brothers Publishingphoto 1: From left to right: Nina Vukelić & Rafaela Kaćunić(This is Badland), Kemi Fatoba(DADDY Magazine), Ariana Zustra (moderator, freelance journalist and musician), Photo 2: From left to right: Nina Prader (curator of the conference). l. to r.: Nina Prader (conference curator), Liz Gomis(OFF TO mag), Anna Broujean(Club Sandwich), Lars Weisbrod (moderator, ZEIT)