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Loraine Furter

¡ A glimpse in Madrid’s independent publishing scene !

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Last week, I spent four days in Madrid at Medialab Prado for a workshop called Hidden Histories – Archive Architectures.

Medialab Prado is a space dedicated to digital cultures, very active in DIY, Free and Open Source practices. Since two years, their offices in the basement of a former Belgian saw-mill on the Plaza De Las Letras have been transformed in a huge and brand new renovated building, where the most contemporary meet with historical foundations. In the different spaces of this strange but beautiful architecture, people are gathering in small groups, artists are working in the makers’ lab, home-made 3D printing machines and furnitures are traces of former collaborative workshops. The place is big and it has to be kept alive, task of the busy team of the MLP, who is not only coordinating the occupation of the different rooms and spaces by different groups in need of a working environment, but is also organising lectures, exhibitions and workshops open to the public for free. A big challenge in difficult economic times, where the balance between paid and voluntary work is not always easy to find. Still, an exciting wind seems to be blowing on Madrid, with very engaged and active practices.

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#bookcamping is an online collaborative library and platform that investigates the possibilities of book publishing and sharing in the context of digital culture. The project was founded during the occupation of Spanish city squares on the days following the 15th of May 2011 demonstrations against austerity and social and economic inequality (15M movement). With the motto Which book would you take to your square? Because we don’t come out of nothing, its aim was to trace a bibliographical itinerary of the words and ideas that influenced the social and political context which gave rise to the protests. Today the #bookcamping website proposes tools like thematic lists of books, videos and multimedia materials, and guided tours through a selection of books, with links and comments. It is run by actors of Madrid’s cultural scene like illustrator and artist María Castelló Solbes, Silvia Nanclares and Luz Santos, who organise and participate to events and workshops on digital publishing and book sharing: cooking eBooks, edición libre, bookathon, and the recent Knowledge in Common: Subversive Archive and Edition.

Next to her activities with #bookcamping, Luz (Lux) is involved in two other projects around contemporary publishing. She created and runs the project ISBuN — International Standard Book ureal Number — that carefully collects and documents artists’ publications without ISBN. Lux also writes in the blog Cuaderno Del Copiloto, investigating about contemporary editorial practices in relation with art.

“ISB(u)N proposes the elaboration of indexes of bibliographical references of contemporary art publications that have not been registered according to the International Standardised System. Based on the idea of a book of books, the modular version in pdf format hosts, under a single ISBN registry number 978-84-615-1824-1, a list/index of documentary material (gray literature), generated in the field of contemporary art creation, making feasible its localisation and visibility through the channels of publishing distribution. The digital version is presented as a kernel-rhizome of a growing project, providing the possibility of access to the resources used during the research (pdf index cards).

Far from the idea of a total library, the project wants to shed light on the importance of the figure of the author-publisher and the need to focus attention on a publishing focus which has been abandoned to oblivion, as has been, and still is, the case of art production.

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Silvia Font is also part of the Medialab network. She recently initiated a new publication for MLP called RAMRetales Analógicos de Medialab / Analog Remnant of Medialab. This publication is an A4 folded and stapled, that is also available online as a PDF, in a PIY — Print It Yourself — spirit. Printed on different color papers, cover carefully folded revealing a big “to take away”, the fanzine brings us into the activities of the Medialab: the creation of the font inspired by the letters carved on the façades of the historical building of the Medialab, during a workshop led by Manufactura Independente, the construction of mobile furnitures inspired by designers like Ken Isaacs, and many other reports.

Silvia is a journalist who writes for the technology section of the online periodic el diario, and is part of the editorial team of Mašta, an international collective of journalists, artists, researchers, makers “and other creative souls”. As we were in a bookshop, searching through the trays of local zines, Silvia explained me that she gets inspiration in the way some of these black and white publications are designed — a lot of elements but organized in a way that adds to the reading without perturbating it too much, ways to deal with the constraints of low costs of productions. I asked her if she was also doing the graphic design of the publications for which she writes, and she answered that no but she likes to have an idea about it, to be able to collaborate fully with the graphic designers. An example of such collaboration is the insert in the middle of the RAM publication.

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Fanzines are big in Madrid. “Who knows their own story? Certainly it makes no sense when we are living in the midst of it. It's all just clamour and confusion. It only becames a story when we tell it and retell it. Our small precious recollections. That we speak again and again to ourselves or to others. First, creating the narrative of our lives, and keeping the story from dissolving into the darkness...” Nick Cave (20.000 Days on Earth) is cited by the collective Save the fanzine. Save the fanzine is a digital and online archive for self-published books. Not aiming at replacing the physical objects, its purpose is to pay homage to the self-publising culture and to record these unique publications.

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Feminism is also a very present theme everywhere. The fanzine Bulbasaur is published, designed and illustrated by Andrea Alvarado Vives, Blanca Miró and Mirena Ossorno. Another feminist fanzine you can find in Madrid is Sisterhood.

On a guided tour with Silvia and Luz, I discovered SANDWICH MIXTO, an independent bookshop in a former fruits stand in the Antón Martín market, and other bookshops-cafes, like the Cafe Molar. There I found nice local productions:

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The publication El Estado De Las Cosas, by Olaf Ladousse, published by SANDWICH MIXTO + La Piscina Editorial, in which no typeface was harmed!

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Introducing cats in a modern home, also published by La Piscina Editorial. A nice metaphor of the book as a home, the cover as a door…

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A book-LP for the band Corte Moderno, published by Terranova, who also publishes the periodical GONG!, which #1 is dedicated to Mirena Ossorno, feminist artists and publisher of the upcited fanzine Bulbasaur.

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The food periodical Fuet: number is about rituals. Bilingual

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The bilingual periodical Perdiz, not about food but about “Felicidad”, with interesting gelly text layout.

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Madrid is full of events and spaces dedicated to independent publishing, like the festival ¡Hostia Un Libro! (read Silvia Nanclares’ article about the fair), and Libros Mutantes, Madrid Art Book Fair, held at La Casa Encendida.

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At the occasion of an electro-cumbia party at La Casa Encendida there was the launch of a publication on the culture of the cumbia, very interesting again for its empowering aspects (for the transexual people for instance) and amazing graphics.

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On my last day in Madrid I went to the Matadero, center for contemporary creation, containing several institutions and projects, dealing amongst others with archives, digital culture, feminism and society.

La Arrebatadora is a project by Arrebato Libros and Viernes, taking over the Bellamatamatic (La Más Bella): a book distributor in the entrance of the center Matadero, displaying small-scale publications, “Books without bookshops, without publishers, without fear”.

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The Central de diseño hosts the project di_mad, a designer’s association whose mission is to promote the work of the designers (in a quite interesting way), and whose manifesto cites Victor Papanek: “the primordial thing with design is how it relates to people”.

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The Casa del Lector hosts great exhibitions (The Archivo Roberto Bolaño when I was there), and has a nice way to address the different ages and gender through its signage!

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And if you want more, Madrid is one of the few cities in the world that has libraries in the metro stations:

15 June 2015, version 1.0, license CC-BY-SA for my materials.