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UNBOUND

Is it still a magazine if there are no words? What if there is no paper? What if it's a sushi box, a Louis Vuitton bag, or a stack of junk mail? The five magazines below challenge the notion of the traditional magazine, alternately stumping and titillating their subscribers with a devil-may-care approach to publishing.

By Julie Cirelli


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The late Aspen Magazine was the grandfather of all art-object-slash-magazine-slash-whatever-we-want-to-make-this-month periodicals. Founded by former Women’s Wear Daily editor Phyllis Johnson in the 1970s, the fi rst few issues dealt with all manner of Aspen life: skiing, wildlife, etc. Quickly, however, the magazine devolved, or evolved, into a hodgepodge of musings and criticism on contemporary art. Each issue contained at least one phonograph recording, and several issues included super-eight films. Issues came out irregularly and advertising was a nightmare, but the magazine was a hit with the arterati.





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Spearheaded by Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architecture power player, Volume magazine is a bimonthly, er, plastic box? Resembling nothing so much as a Japanese bento box and printed with the Volume insignia in relief, each issue has contained a DVD, CD or other object—but future issues may be a meeting, a film, or a performance. Koolhaas, in cahoots with the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and Archis magazine, hopes to challenge the status quo of architectural and public planning—and magazine publishing.




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Who knows how many subscribers to McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern unwittingly chucked issue number seventeen into the recycling bin, not realizing that the cellophane-wrapped batch of flyers and junk mail was, in fact, a magazine? The literary quarterly founded by novelist Dave Eggers prides itself as much on its design as on its content. Locating a McSweeney’s in your local magazine shop can be a bit of a guessing game: Think “Which one of these objects does not belong here?” and then grab the felt box with a plastic comb inside or the scrap paper--filled cigar box.




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Arkitip considers itself more of a serial art piece than reading material. Subscriptions run about $75 and provide, as its website explains, content for “art collectors of all economic levels.” Each issue includes original, sitespecific art work and usually some kind of goody: Issue sixteen came with a vacuum-sealed bag filled with drink coasters adorned with Tupac Shakur lyrics and issue seventeen with a seven-inch infl atable plastic ball designed by Phil Frost. Published in limited editions, each issue is coveted for the potentially valuable art contained within.




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Touted as “the couture version of a magazine” by sister publication V, Visionaire commissions a mega-famous artist or designer to create an individual issue, each time resulting in an entirely unique format. Subscribers shell out big bucks for a subscription, spending nearly $700 for four issues— a bargain compared with what one might spend to buy them separately. You could pay over $1,000 for a box of toy dolls designed by ten different designers, from Hermes to Alexander McQueen, or $875 for a box of twenty-five lenticular cards (the image changes as you tilt them back and forth) designed by filmmakers Sofia Coppola, Wong Kar Wai, and Gus Van Sant, among others. (An eighteen-karat gold charm is embedded in the case, to boot.) A recent fashion issue came encased in the signature monogrammed leather of Louis Vuitton; all 2,500 copies sold out in three weeks.

 

 
 

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