London’s Sang Bleu defies the doom and gloom forecast for print publications. The high concept rag is a collaborative effort between creator and consumers that shifts with each innovative issue. We recently chatted with editor-in-chief Maxime Buechi about defying categorization, the expression of body modification and reclaiming the true passion of art.
JC Report: How did the concept of a largely advertisement free magazine come about?
Maxime Buechi: It started advertisement-free because I needed to make a statement and, as nothing similar existed, almost nobody would invest money in the project. Most brands are all about a fully controlled and tested target audience, while Sang Bleu‘s particularity is its “transversality.” For instance, as soon as you deal with tattoos, bookshops will put you in the middle of the hard-rock and the skateboard magazines. If you want to question and override the categories, you have to carefully and consistently confuse the readers until they simply categorize you as “un-categorized.”
Still the readers of Sang Bleu have something in common. There are new ways of dealing with culture and aesthetics and a lot of young people do not perceive the world according to the classic segmentation. They might have an education in fashion or art, have a band or be tattoo artists, but they are aware that they belong to something that’s bigger, and they draw inspiration from very alien cultural fields as well.
Actually, it is the very definition of advertising that is arguable. Sang Bleu is nothing but advertising, if you will. It shows objects, events and ideas, and promotes them. Most things work like that in our society—why deny it? But what is the goal? Beauty, poetry, love, pain, art—the things that give sense to our lives. If there is money exchange in the process, so be it.
JCR: Could you give a little history of Sang Bleu?
MB: Sang Bleu officially started in 2006 in London where I lived, but had been an omnipresent idea for years before that. I have a very intuitive but passionate relation to art—I agree with what a friend of mine once said: “I want to make art like we used to make graffiti: hardcore”—and with such a dedication and passion that we would risk our lives (or our money) for it. It is a vision the collaborators and readers of Sang Bleu share, I think.
As soon as I started to work on the project, it started to draw high interest from people of all kinds. I started to receive contributions from all over the world. Then Issue I came out and I quickly found a distribution deal. It sold out, then came issue II and issue III/IV I consider to be the real expression of what Sang Bleu is.
For a while, but more seriously since issue III/IV came out, we’ve been developing all kinds of other activities. It is very important to state the fact that Sang Bleu is a project more than a publication. It can be expanded and transposed to any of the fields the “magazine” deals with.
JCR: How did tattooing and body modification become a part of the magazine’s aesthetic?
MB: They are part of the principle of Sang Bleu. The body is a place of artistic and stylistic expression and not anymore just a support for clothes. People are asked to define themselves at all times and clothes are not enough. Therefore, SB‘s mission is to bring suggestions on how to formulate an artistic or stylistic intention in a way that will function as a body-modification, a tattoo.
JCR: In what ways does this continue to inspire the vision of urbanism that Sang Bleu perpetuates?
MB: We have the chance to live in a world where we are rarely confronted with physical pain. Therefore, we have the luxury to turn it into a deliberate ritualized action. Culture is based on emotion, which is intrinsically linked to pain, so it is pretty obvious that that’s where to go for inspirations. More generally, I think that tattooing and body-modification have become accepted practices. With these practices come the iconographies and other by-products that start entering the mainstream culture as well. Still, despite being now acceptable, they remain relatively extreme interventions and therefore convey strong emotions for those who are confronted by them—hence their very inspirational nature.
JCR: What changes have you noticed since the financial crisis began? How has artistic expression helped Sang Bleu overcome these issues?
MB: Believe it or not, these changes don’t affect Sang Bleu at all. Or maybe it even is a positive thing. Money hasn’t disappeared, it is the way people spend that changes. People—readers and brands—will choose more carefully what they spend their money on. As Sang Bleu is based on its publisher’s and contributors’ natural need to produce, content is not an issue, and, it is paid by the sales and by many other indirect sources such as curation and lectures.
Sang Bleu is a collective, global love affair. Its existence can not be put in question by a recession—though its form may have to adapt a bit. There are lots of things that could be improved about Sang Bleu and commercial collaboration is the only way to do it. So that’s what I am developing now.
JCR: Based on this past season’s Fashion Weeks, what do you think is the most important city in fashion right now, and why?
MB: That’s a tough one! I do not judge the importance of a city’s fashion by the fashion weeks! Places like Paris, London or New York have different but equally important influences, as far as I am concerned. I would say Paris, but only for Fashion with a capital F. I think London is more important for style, and has more creative energy, for example, which is what I’m more interested in.
This interview was conducted by Michael Miller