Oinoi interviews Krisis Magazine

Where Krisis and the Unità di Crisi group come from? What are the previous experiences?

Unità di Crisi arises from our perception of a lack of awareness, on the part of the world of design and communication, about the general scenario of permanent crisis through which our culture advanced itself. Better, the impression is that the direct responsibility of these professional roles, with regard to the cognitive discomfort of the people, citizens and consumers of this new century, isn’t adequately perceived. Who gives form to things has more or less the same responsibility of those providing the content (idea and matter), because it is only through the form that we can get to know the content. Something had to be done.

Is it correct to say that it is a visual communication magazine, even if it doesn’t talk about visual communication?

Let’s say is correct to some extent. Four of us studied at the IUAV University of Venice, in the Visual and Multimedia Communication postgraduate course—thus Krisis certainly originates as a magazine hailing from visual communication and speaking of visual communication. But we believe that engaging with a research and reflection work about what it means today to plan and construct visual communication models, inevitably one ends up speaking of many other matters connected to this.

First of all we hold a broad conception of the term designer: designer is not only the one who plans visual communication, but whoever gives forms to things—material and immaterial—in order to provide them with meaning. Hence even the architect, the artist, the stylist, the director, the writer, the journalist, the publicity agent are designers. To talk about design and visual communication will thus mean to talk about these professions too, and about how they deal with and modify the collective imaginary and society. It is never to be forgotten, in fact, that every communication always takes place in a social context, attracting thus social, political and even moral issues.

Could you define in few words the investigation field of Krisis?

Krisis arises to document a research activity concerning different “emergency situations” deriving from a condition we call permanent Crisis. With this notion we refer to that process of uninterrupted and radical change started approximately twenty years ago. Obviously changes, and crises too, have always been present, but the speed at which they happen has been rising exponentially, reaching a frequency that doesn’t allow any action of adaptation anymore. This condition is global (encompasses the whole planet), fractal (involves the single individual as well as local communities and nation-states) and multidimensional (encompasses different spheres: cultural, political, social, cultural, etc.).

This situation brought to the dissolution of the habits, traditions, symbols and old narrations that created and kept a cohesion. But most of all (and here is the difference from the past) it makes extremely difficult its reconstruction—to quote a phrase from Valerio Evangelisti: Crisis is no more cyclical, but structural.

In this context, communication plays a very ambiguous role: if in fact, on the one side, it is a factor feeding this condition (the crisis itself as well as the perception of it), on the other every reconstruction attempt (of new paths among discontinuous fragments of meaning) has to take it into account.

Returning to Krisis, the goal is to identify specific emergency situations where “crisis is in the air”, and starting from an investigation about them, try and test new guides and orientation models in a context that increasingly tends to disorientate.

Who are you addressing?

Project Krisis undoubtedly addresses a qualified reader, the “designer of forms” conceived as the one who, in a way or the other, is professionally involved in the world of art, design or communication. Other Unita di Crisi’s projects have and will have different receivers, users, interlocutors.

As we said before, Krisis is a magazine that starts from communication-related problems to suggest questions and issues (but we hope to propose answers too!) about some critical themes involving other fields. From this point of view it is a multidisciplinary magazine. For sure visual communication occupies a privileged space, thus the magazine hosts many articles and works that could be perceived as slightly difficult by those who are far from these matters.

Why a magazine? In which way you believe this format, though in a non-periodical mode, can be more efficient than others?

Well, surely we are affected by printed press’ charm! Even if we have lived through the digital revolution for some years, and even if several experts are preaching the end of Gutenberg’s era, we are convinced that the physicality of printed matter grants an incomparable way of fruition, and a surplus value relative to that of the Internet—which on its own certainly offers perspectives that are impracticable by traditional publishing. Notably the magazine format carries a long subversive tradition: from the French Revolution, passing through the avant-gardes of the beginning of the 20th century, up to the fanzines of the 80’s, the magazine model has represented a communication dispositive alternative to big monopolies, able to establish a network of horizontal distribution and reception––and within this the circulation of ideas, thoughts and information. Even now, in spite of the proliferation of blogs and social networks, little independent publishing houses, as well as magazines, are regaining ground. Recently we took part to an exposition in Ravenna (Farhenheit 39, organized by the cultural association Strativari) that gathered magazines and little products from the Italian independent publishing industry, displaying more than 100 projects overall. The fact, then, that ours is a non-periodical publication is to be looked for in the nature of our research itself. It would be interesting to build a well structured project, through which document the substantial impossibility to build definitive solutions… We cannot move but by small steps, as much circumscribed as possible.

For the first issue you chose the theme of identity, one of the critical points for the people dealing with communication design. How do you evaluate the answers you have collected?

The magazine ends with a simple reflection: identity is always a question, never an answer. In this sense is difficult to collect a definitive or conclusive point of view about the issues we tried to examine in Krisis | Identities. In any case, what emerges from the various authors’ contributions seems to be a vision that refuses to solve the complexity of the problem (being it relative to territorial, cultural or linguistic identity) within a static and circumscribed system. The issue of identity is an open problem, constantly mutating itself. Only an analysis able to embrace this change, and to expose itself to a continuous renegotiation, will be able to provide a clear reading of the world it investigates.

What will the next theme be?

Next issue, which by the way hasn’t a release date yet, will deal with the crisis of orientation. Specifically will be considered some “classic” orientation paradigms (from mythological narrations to taxonomic classification systems) that nowadays seem to be disregarded, and replaced by dynamic systems like Google or GPS navigation. Yet these systems are not only presented as neutral instruments, in the complete service of the user, but tend to construct “augmented realities”, leading on one side to an increase of data and information, on the other to a decrease of the individuals’ autonomy and of their experience-derived knowledge. The orientation emergency will be declined through some topics among which: the crisis of the orientational function of narrations and myths, the crisis of spatial representation between city planning, cartography and psychogeography, infographic’s data representation, the disorientation feeling due to media bombardment. Obviously it will be asked (and we’ll try to give answers) how to build new orientation paradigms.


The interview was realized by Silvia Sfligiotti in March 2011, within the context of a research into European graphic and visual communication magazines, and has been published on the oinoi blog.