50 / Printed Matter

Profile: Kadist Magazine Residency

By Bean Gilsdorf January 17, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, print magazine readership has increased 11 percent since the advent of Google.1 Joseph del Pesco and Devon Bella of the Kadist Art Foundation shared this intriguing fact when I spoke with them about the Kadist Magazine Residency program. At a time when it seems that the number of print periodicals are in decline (whether in rumor or in fact), Kadist has proposed utilizing print media to further connect the city of San Francisco to the rest of the art world. As one of the world’s very few residency programs designed for art magazine publishers, the program is consistent with Kadist’s mission to disseminate local perspectives, attitudes, and preoccupations to an expanding global audience and to create an international network with a locus in San Francisco.2

The premise is simple: Kadist awards its art publication residency to magazines situated outside the United States for the purpose of producing a San Francisco–based issue. With both the advantage and the handicap of having no precedents for this residency program to follow, del Pesco and Bella have altered the criteria for selecting residents as the program has evolved, but their emphasis remains on publications that consider the “mobility of artists in the decentered art world.”3 Kadist does not prescribe the direction of the residency; the editors are left to interpret their focus, which might mean contracting with local writers or showcasing the work of Bay Area artists. Since the program’s inception, three magazines have been awarded residencies: Fillip, from Vancouver, British Columbia; Nero, from Rome; and May, from Paris. In each case, the foundation provided travel fees and a stipend, as well as introductions to a network of artists and writers in the Bay Area, so that the magazines’ editors can spend a month in San Francisco developing the content for their issue. “Our goal,” says del Pesco, “is to distribute San Francisco artists, subjects, and writers to the [magazines’ home cities] and to invite new perspectives on San Francisco.”

A stack of art publications at the Kadist Foundation, San Francisco.

A stack of art publications at the Kadist Foundation, San Francisco.

They awarded the first residency, a prototype for the project, to Fillip magazine, a periodical “devoted to the expansion of critical discourse and conversation surrounding contemporary art and cultural production” that is published three times per year in an edition of 2,500 copies.4 The selection of Fillip was based on the familiarity that del Pesco and Bella had with the editor, Kristina Lee Podesva, as well as with the publication’s commitment to reaching an international audience and to presenting long-form writing.5 Podesva worked closely with area writers like Peta Rake, who contributed an article about artist-run initiatives in Brisbane, Australia, and Christine Linden, who contributed “Forward Looking (Apocalypse Now or Later),” about survivalism and sustainability, to produce Fillip Issue 15. Additionally, Podesva organized a hilarious and well-attended live quiz night at Kadist to promote the upcoming issue and the work of local writers in particular.

The second residency was filled by Nero magazine in May 2011. Nero is built on a different model and has a much less academic bearing than Fillip; it is more digestible and populist in its focus. Its covers resemble those of fashion magazines, and the publication has a free distribution of sixty thousand copies that are printed three times per year. The issues can also be downloaded from the magazine’s website. According to Bella and del Pesco, Nero was “a good fit for Kadist—individualistic and experimental, they think of each issue as an object with its own attitude.” Nero’s residency resulted in an issue that included a section entitled “Don’t Call it Frisco,” dedicated specifically to the editors’ research in the city, and an article by Post Brothers and Chris Fitzpatrick about Frank Chu, “a professional protestor and intergalactic movie star.”6 I asked Post and Fitzpatrick if they felt that their work with Nero had created more opportunities. Their response: “What’s interesting to us is what, if any, opportunities will arise for Frank Chu. Perhaps it’s too early yet to see.… Frank Chu may have a different resonance elsewhere… Nero is a good intercom.”7 

The publication May, which is based in Paris and produces four issues per year, only just completed its residency at the end of November, so the content from its editors’ stay in San Francisco is still taking shape. May is a rare thing: a French magazine published in English. The recent emergence of foreign art magazines published in English increases participation by making the text as accessible as the images are to a global readership, which fosters an international flow of dialogues. Regarding accessibility, del Pesco and Bella are considering the options for future residencies, such as publishing inaugural issues of new magazines or supporting magazines normally published in other languages to create their first English-language issue. “We could be part of a moment of what the magazine is and what it wants to do: mulling over the mechanics of the production, who we imagine the reader to be, its distribution. All those things come into play,” says del Pesco.


Devon Bella and Joseph del Pesco at work with art publications from around the world.

As the residency program moves forward, del Pesco and Bella continue to reevaluate what best serves the magazines that Kadist hosts. They have already decided to reconfigure the Reading Room to open the Reading Shop, a bookstore of art publications modeled on the Motto Books pop-up shop that took place at Kadist from October 13 to 16, 2011 and which proved to be popular and financially feasible. Motto distributes more than three thousand titles from over 150 publishers through its permanent bookstores in Berlin, Zurich, Brussels, and Vancouver, and its temporary shops located internationally. Kadist also hopes to make more funds available in the future to compensate contributors in order to further increase the quality and number of contributions to the residency-generated publications. Since most magazines survive on advertising and can pay writers only a pittance, this would be a big—and welcome—step toward supporting the production of cultural commentary and insight into our region.

The contemporary art world is international, and artists today often have careers defined by mobility instead of a particular sense of origin. The aim of the Kadist Magazine Residency is to address this condition by helping to position San Francisco makers and writers within the global network, creating a reciprocal conversation in which local art and writing is brought to global audiences, and far-flung publications are imported to San Francisco. Says del Pesco, “We are reconsidering regionalism in a decentered art world.”



1. Market Research Industry report, Fall 2009 data, from http://www.piworld.com/blog/magazine-readership-is-about-content-relevancy-not-delivery-platform-noel-ward#, accessed January 9, 2012.

2. Threewalls, a nonprofit contemporary art organization in Chicago, includes publishers in its artist-in-research residency program (http://www.three-walls.org/programs/residencies/) and has recently announced an upcoming publisher-in-residence program to “bring arts and culture publications to Chicago,” as noted in an email dated December 28, 2011, from director Sharon Stratton. The Canadian Art Foundation offers an editorial residency to candidates interested in pursuing a career in art magazine publishing. (http://www.canadianart.ca/foundation/programs/residency/)

3. All quotes by Devon Bella and Joseph del Pesco are from a conversation at the Kadist Art Foundation on November 30, 2011.

4. From Fillip’s website, http://fillip.ca/, accessed January 9, 2012.

5. del Pesco was interviewed in Issue 7, Winter 2008, http://fillip.ca/content/from-the-hip

6. Nero, no. 27, Autumn 2011, p. 51.

7. From an email exchange with Fitzpatrick and Post on December 19, 2011.

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