Project Space: Gopher Illustrated

by Michu Benaim and Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz

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      As I told the Fluent / ...mbg team when they approached me about doing something in the Project Space (formerly Artists's Space) (virtually, of course, because who the hell makes that kind of specific, example-filled request in person? Can you imagine?As if all of us were at some exhibition opening or somebody's birthday, drinks in hand, and the constant noise your body makes because—of course—you're outdoors and the temperature is somehow always a little too...something... and the thought popped into somebody's head, and there it was: an invitation, examples, deadlines and all, to fill up the space in this piece. Anyways, that's not how it happened, that would have been weird. The standing around and the beer and the temperature and all of us, mightbegooder and gopher parties, were present and chuckling to something or other. They're so witty.

      Instead there was an e-mail. It was very thorough and impressive. I wonder if they do that thing that I do: spend a really long time crafting e-mails to send to people, or whether they've achieved that thing I said I'd do and wrote the really awesome e-mail that is actually a boilerplate for other iterations of the subject. It should really become a priority of mine. So, of course, I read the thing and it said something like, ”There's this portion of the journal called Artist’s Space, and you can use the space however you like, except you can only have images at the top." My first thought, of course, is that there's big news to talk about here and what an amazing thing, getting all of this creative control!), I’m not an artist, though I’m pretty sure they knew that. But I said I’d do it, in the same response, hoping they wouldn’t just take the invitation back.

      Anyways, the main thing I always tell the writers of Gopher Illustrated is that I need to get a formal draft. It’s just something I've learned. Wendy can surely vouch for this. It's not that people are bad writers, but they put things off. Since I get things at the very end (well, before it gets to the platemaker at the printer, of course, who then always sends some e-mails about this-and-that, and then when I'm double-checking, I find that awful typo I made and correct it along with the bleed or whatever else), it’s absolutely crucial I get a draft. The point is: I'm a magazine editor, and I know how it feels when a writer or designer or somebody else suddenly drops off the face of the planet two days before the deadline, and they don't pick up calls or answer e-mails but are mysteriously super active on Facebook.

      The first step to this process is organizing the ideas that will go in here. There's the part saying what this is all about. There’s stuff about me, like where I'm from and how in the name of all things purple I ended up in Austin, with this printed transplant, no less. And a part that talks about why the magazine is a printed product. And, of course, there needs to be something in there about the magazine’s name. I wrote answers to the categories, like this:

      The part saying what this is all about:

      Gopher is a series of projects, all of them designed in some way to be platforms for emerging talents, and to deliver great content to a diverse audience. The more indirect aim is that this content will help ignite conversations about cultural production within a global context. (But that's big stuff, so maybe don't put this in?) Among the projects there's a print magazine and a website, which both feature work by amazing, amazing talents like William Giraldi, Estelle Hanania, Mario Wagner, Alejandro Paul, Timba Smiths, Juan Pablo Garza, Romeo Alaeff, Jessica Hische, Billy Ben, Gustav Dejert, Eleni Kalorkoti, Lydia Nichols, Lido Pimienta, Freddie Stevenson, Marc Caellas and even Abstruse Goose among many, many others.

      Most of the time, quite literally on a daily basis, among the torrent of content that the Internet puts in front of your eyes, there's something remarkable to relay. And that's how our Briefly section came to have a spot on the website.

      (Note: In response to the endless information available, a choice had to be made between knowing about as many people and projects as possible, or experiencing a small fraction of those but evaluating them with thoroughness and curiosity. I'll look through an artist's entire portfolio, read their CV, look at the kind of evolution they've had, go through their blog a little (Note about the note: say this in a less creepy way.).

      Basically, in choosing content, I look thoroughly into candidates, knowing that this means I’m still missing a lot of things. The reason for this is that the speed of things whooshing by at clickable rates, all of them demanding only a split second of attention, eliminates one's ability to consider them and put them in context. (Another note: DO NOT write about inability to remember so many things as reason for choice made.) )

      We’re also enthusiastic about striking up partnerships for events. How can you meet folks like Ron Berry or Jess Sauer, for example, and not want to do something rad with them and their organizations? We also reach out to designers or writers or people making things happen. As luck would have it, some of them also put on amazing things right where we are, but obviously most will be far from Austin. Whenever there's an opportunity to collaborate on some sort of event that people can experience, I jump at the chance.

      There's also a top secret event that's brewing that has to do with typography. People know typography is a bit of an obsession for me.

      Among the latest of our projects is a video/slideshow-type series that will launch its first episodes online later this summer.

      Stuff about me, like where I'm from and how in the name of all things purple I ended up in Austin with this printed transplant, no less:

      The magazine was born in a city in what some refer to as Latin America, and that's also where yours truly is from. It's a region with which the magazine is in synergy. Since its inception, Gopher was conceptualized as a project that would be directed to an English-speaking readership. One reason we decided to publish in English was to introduce authors, journalists and other writing-types who haven't been translated into English or are otherwise unknown by this audience. The same applies to visual artists and graphic designers whose work is not necessarily known here.

      (Note: before it's asked, mention that the magazine has work from all over the planet and not just Latin America, and not because there isn't enough good work there. Say: Often, work from Latin America is evaluated as something that is “good, given the circumstances,” but that's a posture that puts too narrow a context in its evaluation. The magazine features work from around the world, so that each piece, wherever it may come from and whatever its format, is framed within a body of work that is globally sourced. I don't want it billed as "that Latin American magazine," but rather a global platform that is a constant source of valuable information from the region. (Note of note: Oh man, that sounds good! Yes!))

      Austin was a natural home for this project: culturally alive, globally- minded, plus Austin’s official website said something about nice weather and music. Once I had the chance to spend some time here, I realized that it was also a place with a growing artistic community that isn't really bound to a particular aesthetic tradition. There's work like this, this, and this that makes me excited to be here.

      Why the magazine is a printed product:

      Because everyone has Internet. Heh.

      Print changed with the Internet, and the immediacy of online content opens up opportunities for print to reinvent itself. As a printed medium, it becomes an avenue for lengthier, meatier content that is analytical rather than reactive. Another way to say this is that it doesn't cover current events. There are no "society pages;” there's just the best art, writing and design we could find.

      It also allows me to put stickers into the mix. There are no stickers in pixel-land. There are other reasons, too, like the thrill of finding and collecting, and the need to pick the content in every page with care (printing ain't cheap!).

      Something in there about the name:

      There are no gophers in Caracas, Venezuela. It is an Illustrated Gopher, as you can see in the cool logo adorning, um, everything. I have it tattooed on... well, I'm not going to say. The logo reminds me of Gopher from Winnie the Pooh, who is, you know, a little neurotic. Since I'm not like that, I thought it would be funny. Unfortunately, the logo wasn't always cute.

      There. I have plenty of time. I should write to Emily and Wendy and say hello, so they see I'm not hiding. Why is it that when you want to find an e-mail to reply to someone, it's impossible to find? Was there even an e-mail to begin with? Maybe they just said something about this at a party. In any case, I should pitch something in writing, maybe about all those Brieflys. Full creative freedom is not something we editors give every day, you know?

      The Gopher Projects, including The Gopher Magazine, are directed and edited by Michu Benaim and Lope Gutiérrez Ruiz, two Austin-based transplants from Caracas, Venezuela. To their relief, these projects are not, in fact, the brainchild of a psychologically unstable rodent created in their funhouse mirror likeness. For more information about the magazine, the projects or its creators, visit

      The images that appear with this article were created by compiling all the images published on the Gopher Magazine's website during specific months (arduous work completed by the lovely Emily Ng). This Rorschach-in-reverse hopefully will help to shed light on the aesthetic decisions taken on daily basis at the Gopher's HQ.


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