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Pablo Larios on ‘Dot Dot Dot’ Magazine

‘The salient factor wasn’t ever its printedness; Dot Dot Dot just took its own form seriously to think about things we see and how’

Cover of Dot Dot Dot #9, 2005

Cover of Dot Dot Dot #9, 2005

It was the long 18th century and he was exasperated. Type was m o v e a b l e, entire forests were being pulped and words were sifting through the printers like flour. Johann Gottlieb Fichte was worried. Would the machines not catch fire? A content imbalance: more writers than readers. The solution to print overproduction might be, simply, to stop. Print the book reviews, but not the books? (‘There would no longer be any need for books, if reviews could be fabricated without them,’ observed Fichte in 1806.)

Roughly two centuries and 20 issues later, similar worries *(‘The Devil’s Advocate wonders who’s reading all this exquisitely produced material,’ Stuart Bailey, 2010) claimed the existence of the small, twice-yearly magazine Dot Dot Dot. Published by two designer-editors in the Netherlands, it tapped out (three times), terminus, finito, long fermata, in New York a decade later. It was a romp: twice a year, offset, c.138 pages, selective blush of colour, handy paperback, not a design magazine (insisted editors Stuart Bailey and Peter Biľak). Inside, you might find a festschrift to postmaster, librarian and printing impresario Benjamin Franklin, scansions of Public Image Ltd. lyrics, flowcharts visualizing telemarketing scripts and ‘The Beatles/Stones dialectic’. There was a hilarious archive of newspaper usages of the word ‘Kafkaesque’ by Louis Lüthi (author of On the Self-Reflexive Page, 2010), a close reading of Homer Simpson’s seating position on Arne Jacobsen’s Series 7 chair by Ryan Gander, Paulina Ołowska’s Bauhaus Yoga (2001) and Seth Price’s ‘Dispersion’ (2002).

The back cover of issue 15 (2008), published the year that the PDF became an ISO standard, was captioned: ‘A mouse about to enter the public domain.’ The mouse, on the cusp of falling off a ledge reminiscent of a Laszlo Moholy-Nagy painting, exclaims: ‘?!!’ (Note: three dots.) Dot Dot Dot wedged itself during one waning of print fixation yet before the waxing of rote ‘creative design’ MA book projects and the proliferation of designer-as-author. Few other publications could be so provocatively performative (On the Self-Reflexive Page), yet thoughtful, researched and practical, too. It was as if the visual-verbal acuity of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) had been rasterized, recast using multiple visual typologies from string figures to ship flags, then whipped, by some sorcery, into JPEGs, good writing and material culture-as-cookbook. The salient factor wasn’t ever its printedness; DDD just took its own form seriously to think about things we see and how. And from commitment to form comes invention (…)

Pablo Larios is senior editor of frieze. He lives in Berlin, Germany.

Issue 200

First published in Issue 200

January - February 2019
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