Peter Russo is the editorial and program director of Triple Canopy, a collectively published online art and literary magazine founded in 2007. With its unusual horizontal scrollbar and quirky issue subjects, such as “And Yet It Moves” and “Bad Actors,” the Triple Canopy collective has challenged preconceived notions about publishing, enriching traditional forms through the added functionality of the Internet. This week, Russo spoke with A.i.A. about his work with Printed Matter, his thoughts on the changing face of the publication field and Triple Canopy’s new headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.—SARAH CASCONE
You recently worked with Printed Matter on the annual New York Art Book Fair. How did you come to be involved with the Fair?
For the past three years, I’ve worked as coordinator for the NY Art Book Fair, organizing the fair’s programming. My duties also include working with the exhibitors, planning press coverage, sponsorship, and a range of other activities.
The thousands who descend upon MoMA PS1 for the fair each year are there to browse and purchase; but the educational component has always been a key part of Printed Matter’s mandate as a nonprofit venture. Consider how radically different the conversation around publication was in 2005, for art audiences and otherwise. In just a few years, countless museums, galleries, project spaces, and especially artists have recast themselves as publishers of some kind, whether that editorial model manifests itself on the Web or via a renewed commitment to print material, design, and form.
The art-book field has come to seem absolutely vital amid the publishing industry’s supposed collapse. Artists who publish books have traditionally played the role of author, designer, and distributor, with particular consideration for the way their work is activated and changed by circulation. Now that’s every author’s job!
How does a digital art publication like Triple Canopy fit in at a more traditional print fair?
In years past, Triple Canopy’s contribution has taken the form of live programs, facilitating discussion about what publishing has been and where it may be headed: In 2009, Triple Canopy organized a tribute to one of our inspirations, 1960s magazine-in-a-box Aspen, hosting performances and lectures that took various Aspen projects as their point of departure. (Some were reconfigured for presentation online in our ninth issue, Unplaced Movements, co-edited by William Smith and Colby Chamberlain.) In 2010 we organized a conversation on how print design is being changed by digital publication, and how digital publication is rethinking the tropes of print design. (The discussion, between designers James Goggin, Jiminie Ha, and Rob Giampietro and Triple Canopy creative director Caleb Waldorf, was recorded for our podcast series.) The conceits for both programs point toward the circulation of ideas, from one form to another, both online and off.
What prepared you to be an editor of Triple Canopy?
My entry into print culture came first through music, not visual art. I ran a small record label with friends while in college, releasing albums in multiple formats, distributing zines, designing merchandise and planning tours. When I came to New York in 2005, I briefly worked at PS1 before moving on to Dieu Donné, a nonprofit workspace and gallery dedicated to work on paper. The configuration of Dieu Donné proved a useful model: Both organizations are based on a collaborative model, so artists work with staff to conceive and ultimately produce new work in what is often an unfamiliar medium. Both also subscribe to an all-under-one-roof organizational structure, giving consideration to the way work might be presented and maintained from the start of its development. Both organizations have a stake in slowing down the way artwork is produced and consumed. Despite appearances, it’s surprisingly time-consuming, not to mention expensive, to produce projects in either medium. Where Triple Canopy primarily distinguishes itself, I think, is our collective model-our masthead is comprised of a number of artists, writers, historians, art workers, and researchers-meaning that everyone is at least invited to participate in any decision-making process as well as any of the numerous projects we take on.
Triple Canopy will soon move to a storefront on Freeman Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. What does it mean for Triple Canopy to have a permanent home?
155 Freeman, funded in large part by our Kickstarter campaign, will be the second home Triple Canopy has shared with Light Industry and The Public School New York. The first, 177 Livingston, was something of an anomaly, made possible by the downturn of the real-estate market and a sympathetic landlord in downtown Brooklyn. There, we hosted roughly 100 events in nine months, which were attended by several thousand people. Triple Canopy hosted a three-night run of a staging of Melville’s Bartleby by theater collective Group Theory; the debut of choreographer Ann Liv Young’s Cinderella; performative lectures with writer Tom McCarthy and philosopher Simon Critchley; readings by authors such as Ed Park, Lynne Tillman, and Rivka Galchen; and concerts by composer-musicians such as Werner Dafeldecker and Christoph Heemann. The affordable venue gave us the opportunity to experiment with our programming and consider what a permanent home could mean for Triple Canopy—a thought that had obviously crossed our minds before but was previously financially unrealistic. Looking forward to 155 Freeman, we have programs planned with artists Per-Oskar Leu, Anna Lundh, Dan Torop, and Laura Vitale, a concert with the group Dawn of Midi, and a marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s 1925 novel The Making of Americans, a 25-year tradition we’re picking up from Paula Cooper Gallery.
What’s next for Triple Canopy?
Among our forthcoming projects: “Factual Decoys,” a day of programming organized for Artissima, an art fair held in Turin, Italy, in early November; and Counterfactuals, our fourteenth issue, now online, which is devoted to literary (or “not not literary”) work. Edited by Sam Frank, Lucy Ives, and Dan Visel, the issue includes work by artists, including Rachel Harrison, Stuart Sherman, and David Wojnarowicz, as well as recordings of poetry by the late painter Florine Stettheimer, arranged by Nick Mauss.
PHOTO BY DAVE SANDERS