If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which of those zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.
The restaurant-slash-party space China Chalet in New York plays host to a lot of really bad parties packed with really hip people. Known more for its indoor smoking and general lawlessness than memorable arts and culture events, the Chinatown venue surprised me the other week when I showed up for a party vaguely sponsored by a magazine called ALL-IN. I wasn't expecting much from the publication—every cool downtown kid seems to have his or her own print-only, impossible-to-Google mag these days.
As a concept, ALL-IN is kind of easy to dismiss. It's founded by two kids who are barely old enough to drink, one of whom comes from a prominent artistic family with endless connections. Vanity projects abound in New York, and most of them are pretty shitty. But ALL-IN is something different. The second I saw its bright, dynamic, Willem Dafoe-starring cover, I knew it was the kind of magazine that I was destined to spend a week's worth of lunch money on. It's gorgeous and it draws you in like a tractor beam.
Founded by recent Bard grads Allison Littrell and Benjamin Barron (son of photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron and gallerist James Barron), ALL-IN is an arts and culture magazine that features incredible contributors like John Waters, Bernadette Corporation, Cory Arcangel, and the omnipresent Dev Hynes. "We started ALL-IN because we felt like we had something to say, and a magazine felt like the authentic way of expressing our message," wrote Barron in an article for i-D. "When one holds a printed publication, a few parameters are set: time, a relationship to physical space, and an intention for that object. There's immediate value." Preach.
I spoke to Barron and Littrell to get the lowdown on their beautiful mag.
VICE: Could you give me a bit of background on how you and Allison started ALL-IN? What was it like putting together the magazine while in school and working?
Benjamin Barron: ALL–IN started two years ago. Allison and I went to Bard College together, and always talked about creating a platform for collaboration—something to bring people together.
ALL–IN came together after I finished a semester abroad at Central Saint Martins in London, where I met our graphic designers, Hudson Shively and Elif Tanman. Allison came to visit me in Rome, where I'm from. Going back to a place disconnected from the internet-based reality most of the world engages in inspired ALL–IN. We wanted to move back toward life.
The first issue of ALL–IN was created during my last year in college, and Allison's first year after graduating. It probably wasn't the most logical decision—I hardly saw anyone for a year—but I find that you can sense how much time and energy went into the first issue.
You've said that you started ALL-IN because you had something to say. What do you think ALL-IN provides that other publications might be missing?
I don't think ALL–IN is the solution to all other publications. There are so many incredible magazines, and ALL–IN wouldn't have been possible without them. ALL–IN is about where we are now. It's about not only highlighting varying perspectives and disciplines, but also discussing topics we all interact with—time, regret, fear, etc. ALL–IN is for everyone.
In both your i-D article and the ALL-IN piece on artist Cory Arcangel, you reference the importance of looking to the past. Which particular eras are you inspired by?
There are so many. In the first issue of ALL–IN, we addressed the art scene in New Mexico and Texas in the 1970s with Ken Price's feature. We also spoke with George Sowden, Nathalie Du Pasquier, and Martine Bedin of Memphis, the design collective started in part by Ettore Sottsass in 1980s Milan. Growing up in Rome, I lived a block away from the Pantheon. I'd say that structure laid the framework for aesthetics as we know them.
Allison Littrell: I'm interested in the past because it's ultimately unattainable. I'll never know what it was like to live in the 1920s, 1970s, or 1980s, but life today is so strongly influenced by certain ideas from history that have trickled into the present. What's the most fascinating to me is what and how we remember. Certainly so much of the past has been lost due to neglect or has been just swept up in the passage of time. That's what we discussed with Cory Arcangel—the power that new technology has given us to slow the natural decaying process.
I was struck by the magazine's incredible ads, which just look like the other spreads. How did you curate the advertisers, and was it difficult to not, for lack of a better term, "sell out"?
Advertisements were essential to ALL–IN; we had advertisements created exclusively for us by [musician] QT and Cory Arcangel. We wanted these to be seamless with advertisements created by brands we admire—Vaquera, Vejas, 69, and Issey Miyake.
Benjamin, your mother shot Dev Hynes, and interviewed Willem Dafoe. What was it like to collaborate with her?
Benjamin Barron: Growing up around artists like Willem, I learned that everyone is equal and has the same needs. He's a very calm and directed person, and I think it's not a coincidence that he's so successful in his career—he leads such a full life.
Working with my mother has been really amazing; I got to photograph my friends India Salvor Menuez and Alexandra Marzella with her for Marfa Journal recently. I'm probably my mother's biggest fan, so that was an honor for me.
Issue one features incredible legends like John Waters, Bernadette Corporation, and Memphis Group, along with upstarts like 18+. What do you think connects them, or makes them all fit together in the magazine?
Maybe that they're all people. Whether it's transparent or not, they all want and experience similar things even if their perspectives might be different.
Allison Littrell: The element that connects all the artists in the first issue is at the core of what ALL–IN is. It's hard to put into words, and I think both Benjamin and I intuit it better than we can verbalize it. It's about how those artists choose to question the norm, and experiment with the established boundaries of their time. The Memphis Group did that within the model of Modern Design in the 1980s and 18+ is doing that with the system of music distribution today. I guess the first issue was about experimenting—the next issue will be something completely different.
One of my absolute favorite pieces was the recipe section, with beautiful photographs by you! Could you tell me a bit about how that came about? It's so interesting and unexpected.
Allison Littrell: That feature started in the same way as many of our other features—by reaching out to a friend whose work we love. Macklin Casnoff is an extremely talented chef who often pairs his culinary work with writing and other media. We knew we wanted to do a feature on food for the first issue of ALL–IN and he worked with us to create a menu that meant something to him. He chose ingredients that had backstories and then worked with us to photograph the dishes. We created recipe cards in the magazine so that people could have something to take away with them.
Who is your dream profile subject?
Benjamin Barron: Justin Bieber!
Allison Littrell: Right now I'm obsessed with the idea of talking to Siouxsie Sioux. It changes everyday.
Visit ALL-IN's website for more on the magazine, including stockists.
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