published on Metropolis M magazine, n. 6, 2008, December/January
The Happy Hypocrite is a curious biannual journal edited by Maria Fusco, a London based Belfast born writer and lecturer. One could have said a curious little journal but that might unnecessarily demean its calm yet resounding potency. Slightly larger than an A5, smaller than the magazine you now hold in your hands, The Happy Hypocrite radiates an assured tone not of conceit nor of pride but of tranquil promise. With such underground publications such as Documents, The Fox,Merlin and Bananas as its inspiration, The Happy Hypocrite (a journal not a magazine) promises, indeed guarantees, the urgency for a different kind of (art) writing.
I was excited to get my copy of The Happy Hypocrite, in fact I read the whole thing in an evening. Couldn’t put it down as they say, and that says something about a magazine dedicated to ‘experimental art writing’. And now, since I’ve also been able to read the 2nd issue (thank you for sending the pdf), I’ve been able to get an idea of what The Happy Hypocrite is, what you’re attempting to do with it. It seems to me that The Happy Hypocrite has been borne out of love; in each contribution there’s a sense of urgency–creative necessity rather than timeliness. In fact there is a distinct timelessness to the two issues so far published.
I must admit I was anticipating it to be heavier, in both senses of the word–in terms of sheer size, its format and earnestness, the gravity of the content. But I was pleasurably wrong. The structure of The Happy Hypocrite is not so far removed from a recognizable magazine or journal format. There are five recurring components, those being a short opener called Say What You See in which you ask someone to describe something visual without saying what it is, the answer appearing in the following issue. There’s an in-depth question and answer format interview in which you bring people together to discuss the theme of the issue. Then a chapter from an ongoing, segmented fictional story. The body of the journal contains seven or eight diverse contributions, ranging from a piece of fictional writing, a set of collages, a visual essay, a novelist’s notes. A section called ‘Paper Machine’ is a facsimile reproduction of a long since discontinued publication. The Happy Hypocrite ends with an index, though one without page numbers.
Despite or because of this diversity there is a strong unifying tone to the magazine, one that must be intentional, an editorial policy that future issues will clarify. Is this true, or do you want the content of each issue to be a more haphazard organic collection of material? How much of your own personality and viewpoint will you bring to bear on the editorial process?
An interesting question, and one which I return to with each new commission. Issue 2 onwards of HH invites open submission to complete its pages – this has been an important facet of the project from the start, and helps to locate and encourage a wider range of contributions than I might simply find on my own; on the other hand, it also disseminates and builds and audience, a base, a readership for the journal: this is very important in a fresh subject area.
That said, I do think that my own proclivities and peccadilloes leak into its pulp my pulp to its pulp and I’m aware that I want to spread the creative load a bit.
I am not The Happy Hypocrite: we work together.
The architect Friedrich Kiesler wrote in 1957 that he didn’t just want to design another well-functioning gallery space, he wanted to think up a new ‘type’ of space for a gallery. Did you set out to make The Happy Hypocrite into a different ‘type’ of art magazine? Would you even classify it as an art magazine?
I made the decision early on to name The Happy Hypocrite a journal rather than a magazine: a pernickety but important distinction. As a nautical term, ‘journal’ refers to a logbook, an ongoing enterprise that will be used for continuing reference. There’s something of the magazine that is disposable, and too temporal in nature, so less appealing to me.
That said, I am interested in the temporal space of reading that takes place within such structures, bother in terms of the time spent actually reading/looking, and in terms of an historical lineage of production that you are holding in your hands. In my own work as a writer, I knew that they were so few outlets for artists’ writing (or writing that somehow smells like artists’ writing), so I deliberately set out to create a new space for this type of work: it was a strategic editorial decision in that sense. This whole project started out as a book, but I felt that more consistency in production was needed than one book (or even a series of books) could provide. The idea was to build across issues, to commission lots of new work. To propagate. To fail perhaps. The Happy Hypocrite could have happily been: a bouquin; a feuilleton; a gazetter; a pamphlet; a periodical; but it has found its first, primary form as a journal, and it will stay that way for a little while yet.
In your interview with Cosey Fanni Tutti, in the first issue, which is all about naming and what naming implies (including her chosen name as an artist, her band’s name), she explains how her songs draw the listener in but once they understand the lyrical content they realize ‘it’s not very nice’, that it’s hardcore, ‘linguistic hardcore’ as she puts it. You used this phrase as the title for that issue; is this a statement of intent? Do you see The Happy Hypocrite as a platform for linguistic hardcore, a publication that, like Cosey Fanni Tutti’s songs, may at first appear seductive but upon closer reading is ‘not very nice’?
The Happy Hypocrite asks its reader to do a lot of work. Across each issue, and across time. The reader has to be pro-active, alert. Say What You See a good example of this. What are you actually reading? An exercise in comprehension and syntax? Or a critique of description-led criticism? In this sense, it is not very nice. However, The Happy Hypocrite doesn’t set out to experiment with its readers (in the sense that Bernhard Schlink critiques in The Reader), the work it is made of, its body, is essentially experimental in spirit.
The Happy Hypocrite has been described in recent review as “a visually smart, intellectual overture”, which of course is very flattering and encouraging. But rather I see it as a fugue, that’s why I reprint old magazines and journals, (and cluster each issue around methodology rather than subject) To describe and demonstrate how methodology regroups and is essentially effervescent in nature. In issue two I’ve printed pages from Barbara Reise’s failed magazine ArtstrA, this appealed to me in terms of showing readers something that they would never get to see normally (her project was never realized), and also to show something of the mundane, and by implication, the extramundane of printed projects: editing, fundraising, letter-sending, negotiation, wrangling, anger, disappointment and success. Reise could never have known of course that her publication would be resurrected in my publication – this is an essential facet of creative process.
Starting a venture such as The Happy Hypocrite could be difficult at any time, during a period of global recession such as we are entering even more so – or do you think that ‘hard times’ can lead to a greater desire for things that have some integrity and genuine cerebral content?
Yes, I’m from Belfast.