Casagrande: an example of experimental publishing

From bombing cities with poems to sending letters to the stars and creating giant magazines inside tube stations, Casagrande – a Chilean collective of artists – develops what they describe as ‘public poetics’. Their projects follow the premise ‘can’t be sold, can’t be bought’ and consist in the development of all sort of publishing experiments. Back in 1996, they started as a free magazine about art and literature, but after a few issues an interest in physical/format experimentation started to arise.

Always under the umbrella of the magazine, the 7th issue of Casagrande was something in the form of a vinyl record, the 8th issue had a format of 3×2 meters posters located in different tube stations in Santiago that simulated the entrance of the passengers inside the tube and magazine, the 10th issue consisted in a DVD collection of thousands of letters written by Chilean children addressed to the stars that was sent to the International Space Station, and the non-existing 14th issue was materialized as ‘parasitic pages’ published in other contemporary magazines.

This rapidly took a political hint and Casagrande performed several public bombings of poems in cities that were bloodily bombed in the last century like Santiago, Dubrovnik, Guernica, London and Berlin. All these different issues could be described as public aerial performances where thousands of poems were freely thrown from the sky.

These actions seem to clearly announce that ‘the medium is the message’. This phrase, coined by Marshall McLuhan, summarises his theory about media and society. Briefly explained, McLuhan defined the medium and its interaction with the environment as one of the most important parts of any message. For instance, limiting a message to its content could only distort its meaning. Thus, it seems obvious that if all the poems published by Casagrande would have been distributed hand by hand to passers-by, it would not have had the same effect in the society.

It is interesting to see how a container can be as important as the content itself. Indeed, all of the issues published by Casagrande show a common point: these artists constantly explore alternative ways of sharing poetic content in order to make the most of it and provide a unique experience to the reader, who is promoted to the role of interactor.

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Elena Vega Fernández