Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Printed Matters in Kuwait...

In the recent local press, there's been a number of articles lamenting the difficulty of accessing decent books, particularly those with a bit more select slant on things. The same can be said about magazines, where the situation isn't perhaps as dire, but the selection is still somewhat, shall we say, 'predictable' regarding what magazines one encounters on the shelves. Neither does their price (which seems to be the same in Dinars as they were in Euros, Pounds or Dollars) nor the censorship (black blotches and ripped off pages) increase ones wish to purchase them locally.

To create stimulating, interesting and worthwhile work one needs to be exposed to stimulating, interesting and worthwhile ideas, be these in picture and/ or text format. It was thus invigorating, as a born and bred bibliophile, on a recent trip to Europe to be reintroduced to the fantastic variety and selection of printed matter (books & magazines) available. This doesn't only include regularly available (best selling) magazines and books, but also more, call them, obscure and unusual material, limited edition prints, one-off publications, special interest papers, university press editions, etcetera. As someone interested in design and architecture related matters, the choice of specialized book stores on London's Charing Cross and its vicinity is heartening, as there are anything from large book department stores such as Borders, Foyles, and Blackwells, to smaller more specialized stores such as Koenig Books (art), Magma (design), AA Bookshop (architecture and urban design), Forbidden Planet (comics and graphical novels) or the book-shop at the Photographer's Gallery, to mention a few. Along its sidewalks there are also an abundance of antiquarian book stores (some with fireplaces, that are nice to nip into on cold winter nights) that each carry their own musty fragrance of decades, even centuries, old books and knowledge.

Similar locales, on a smaller scale (comparative to Kuwait), can be found in cities such as Singapore, Luxembourg or even Helsinki, which all have well stocked book stores, libraries and a well developed cultural life (aspects of a developed society that seems to be linked).

The Academic Bookstore in Helsinki (designed by Alvar Aalto)...

During my studies and practice life in London these places played an inherent role in my education, and aided in keeping me updated on the latest ideas and technologies. Visiting them became a daily early evening routine, that acted as almost an initiation, or catalyst, for some of the tasks that needed to be completed later. They, along with the various libraries and other peripheral cultural institutions (museums, galleries, theatres, etc.) made a considerable contribution to how I practice my discipline(s) today.

There are some great (English language) cultural magazines that focus specifically with the Middle-East, ironically, some of them, such as Bidoun and Meada, are actually based respectively in New York and London. Other worthwhile publications are Canvas, Brownbook, and even a student publication such as T-Square, done by architectural students at Kuwait University. An additional, by now unfortunately terminated, publication worth a note was Alef Magazine, which had some of the most evolved editorial content and formatting around.

If you have any know-how of further worthy magazines please let me know, as it's always great to encounter and learn more regarding this genre of press...

No comments: