Table Talk magazine Q & A
We conducted an interview with Benjamin Moe, Editor-in-Chief of the new interdisciplinary magazine, Table Talk.
Where does the inspiration to start an interdisciplinary magazine come from? Can you tell us a little more about the inception of Table Talk?
The idea came a summer ago while I was spending a sort of monastic two months helping to clean up the land around our family’s new home. Early nights and early mornings lended time to reading and writing and allowed for the idea to incubate without me really knowing it. One day while shoveling a compost hole the name Table Talk just appeared in my head. It’s funny how things start like that, out of nowhere and usually while we’re doing the must mundane tasks. From there the idea traveled to Istanbul, where my co-founder Maya Frodeman and I began to lay down the mission. Then in the fall, with her in Paris and me in India, we skyped every day over a crackly internet connection getting the project off the ground. From the get-go we felt we wanted to facilitate a new kind of discussion, one that tried to confront hard to describe experiences and concepts without getting bogged down by the language of academia. The most intuitive way to do this, we felt, was to bring people together from different disciplines, fields, and professions to talk about a concept in one place. It was also equally important from the start that this discussion would include both established thinkers and up and coming ones. Now when we call Table Talk an interdisciplinary magazine we don’t just mean promoting dialogue across academic disciplines but also creeds, cultures, ages, and professions. It’s an opportunity to redefine the kind of content that gets published side-by-side and hopefully, out of that, create an engaging conversation.
As readers will find out, the subject of Issue I is duende. Each contributor takes on this hard to translate idea, sometimes experienced as the chills one gets from exceptional music or art. You start with a piece on Federico García Lorca’s depiction, move through a series of essays, poems, and photographs, and end with a critical rumination by Michael Taussig. How did you select these contributors, and why are they organized in the way that they are?
In the beginning we sent out letters to artists and thinkers we respected and thought would approach the concept of duende from interesting perspectives. We found that some resonated with the idea more than others, and it was this enthusiasm that we based the first issue around. The pieces themselves are organized into a narrative, as if each one is a new voice in a conversation that grows as the reader progresses through the issue. The first two pieces focus on duende as a mischievous spirit, the folk definition that the word originally had. Then with the third piece, a poetic evocation of duende, the issue begins to look at the word as an emotion and sensation. The word itself went through this transformation of meaning when the flamenco players of Andalusia began to use it to describe the feeling they would get when they were moved by their song and dance. Each of the subsequent pieces feeds into the next, introducing new elements to the concept, while bringing up and adding to ideas that were brought up by the pieces before. By the end we reach Michael Taussig’s essay which critiques the idea of duende, while tying it back to Federico García Lorca, where the issue begins. Through creating a visual backdrop with pictures that were all taken in a sculpture garden in Varanasi, India, and organizing the pieces in this way, we hoped to make the volume feel like an extended conversation that the reader becomes a part of.
What factored in to the decision to launch both digital and print editions?
It was important that the magazine be a real, felt object and not only pinged up and down to earth through satellites to our screens. We don’t think that existing in the digital age means there has to be the death of print, we just need to find better ways for these two mediums to co-exist. For us we acknowledge that our print readership may stay on the margins but we feel it gives a backbone to the whole project. One of ways we think we can sustain publishing through both mediums, is by creating a digital model which can help support print. As of now the whole first issue is available for free on our website, www.tabletalk.io, but with the launch of the second issue next fall we will be releasing a redesign of the site and start charging a small amount for certain content. I have been working closely with a programmer in Portland developing an online platform for collaborative text annotation that will allow readers to highlight and comment on specific lines of an article. Other readers will be able to see their comments and respond to them, developing a conversation that comes directly out of the text. This really came from our frustration with online commenting systems today, where all responses are piled in a disorganized bunch at very bottom of the page. Through this new way of interacting with digital content, we hope that readers will be driven subscribe online and make digital publishing a sustainable outlet.
Above: Editor-in-Chief, Benjamin Moe
What has been the most rewarding part of putting this project together? I imagine building a magazine on a subject as soulful as duende affected you.
I’ve found that there is a sort of rhythm to long-terms projects like this. One goes from feeling excitement, a sense that everything connects and works together, to utter confusion, where all the pieces seem to come undone and you are at a loss to move forward. Although I think that’s very much the pattern of creativity in general, it’s really come into relief through making this first issue. Through this whole process there were two points that really felt the most rewarding. The first was when we finally figured out the order of the pieces. Seeing all the connections and realizing that they all were dialogue with each other was truly a joyful moment. The second was the day after our launch when I realized that after 11 months the magazine was finally out there in the world. Hearing from our first readers that they too were seeing the connections we had spent all this time trying to create was worth every hill and valley of this process.
What can we expect from the next issue? And where would you like to see the magazine go in the future?
Moving forward we want our contributors to be from even more disparate backgrounds. We are not only going to search for submissions on the well worn paths of academic mailing lists but also go on foot and put up flyers in hospitals, lumberyards, and factories. We believe that there are immensely wise people embedded within all trades and professions and we want to invite them to our table. We are also committed to having a range of voices from around the world, and have team members who will be on the ground searching for submissions, from our Managing Editor Angel Shin, who will be Morocco, to our Publishing Editor Ourania Yancopoulos, who will be in Greece, as well as others in Germany, Lebanon, and India. We are releasing the call for submissions for the second issue this summer and encourage people to sign up for our mailing list so they can hear word of that. As I mentioned before, the second issue will release on a redesigned website which will allow readers to have conversations directly coming out of the text. In the fall we will also be releasing a video series called “Table Talks” that will bring thinkers from diverse backgrounds, from chefs to composers, from carpenters to philosophers, to discuss the theme of the current issue around a table. These will be filmed in locations that are off the beaten path, like abandoned shipping yards and old barber shops, and then turned into short films that will be released on our website.
Where can people find out more about Table Talk?
Visit our website, www.tabletalk.io, to read the magazine, find distribution locations, order a copy online, and sign up for our mailing list. Also this past weekend The Guardian wrote a feature on Table Talk which can be found here. We hope you can get a chance to read the first issue and if you have any responses, questions, or thoughts please email email@example.com.
Above: The New York-based team at the magazine’s launch event in Brooklyn