Berlin’s latest art magazine, if it can be called that, Traffic, should have been given to me by someone distributing it on the city’s U-Bahn, where it is handed out on its release day – for free! Amid the various grey newspapers distributed by the homeless, my reaction to a free colourful magazine handed to me by a 20 year-old arts student could have been one of ‘pleasant surprise’. However, more than likely, my reaction would have been one of disgust. Luckily, I received my copy of Traffic from another art writer, who more easily parted with her personal copy than the magazine’s editors would have hoped.
Commuters using Berlin’s public transportation generally direct their attention to the screens of their own mobile phones or the U-Bahn’s TV-screens. However, if feeling generous, and if not already in the possession of a newspaper, they are likely to purchase a copy of a magazine from a homeless person, which will capture their attention – at least for the duration of their trip. It is especially tasteless and bad PR that an art-oriented magazine should target the same market and use the same sales strategy as Berlin’s Strassenfeger, Motz or Stütze.
Published in a tabloid format, with large images and oversized catchy slogans, the magazine tries to be different things at once: political, cultural, fashion, societal and news. It has everything from an article on Germany’s young emerging politicians to an interview with Daniel Richter. It is brimful of full-colour glossy images and tiny text, which can be distracting when you are trying to plough your way through an almost interesting article on the car sport of ‘Arab drifting’, strategically placed following a double-paged advertisement by BMW. Yet, then again reading the texts is not the main aim. With two former Vanity Fair staff members, a monopol magazine writer and Germany’s only TV-friendly art critic on the contributors list, Traffic above all else wants to be hip. Additionally, it helps to further blur the boundaries between art, fashion and advertisement turning an affinity to contemporary art into a brand; something we really need. Obviously financed by advertisements from Mercedes, BMW, Phillip Morris and various of Berlin’s chic fashion stores, it seems inevitable that the in-crowd will adore this new magazine.
I particularly enjoyed page 29, which constitutes an entire blank page dedicated to the reader’s dog with the request to keep the environment clean: perhaps the most intelligent way to put Traffic to use!