The New Work of Composing

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"Literary"? "Magazine"?

Born was founded as a magazine in 1996 in Seattle as a venue for local writers to self-publish and for graphic designers to create outside the corporate confines of their field. It was—and remains—an all-volunteer endeavor, and the Web was chosen as publication medium because it was inexpensive, easy to disseminate, and fast to produce. Born Magazine was a classic example of the zines cropping up all over the Web and print worlds, and at the time featured essays, stories, music reviews—even an advice column—in rather conventional magazine design format.

However, due to the nature of publishing using a rapidly changing technology, the magazine quickly evolved. Born expanded its geographic focus (the Web made us international), but also rapid change in technology allowed design possibilities that were impossible on the printed page. Artists began to incorporate motion, audio, and interactivity, and following suit, Born began dropping those written forms that didn't offer as much artistic license in the way of interpretation, focusing more increasingly on poetry and short prose.

Around 2001 or soon thereafter, our core of volunteers began to realize we saw ourselves less as a publication than the creativity borne of collaboration, as each project might bring together artists, writers, programmers, photographers, musicians, and others. These collaborations resulted in fusions of different art forms (which in 2005 eventually spread from the Web to the gallery). Very early on in these collaborations, words became cinematic, metaphor became interactive, audio could be a human voice or composed soundtrack. In other words, shortly after finding ourselves a literary magazine, we found we were no longer even that, but rather hosts and matchmakers to interpretations of literary works. (One can trace much of this evolution in our online archive.)

This process brought the magazine to its final form, which has focused primarily on editors choosing from submitted written works and then our curators pairing the writer with an artist or designer to create an interpretation. We have had other forms of matchmaking, where collaborative teams created an original concept and worked from scratch, but for the purpose of this conversation, we will focus on the interpretive pieces, as this kind of collaboration has been the most popular among our contributors.

It is fitting we focus on contributors' interests. Each piece is the result of a one-time collaboration, making each work unique. We have never attempted to represent any specific movements or poetics within the literary or arts communities, but rather sought to create a venue where artists and writers have free reign to experiment.

next section: A Surfeit of Meaning?