Zine Scene: 20 Seconds Magazine

For our first Zine Scene of 2024, we take it international and chat to Berlin-based print publication 20 Seconds Magazine. A bi-annual experimental music and art mag, their SoundCloud often features electronic music, including PYUR’s ‘Sunken’ and the mixtape/essay Towards a Decolonisation of the History of Electronic Music, so Rob Smith chatted to them for our blog to get the full debrief.

Was 20 Seconds started out of choice or necessity? Did you feel there weren’t enough platforms for long-form writing about experimental music?

20 Seconds Magazine was launched as a response to what my team and I felt was a lack of commitment to stimulating and in-depth inquiries into concepts and projects related to experimentation. We felt as though the approach to writing and publishing on experimental music and art was quite shallow and focused on a click-bait-centred approach. In summary, it was founded on a choice, but also a feeling of necessity.

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20 Seconds Issue 2, Fragments From an Unpublished Manuscript by Daniel Higgs

What can our readers expect to find in an issue of 20 Seconds? Can you pick out one feature that encapsulates what the publication is all about?

In 20 Seconds, readers can expect to find a wide selection of pieces that investigate a variety of disciplines, from experimental and electronic music and installation art to poetry, painting and cinema. The magazine seeks to elucidate the differences and similarities in artists’ approaches to experimentation and the philosophies behind those approaches.

I think one of the best examples of 20 Seconds journalism would be Timothy Isherwood’s feature on the creative community emanating out of Lumbardhi Cinema in Kosovo. It’s a story that links politics to film to community activism and a history which is simultaneously an articulation of past, present and future.

Print isn’t dead is one of your founding principles, why is it worth saving to you? You focus on the experimental, while print is a more traditional format. In the digital age is it more experimental than online?

Print is worth saving because it offers something quite rare in our society: the chance to slow down and focus on something that doesn’t move and doesn’t emit light from behind it (that’s to say, it doesn’t have a screen). Going beyond just the tangible characteristics, however, a print publication also creates and retains a different experience between object and self. It can just as easily be shared or given away but is passed to someone else in a different way. It requires more definitive action than online life does.

For us at 20 Seconds, developing more relationships and interactions in the personal realm is important for the sustenance of a fertile cultural ecosystem. It’s also difficult to measure metrics in print—we don’t know how long anyone spends on one article, or how long they stay on a section of a page before scrolling.

Our choices are not governed by metrics, but by people and how they feel. This today, is already experimental and far away from what governs most of society: data and metrics.

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20 Seconds Issue 6, photo by Lorena Florio

Is there any one thing you’d like to see change in the way we talk about or listen to, electronic and experimental music in the current cultural moment?

Slowing down is always a good idea. If one can combine a decrease in speed with further reflection on ideas that were generated outside the scope of computer metrics, then we’re really making progress. This naturally applies to the way we interact with arts and creative endeavours of all sorts.

Any artists/labels you want to mention here?

I encourage a calm and deep dive into any 20 Seconds issue to discover fascinating artists and their work. Some that float to my mind are composer Lea Bertucci, poet, singer and filmmaker Abdullah Miniawy, filmmaker Pedro Maia and photographer Sidonie Ronfard.

Any other zines/blogs/publications, music-related or otherwise, you’re into at the minute?

Nothing periodical has been engaging my interest of late. However, I have been reading two fascinating books, Records Ruin the Landscape by David Grubbs and Moments of Perception: Experimental Film in Canada, edited by Jim Shedden and Barbara Sternberg.

What was the last text you engaged with that really flipped your opinion about a piece of experimental art?

I recently read an Italian translation of collected texts by Rainer Werner Fassbinder that was called “Films Free Your Head” (I film liberano la testa). That was a great read, especially the piece Fassbinder wrote about his series Berlin-Alexanderplatz and how, ultimately, like all his work, it was about love.

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20 Seconds Issue 2, photo by Carole Ann Murray