Yuca is an annual print magazine devoted to art, photography, literature, and culture. Every issue is a canvas on which a chosen topic, which they call their alibi, couples with a cross-cutting idea. Co-editor Lina Rincón tells us more from her base in Bogotá.
How would you describe Yuca for the uninitiated?
Yuca is a celebration of the infinite ways in which life can be perceived. For each issue we choose an alibi – which we understand as an excuse – and a cross-cutting theme that will intersect and dialogue with it. Then we seek out creative people from around the globe and invite them to convey, through a commissioned piece, their personal interpretation of these two subjects. Since we really want each feature to be an authentic expression of the author’s subjectivity, we encourage them to propose the format and content, rather than giving them rigid guidelines.
This is the heart of our editorial approach. We really like that even though Yuca is a print magazine, it is never a fixed, predetermined, categorized object. The way each issue is shaped is pretty organic and when we begin we never know exactly where we’ll end. And, even though it might seem challenging, we actually love this because it embodies and honors our multidisciplinary subjective approach and also because, in the end, each issue reveals itself with its own voice and personality.
What are the backgrounds of yourself and Juliana? Why did you feel the need to create Yuca?
I studied fashion design and history in Paris and did a Masters in cultural studies back in Bogotá. I have worked as an editor and translator for the past seven years and, more recently I have focused on the conception and development of editorial projects and brand narratives with Marble & Water. Juliana has a cultural psychology background and several years experience as a filmmaker and photographer. In 2014 she founded No Water for Whales, a visual narrative platform which she runs from Amsterdam, where she lives today. She also works as a creative director for cultural, architecture and design projects.
Why did you feel the need to create Yuca?
The main drive to create Yuca was probably our need to discuss and reflect on so many things that interest us. We wanted to invite people from all sorts of backgrounds to talk about these themes in a creative way and strengthen the notion that multiple voices can cast a new light on subjects that are part of all our lives. Also, and this might come from our passion for literature and cinema, we were both interested in creating an aesthetic experience, an object with a particular look, feel and even smell – something that each reader would take in in their own personal way.
When the first issue came out we realised that our intention of inviting people to reflect on what we have in common rather than what divides us, had had a real effect on some of our first readers, and this has continued to happen and remains a motor today.
You are both based in Colombia though your art director and graphic designer Carles Murillo is Barcelona based. What positives and challenges does this span of distance offer?
Juliana moved to Amsterdam in 2017 so for our third issue, we were working from three different cities. The three of us have never actually been together in the one place. Of course, it would be great if we could meet up and go through things together – this would probably make the process more efficient than it has been. However, the fact that we are apart means that our editorial team is permanently being nourished by three different cultures, by our lives and interests, the people we meet and the things we see and learn in three different parts of the world and this makes the result so much richer and meaningful to us.
You have chosen the word ‘Alibi’ in all the titles of your editions to date: Gastronomic Alibi – The Roots issue, Architecture Alibi – The Migrations issue, Sound Alibi – The Time issue. Can you explain the meaning and significance of having ‘Alibi’ as an anchor?
When we were conceiving our first issue we wanted to stress the fact that, even though we obviously chose subjects that sparked our interest, they really were there as an excuse to create Yuca and start a conversation that would take the form of a creative collaborative project. So we began with this idea of an excuse and came up with the word alibi, which in an informal way means an excuse or pretext. Gastronomy, architecture and sound have been great excuses up to now.
Which magazines and designers were an inspiration to Yuca?
Before we began we had some reference magazines that we admired deeply: The Plant, The Gourmand, Lucky Peach, and Odiseo. And then, with time, we’ve been discovering many more that keep bringing new inspiration day after day. I feel like everyone who chooses this line of work must have a real love for print and a keen interest to create meaningful objects so, for us, it has always been beautiful, moving and inspiring to look around in magazine stores, bookstores, museums or events such as the Stack Awards, and remember that we are not alone in this.
When we began there was this one book, a catalogue from an exhibition I had seen in Paris, that really made a difference in the process of conceptualization. That is Sophie Calle’s ‘Prenez soin de vous’. In this artistic project, she shared with 107 women an email in which her boyfriend broke up with her, and asked them to interpret, study, and recreate the letter from the point of view of their professional practice. We thought this idea of interpreting one thing from so many different perspectives was beautiful because it reminded us that everything can be seen from myriad vantage points which are not competing but rather complementing one another.
Is there a standout text, image or concept from the three issues to date which has resonated with you personally?
We each have some parts, layouts or sections we have a soft spot for. The three of us love the visual editorial section, for example the work of Edgar Martins opening up our third issue. Then there’s the Beyond the Visible, which has been a joy to make because it expresses so well our initial intention and because it has allowed us to explore everyday lives in countries that we feel drawn to and fascinated by, including our own (we discuss Colombia at the time of the peace treaties with FARC in our second issue).
Another one of my favorites is Drawings of Literary Worlds, from our second issue. Literature and art are two of my favorite things in the world and I had deeply enjoyed reading the novels we presented – so it was beautiful having Mikkel Frost, this incredibly talented architect from Denmark, translate the heart and soul of these stories into those beautiful drawings. I really liked that one, it makes me happy every time I see it.
It is advertising free. Is this a conscious decision?
Well to a certain extent it has been. It is important for us to maintain the aesthetic and editorial line throughout the entire magazine so, keeping this in mind, we have thought of different formats of collaboration with brands but haven’t gotten quite to it.
What has the reaction to Yuca to date been like? What has been your favourite encounter or experience from putting it out into the world?
This is probably the most rewarding thing about making Yuca, the fact that people react to it and very often reach out to tell us how much they liked one piece or another, how they were touched or inspired by this and that. This is fantastic because all we want is to connect, to feel that an article, photograph, or art piece featured there can make someone in Russia or Mexico feel closer to someone from Colombia or Sweden despite all the cultural differences between us. It has also been wonderful to get to know and work with editors from other magazines we admire such as MacGuffin and Der Greif in our Edited By section.
Then the process of creating each issue between the three of us and with every single one of our contributors has been fulfilling. As a team, we always push one another to be better, more thorough, to pay attention to every detail and keep our standards high. We have learnt a bunch from one another and experienced making Yuca almost as nurturing and caring for a baby. We have learnt about art, culture, literature, creativity but what is even more valuable, we have learnt about ourselves every step of the way, our personal and professional universes have been enriched in ways we couldn’t’ have imagined when we began. This is very valuable to us.
Working with contributors has also been a crucial part of the experience. Reaching out to people we deeply admire for their work and for the way they see the world and sharing this enthusiasm for making something that is often a bit different from the way in which they and us usually work. It’s exciting to hear them tell us, once they receive the print copy, how much they enjoyed stepping out of other things they were working on to do something more playful or explore an idea or talent that had been hovering for a while but they hadn’t had the time, or the right excuse to get to it.
Words: Michael McDermott
All three issues of Yuca are available to buy yucamag.com for €18 each.