Guest Interviw n°16 – Mr. Olu Michael Odukoya
Ciao Olu, would you please introduce yourself & Kilimanjaro Magazine?
My full name is Olu Michael Odukoya, born to a Nigerian family. I spent my teenage years traveling from one African country to another with friends. I studied film and photography a long time ago, worked as a an official artist before deciding to use printed matter as a way of communicating Art, Love and Everyday Life.
Kilimanjaro is a printed project dedicated to visual pleasure and experimental editorials. The driving idea is to create an ‘idealist’ magazine, and is not really based on any specific market or angle. We strive to mix a bit of design, photography, style and un-provocative thoughts to create something that says something from nothing. It has a romantic punk attitude – that is, it creates without any obvious restrictions; it’s something free. The conclusions are drawn by the audience: it could be art to someone, while another might consider it a magazine.
I believe in freestyle and organic creative direction. We live in a very tight environment in which things shift from one end to the other. A designer becomes a photographer, artists become celebrities, and so on. ‘Untitled’ is the future, and kilimanjaro provides a platform to explore this.
When was it that you realized that you wanted to work in the art/publishing industry?
Since I was a kid I’ve loved collecting magazines, especially Playboys and Right On (an American teen mag). I like the sense of movement and time that magazines hold. Before going to art school I wanted to be an optician and I did actually work as a dispensing optician while still curating Kilimanjaro. It was a strange profession. Dispensing optician by day, Artist by night. Then kilimanjaro continued to get stronger and bigger, so I reluctantly became the full-time unofficial art director.
Art, love, everyday life and…?
Yes, Art, love and everyday life. The ethos of kilimanjaro is my greatest achievement because over the years when I first used this language within a printed context (2003) and now I see on newsstands that magazine publication entitled ‘Love’ as and some new magazines using everyday life as their ethos to the idea behind the publications.
It’s all about love to me. My work is very thoughtful and my art direction is a very generous way I communicate with my audience.
I like to create things that make you go ‘wow, thats nice,’ and never use shock factor or over-intelligence in my work.
I like to produce things that people think they could invent themselves.
Speaking of, Love seems to be a recurrent theme on the pages of Kilimanjaro (your payoff, issue #3, #4, #9).
Is it purely coincidence?
Love always finds a way – Ask The Beatles – “All You Need is Love”.
What’s your approach to the curation of your magazine’s contents?
I work on kilimanjaro like an artist making a piece of Art. It’s all about the process to me, while the end product is the less intriguing aspect. Since the magazine is not intended to report on conventional editorial content, its quite an interesting concept to make something up that you believe in sharing with people and they buy into it.
In some way, the curation process is quite tricky, as I can’t make up bullshit because its a printed matter and the mistakes have to be lived with. Also making the magazine involves some good research works and heavy thoughts on how to produce it in print. Then, it just happens and we flow with it. I have to say that the contributors of kilimanjaro are the main stars of the project, not me. I am blessed to have worked with some very talented people over the years.
Kilimanjaro’s printing format is unusual (96 x 68 cm). Is it just a matter of identity, or did you choose such a massive layout for other reasons?
Identity was one of the factors, but I did not want to be a magazine. I like the idea of posters, and after all these years the format is not really relevant anymore. Many other magazine have tried big format, then it fails. None are conceived as posters. Some old school vibes…..
Is there anyone you dream could work with you as a Kilimanjaro contributor?
I have actually worked with a lot of people I would love to have worked with but still i would love to work with the incredible Roni Horn… (artist from Hauser and Wirth). She rocks.
Looking backwards, how would you describe Kilimanjaro’s evolution?
My independent manifesto works. It still reaches people and I have been doing it since 2003. Self published – not overcrowded advertising – the people that buy it support it. Still inspiring a lot of nobodies and somebodies. Still trying to make interesting print work in this Digital Age.
You started Kilimanjaro with your own funds back in 2004 and things have changed drastically since then.
What is, in your opinion, the present and the future of the publishing industry?
I think Bi annual is definitely in at the moment. The content of printed matter should feel like there is thought and property thats worth keeping. The monthly magazine format is less effective because blogs have supplanted them in some ways. I think its really a great time for printed matter because all the junk ad space magazines are going off the shelves .
It was just too much, this-everyone-who’s-got-a-Macbook-can=be-an-art-director kind of thing. So it a good time for projects like kilimanjaro and other die hard publishers.
It feels much easier now and there is no overly patronizing independent magazine conference and seminars which makes it a commercial underground. Back in the days I couldn’t even put kilimanjaro in art bookshops because it was too Avant Garde or because it doesn’t carry a household name artist on the cover. Now all those artists are celebrities and now people want a change. It’s happening in fashion, politics, media and I’m sure its going to happen in art soon. Still happy to be here and I’m thankful for all the people / contributors that support the project and make this project exist.
What’s your (and Kilimanjaro’s) strategy for survival?
Don’t sell out! Make things yourself. Lose the traditional ways of making magazine it costs too much money. Invest your ideas around you.
Make a good sincere publication and let people come to you. Be patient if it does not work it does not mean it’s not good.
How do you think recession has affected the art industry? Creativity?
It a blessing! Things where not right before, it was all money money!
I will say this: make what you can afford! For kilimanjaro it has been a great time. Now a lot of people could get together and make something based on the creativity. It’s also a fresh start for the newcomers. I want new contributors with new energy to collaborate with. You might probably just have been sacked from a job you hated anyway. Now you have no excuse.
Interview by Enrico Grigoletti.
Editorial supervising by Tag Christof – image courtesy of Kilimangiaro Magazine