A literary first aid kit

Palimpsest magazine mixing up the magazine format with multimedia

When one thinks of a magazine, images of glossy pages and celebrity profiles glutting the aisles next to the check-out line at a drug-store fill the mind.

In a dying print culture, magazines like GQ and Wired have attempted to make their mags more multimedia–with barcodes that can be scanned by cell phones to have stories sent to your inbox or holographic displays of Robert Downey Jr. or the Enterprise appearing in your laptop’s built-in webcam.

While the powerhouses of the magazine industry are looking to new technologies, it takes a braver sort to look to the Romans for inspiration.

Palimpsest, which takes its inspiration from Latin scrolls that could be scraped off and used again, leaving faint traces of the original compositions that graced their pages, is redefining the look and feel of what it means to be a magazine.

“The more we developed Palimpsest conceptually, the more we realized it was bound to be something very untraditional,” said co-founder Tess Edmonson, a Concordia liberal arts student.

Like a literary first aid kit, Palimpsest is a box that springs open with a range of art objects, from written prose, cassette tapes of music, CDs containing short film subjects, textiles and scrolls. “I think, to a certain extent, it’s a tribute to paper fetishism and print fetishism,” said Edmonson.

“The impetus for us to create [Palimpsest] was to have a platform for multimedia and for new media art. We just want to explore the relations between these different formats and what that means.”

The launch party for issue two of the magazine, whose theme is “medicine,” will feature video screenings, including a mishmash presentation of long-forgotten webcam video scoured from the Internet, as well as broadsheets on display and video projections.

There’ll also be musical performances from experimental artists Chris D’eon and Geidi Primes, also known as Grimes.

“I love magazines so much,” said Edmonson, “but it’s kind of a masochist industry to attempt to enter, because there’s so much good happening with it right now, but very little of that is being produced in Canada.”

Although unconventional, Palimpsest has a precedent in Aspen, a magazine published in Colorado from 1965 to 1972, and like Palimpsest took the form of a box of goods.

“We’re a palimpsest to this other magazine that used to exist and doesn’t anymore,” said Edmonson. “If you try to erase something and write overtop that history, despite whatever you do, it’s still going to be there.”

The launch of issue two of Palimpsest will take place Friday June 11 at 4 p.m. at OFF Interarts (5143 St-Laurent Blvd.)

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.