“I’m training in uncertainty”
Benji Knewman doesn’t actually exist. He’s a made-up 43-year-old magazine editor, invented by two Latvian women (Agnese Kleina and Madara Krievina) so they can publish whatever they want and blame it all on him. Usually, every issue comes with a reassuringly twee little message on the back: “All is fine”. But flip over the latest issue and you’ll find that the “is” has been crossed out: “Everything will be fine”. The new edit is still twee, but slightly less reassuring. Titled “I’m training in uncertainty”, the magazine has been redesigned for turbulent times.
The magazine is made in Riga, Latvia, and one feature that immediately caught my attention was a series of photographs of curious household objects made across Russia between 1992 and 2008. Highlights include a television antenna made out of forks, an outside shower made of old bus doors, and a maraca whittled out of a sprite can. The idea seems to be that ingenious and sometimes beautiful things can come out of difficult circumstances.
Taglined “life that you can read”, the magazine has always been premised on ordinary people telling their stories. Sometimes these stories are moving precisely because they are so unremarkable. The first piece in the issue, for example, tells ‘nine truths’ from the life of a man called Peter: he likes cold beet soup; he misses having people to talk to; and he has never married, a fact which he regrets. The author of the piece, Signe Viška, is manifestly not called Peter, which raises questions about the nature of these ‘lives that you can read’: are they, like their editor, fictional? Or just anonymous?