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Behind the scenes: BBY magazine

Posted by Stine Fantoft Berg on Wednesday, April 20 2016

The Swedish duo behind feminist magazine BBY on the power of social media, sisterhood, and changing consensus

“The art world is dominated by men. The art institutions are ruled by men.” That’s how feminist magazine BBY‘s manifesto begins, and it’s a situation that founders Sara Andreasson (above, left) and Josefine Hardstedt (above, right) want to change.

Exploring the power of self-representation through social media, the Gothenburg-based magazine is on a mission to support and promote female artists and writers. I met up with Sara and Josefine to talk about how they got started, and the thinking behind their new Homestyling-themed issue.

bby-covers

What was the starting point for BBY?
Our backgrounds are from design and art history respectively, so we come at art and culture from slightly different perspectives, but we both experienced a lot of sexism in the industry – in everything from how we talk about history, to how women are treated in the art world today.

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BBY is published out of Sweden, a country often referred to as one of the world’s most gender equal. What stage would you say you’re at, and is there room for improvement?
We’ve definitely come a long way in the sense that gender equality is something that’s talked about and is part of the public debate. But we still see the same power structures with old men in the top positions, and many of the same unquestioned mindsets around what’s considered ‘female’.

With BBY we wanted to create a separatist printed space to show people the range of amazing female artists out there. A big part of it is in building a community and connecting women to collaborate with and support each other. There’s a long tradition of men promoting other men, and women should do the same – we should lift each other up.

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Your first issue (above) had the theme of Filter – what was your interest in that?
The first issue was about how new media can give you more power. From a young age women are filtered by their outer qualities; being sweet, pretty, nice… but on the internet you have the power to control your persona on a whole different level.

The mass media tends to stick with traditional patriarchal notions of femaleness, so social media is a great way to directly communicate other sides of femaleness.

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Your new Homestyling issue deals with a lot of the same questions, looking at the home as a reflection of the self, and how it’s represented (and filtered) online.
The desire to show off your home, and your home being a reflection of who you are, is nothing new. Just like you’d invite someone over, you can share glimpses of your home through social media, and it still acts as an identity-forming entity.

We’ve joked a lot about the idea of home styling and we find it really funny how you buy into a certain lifestyle. We approach the theme from a critical perspective, but it’s also self-reflective – we’re definitely the type of people who style our homes ourselves. But why do we care so much about these things? With this issue we’re making fun of the concept, and ourselves.

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Could you talk me through some of the changes you’ve made with this issue? Most noticeably it’s bigger than the last…
BBY is twice as old now so we thought we might as well double it; it’s twice as big, we’ve got twice as many contributors, and (almost) twice as many pages. It’s also a play on the typical interiors magazine, with its A4 format and glossy paper stock.

You’re also parodying some of the typical interiors magazine features, like the photo story Amazing Everyday Value. (below)
Yes, usually in interiors magazines normal people can’t afford anything, so we came up with the idea of doing a story featuring stuff from the pound shop. We asked three different artists from three different places – Montreal, New York and St Petersburg – to go to their local pound shop and make a still life out of what they could find. It turned out really great!

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Finally, looking back at your manifesto, how do you think a print magazine can make a real difference?
We think there’s power in creating a physical object for the fact that it sticks around and can become part of the history that’s retold to future generations. It’s also a lot about sending the message to young girls that there are so many cool, powerful women out there doing all sorts of things. Meeting those girls with their enthusiasm, and also the amazing artists we work with, those things are without doubt the best part of making BBY.

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