For Samira Ben Laloua, Editor-In-Chief of EXTRA EXTRA, even the passing of time is erotic. It flickers between strangers and the lilt of an anonymous voice. It permeates every dimension of our daily lives, dangling somewhere between the seen and the unseen. Like any good habit, the erotic needs nurturing. It needs to be held, whispered to, meditated on, and shared. Such is the essence of Extra Extra, the Rotterdam-based glossy, in which secrets of city life are laid bare and embraced. Think less nudie-mag, more Artforum with a carnal edge.
Composed of long-form interviews, photography, paintings, and tales of synesthetic encounters from internationally-based artists and thinkers, its print edition is akin to a lusty love letter to the art world. Never shy of crossing mediums (or boundaries), the latest online content features radio interviews, music playlists, and book excerpts. But its mainstay is printed matter –it exists to be cradled and consumed. Naturally, the erotic leads us where all great art leads: deeper inside ourselves. And if art is the conduit for the erotic, then Extra Extra is its home.
What led you to create Extra Extra?
I began to encounter more kinds of eroticism. I also became aware that we are all traveling and living from city to city, so we’re not really based in one place. I imagined the magazine as a kind of ‘soft city’. I first started to talk about it with friends and they told me all about their erotic escapades. But in the end, we wanted to bring it back to the creative world. This is how we came up with the format for our interviews examining how dance, film, architecture, and fine art express the erotic.
What is most erotic to you?
I find men who smoke very erotic. I think smoking is very sensual as a gesture. Because there’s so much restriction around smoking nowadays, even if you know it’s unhealthy, it feels like a form of resistance; of being a liberated mind –which is also the erotic, of course. Sometimes it’s in the space between two people who are physically close together. There’s this electricity between them, and their gestures and movements are so are so expressive.
Is there something forbidden about the erotic for you?
I think it’s actually the equivalent of freedom.
What is the difference between eroticism and pornography?
Pornography is all in the act; it’s all about sex. Our culture publicly accepts pornography, and there are no secrets, which is perhaps why it works. But erotica is still very hidden. There’s always an in-betweenness to eroticism. It’s like the shimmering of a beautiful, dark blue sky giving way to the sun –it’s the movement from night to day or from day to night.
What is the emotional tone of the erotic as expressed in Extra Extra?
Someone once said that the magazine felt honest. I think honesty an important aspect of the erotic, just as much as having fun and having a sense of humor is a part of the erotic. Especially in terms of fetishes, if you have a fetish and it turns you on, and you’re going to be ironic about it, then the whole magic of the fetish disappears. With a fetish, it’s about openly and honestly sharing it with someone. Which is much like the shared experience of reading a magazine –for the reader to share with the artists they’re reading about and also with a community of readers. The subject matter doesn’t have to turn them on. The essence of it is more about acknowledging this expressiveness and encouraging readers to find their own ways of expressing themselves.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I listen to a lot of Yo La Tengo, Blonde Redhead, and How To Dress Well. In film, I deeply admire Carlos Reygadas, a Mexican director who is extremely interesting. He has explicit sex scenes, but his eroticism isn’t about the exposure of sexuality. It’s about finding new realities in reality, of finding the erotic in everyday life. Another huge inspiration was Warhol’s original Interview Magazine. That kind of writing really inspired me; the mixture of high quality writing presented in an informal style. I also love The Whole Earth Catalog from the 70s. It seems to have nothing to do with eroticism, but it has to do with how you conceptualize life on this planet, and how you interact with other people. The Whole Earth Catalog was like a pre-Wikipedia and they had a lot of entertaining writing on utilities. I think it’s all about finding yourself in a certain time and connecting with other people are looking for the same things. For them it was utilities and ecology, for us it’s the erotic.
What is the value (and inherent eroticism) of launching an independent print publication?
Creating a print publication is very significant at this time. That said, we are in the midst of developing a stronger online platform to really hone in on this in-between identity. We want to participate in the ‘erotic online,’ as opposed to the preeminence of internet pornography.
In our print issues, our pages are made of rough material –not glossy– and produced in a small size. The flow of the magazine is very important to us, in terms of how each page flows, as well as the flow of stories, colors, typography and images on each page. If you are a shy person, I think tactility is very important. A magazine is also a very special gift to give to someone, whereas shared internet links disappear rapidly. Creating print in a digital era is just more permanent.
Why did you choose to feature additional radio programming on your website?
I think that you can really fall in love with a radio voice. It allows you to tune into a person. There’s a mystery there because you don’t know or see who he or she is, but the element of the invisible voice has a lot of eroticism in it. Personally, a voice can really touch me, even without really listening to what someone is saying. Just the intonation is erotic; it inspires a feeling and touches the senses.
What new artists are you featuring in your upcoming issue?
I’m very proud to be working with a young, new photographer, Andi Gáldi Vinkó. She’s from Hungary and she lives in London. For our next issue, we’re going to feature an interview with a Chinese artist, Tianzhuo Chen, who is deeply embedded in the gay world. He’s interested in religious iconography, and showcases a new element of the erotic for us. We’ll also be featuring very beautiful writer, Alejandro Zambra, from Chile, and an interview with Alasdair Gray, a Scottish writer and a painter, who is known as the James Joyce of Glasgow. It’s a beautiful thing to discover all of these creators through the lens of the erotic.
How do you envision the publication growing?
The magazine will eventually become an intermediary between our online site and our live presentations in Rotterdam, which include reading stories and poetry, screening films, and presenting live music.
What’s ‘new’ about what you call your ‘nouveau magazine erotique’?
We need to rediscover what’s ‘new’ again. I think this is due to a fear of vulnerability, of being vulnerable in public. Either you hide it or you are very expressive, as in pornography. Ideally, the private and public can be reconciled in erotica, and we can access vulnerability and take more risks personally and creatively.
What do you want to people to feel when they read Extra Extra?
I want people to feel completely free. I want them to feel warm, friendly, and more open to one another.
Openness is an erotic gesture, but it can be threatening. I’ve found that some people are very hesitant to interact with open people. They think, ‘oh, they must want something from me!’ They overlook that this person is just curious, they want to tell a story, or share something intimate. If you are into the erotic, you can’t have an aversion to openness.