When you live online, time is strangely flat. The web doubles as an omnipresent archive of our existence, serving up the images, ideas and messages we once connected with as effortlessly as those which we identify with today. But for Gabriel Knowles and Tristan Ceddia, co-founders of online publication The Blackmail, stepping out of this digital paradise is sometimes the only way to move forward.
Knowles and Ceddia, along with collaborators Amelia Stein, Laila Sakani and Belle Place, recently launched Offline, a volume that serves as a print vehicle for The Blackmail’s creative aspirations.
“Tristan and I started The Blackmail about three or four years ago and we had a really great collective of people involved right from the beginning,” says Knowles. “I guess we were starting to feel like we wanted to do something that was a bit more lasting.
“Online is great and there are very low barriers to entry, but I think that sometimes what you publish online can be inherently undervalued. Although I’m all for online, we wanted to create something tangible that would act a marker for the things we’ve done.”
Offline is the kind of book that lives up to its ambitions. The volume weaves together fiction, essays, photography, art and interview in a way that reflects both a narrative urgency and a lo-fi sensibility. Highlights include fiction by writer Amanda Maxwell, meditations on the creative process by artist and musician Brendan Huntley, conversations between curator Melissa Loughnan and artist Callum Morton, along with images by Sydney photographer Rene Vaile and illustrations by Hana Shimada.
For Knowles, Offline’s tendency to erase creative boundaries is a key part of its appeal. “A lot of the lot of the writers, artists and photographers involved are multidisciplinary – it’s something that is much more common in our generation,” he observes. “I do really enjoy that. For instance, Mel is a top curator in her own right but she also has the ability to write and the same goes for Joseph Allan Shea. And most people know Brendan Huntley as the frontman of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, but he’s also an artist. I like that it includes people involved in different things at different levels.”
Rather than subscribe to tired debates about online versus offline, Knowles thinks that the mediums can offer different ways to tell the same story. “You can use the online space as a conduit for something more tactile these days. I think publishing is going that way.”
Still, there’s something captivating about the permanence of print, the way it can pay paper tribute to a collective moment.
“Offline sums up what a particular group of Australian creatives and makers are doing at a certain point in time. It’s nice to be able to showcase people who are highly talented and doing really great things,” he says. “Maybe someone who hasn’t been exposed to their work will pick up this book and look at things in a new light.”