January 5, 2012

i’m excited to share the latest BTA interview with sasha wizansky, co-founder, editor-in-chief and art director of the cult art/food magazine, meatpaper! now on its 16th issue and 5th year, the quarterly journal has gained an international following. despite its name, meatpaper isn’t just for meat lovers- it exists as a starting point for a dialogue about meat in culture and how we feel about it.

but meatpaper isn’t the only thing on her plate (!!!). with her background in art and design, sasha’s work spans from print to performance to food, often in collaboration with some of the bay area’s most influential names. from meatpaper’s themed food events on the sfmoma rooftop garden with blue bottle coffee to this mini book on glass eyes for dave eggers’ 826 valencia, sasha is constantly exploring the gray areas between art, life and food with various mediums.

one her biggest involvements is with OPENrestaurant, an exploration of the restaurant as art medium founded by staff of chez panisse, for which she designs ephemera- menus, cards, posters, etc. this fall, the whole OPEN team traveled to japan, touring rice fields, sake factories, and setting up various pop-up food events in tokyo.

when she returned from her tokyo trip, sasha invited me to her office in the mission, which she shares with art/design studio and parklet pioneers, rebar. we chatted about japan, japanese breakfast, and her souvenirs (furoshiki!); the origin of the meatpaper-coined “fleischgeist;” and her plans for the magazine’s upcoming fifth anniversary year. it’s so rare to meet someone whose work can transcend so many boundaries and produce results that are so solid from all sides!

special thanks to sasha for welcoming me into her home and office with my camera and lots of questions. you can read selected articles from meatpaper online or subscribe here! visit sasha’s design site, squashco, for more of her graphic work. and keep your ear to the ground for meatpaper’s 5-year anniversary party later this year!

Name: Sasha Wizansky
Age: 38
Hometown: Brookline, Massachusetts

Where are you right now? How’d you get there? I am in San Francisco. When I was in college I spent two summers in San Francisco, house-sitting and working odd jobs, and was instantly smitten. I loved the bright light, the sea air, the sense of cultural possibility, and the idea of winterlessness. I am also running Meatpaper, a quarterly journal of art and ideas about meat. I am pretty sure that before I launched Meatpaper, I had been preparing to be a magazine designer and publisher for many years without realizing it.

Where are you going? Today I would like to think that I am heading toward stillness. After a dramatic fall that included a big trip to Tokyo, I am excited to be settling in to the cooler San Francisco months to focus on plans for Meatpaper. We have some exciting things coming up — we’re planning an event around our current, Bones-themed issue, for February 10, 2012.! And we’re working on an event and editorial content exploring the future of meat in conjunction with our 5th anniversary in 2012. So it feels like there are indeed some big things ahead.

What will you be doing when you get there? When I find this elusive and appealing coexistence of stillness and motion, I will probably eat a bowl of rice and watch the clouds outside my window. And then I will put on my boots and climb a hill to see the view and notice how small the people and cars are from up there.

Who/what/where was the inspiration that led you in this direction? My mom is a big inspiration for me. She always has multiple projects going on — painting, writing, gardening, cooking. She shows me that it’s possible to learn new things throughout life, that you can take on new projects and gain new skills at any time.

Why meat? Meat is the ultimate Rorschach test. When you ask people about their relationships to meat, they tend to have a lot to say, and often their stories are complex and the relationship is ambivalent. This is true in a larger, cultural framework as well — every culture in the world has attitudes and customs surrounding meat. Even after 5 years of asking people about meat, I find there is still much more to explore.

Where do you believe the recent revival in meat has stemmed from? We coined the term “fleischgeist” to describe the current culture of meat. It encompasses the new curiosity about where meat comes from, the embrace of the whole animal ethic, and a return to the understanding of meat preparation from previous generations of cooks and eaters. One of the reasons for this is that in the States, for a generation or so, it was a taboo to really look at meat. The fleischgeist is what happens when a taboo is lifted … there is a fascination, and also the feeling that meat imagery is shocking. I feel that we are still getting used to meat after a generation of shared cultural amnesia.

If one day you get sick of reading, writing, and sharing stories about meat, what subject would you take on instead? This is a question I ask myself frequently. I have come to love the process of curating each issue of Meatpaper, the act of collaborating with Meatpaper’s amazing team of editors and writers and visual artists on ideas small and large. Some day, it will be fantastic to put similar processes to work in creating something very different from Meatpaper. The day I discover the next inquiry will be an exciting one. I will know it when I stumble upon it!

Which meats do you completely avoid? Are there any weird meats of the past that you would never even taste even if you could? I am a pretty comfortable omnivore, and I have not yet met the meat I wouldn’t try. But that said, I haven’t sought to taste all of the organs! And I haven’t eaten insects yet. I am pretty sure I could taste an insect, though – there seems to be a bug-eating meme in food and art circles recently.

How are you feeling? Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Thrilled? I am generally excited about what is to come. New ideas are always perfect in their conception — there is little gravity in the brain to interfere with schemes and dreams as they take form.

What kind of expectations do you have? I try not to have expectations. When I think about the future, I see a lot of giant question marks floating before the horizon line.

Are you scared of anything? I am scared of earthquakes and uncontrolled speed.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? I believe that is unknowable. Or maybe I just don’t know it.

The best? Something unexpected.

What are you taking with you/leaving behind? I am taking my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It’s a lovely little thing from the ’70s. I’ve gotten out of the habit of sewing and I’d like to pick it up again. I am taking a set of pencils and an eraser and lots of paper. I wish I could leave behind my computer.

What did your friends say when you told them? They asked if they could come along for the ride.

ARE YOU READY? Oh, yes. Definitely. I love surprises.

images via meatpapersquashco & BT.


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