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Interview with Marco Kane Braunschweiler

In an age when such a thing as the “blogosphere” exists as a means to convey ideas and disperse information, however fleeting or profound, and college tuition along with unemployment soars, is it not remarkable that so many artists and designers — young or otherwise — are making printed works and publications? Perhaps not, but more surprising are the dedicated purveyors of them; those art loving, book loving, style-conscious people who open whole shops to not only sell these printed works and publications, but also to make them available to us by giving them a platform. And there are many of these shops: Berlin’s Motto, Vienna’s Salon für Kunstbuch, AA Bronson’s Printed Matter in New York and countless others scattered across the globe’s metropolises. However, it is in Chicago that a most novel store opened in one of the city’s rapidly gentrifying — for better or worse — near South Side neighborhoods. With a name like Golden Age, its owners, Marco Kane Braunschweiler and Martine Syms acknowledged this cultural current. On the occasion of Golden Age’s move from its original neighborhood, Flash Art asked Marco Kane Braunschweiler and Martine Syms some questions.

Flash Art: How long have you been running Golden Age?

Marco Kane Braunschweiler: Golden Age has been open since 2007. We started it right after graduating from college.

FA: Could you describe Pilsen, the neighborhood the store has been located in?

MKB: Pilsen is a very family-oriented community that is welcoming to artists. We’ve lived in the neighborhood for 5 years and feel at home there. We sometimes refer to it as “youthtopia,” because there are so many kids (like us) living out their urban dreams of skateboarding to the bodega.

FA: What kind of art scene has been going on in the area? What role do you think Golden Age might have played in developing and contributing to any kind of “scene?”

MKB: Chicago has a good mix of established artists and students. People tend to work in their studios a lot, which can make it seem like there is not a cohesive scene. There is a lot of amazing work being made and Golden Age helps people outside of Chicago see it.

FA: Where is the store’s new location going to be and what can people expect from the new space?

MKB: The store is now located in the West Loop gallery district. We’ve moved into a small space so that we could focus more on our program and less on money. Our new flexibility gives us a platform to openly engage a community of artists, designers, musicians and other passionate ‘obsessives.’

FA: You typically have an inventory of zines, books, and publications from around the world, how do you go about selecting and discovering all the materials that you carry?

MKB: We’re always looking at art. We spend a lot of time looking at artists’ websites. When we travel we visit all the museums, galleries, and bookshops, and we regularly visit our local cultural spots. We try to find ideas that excite us, and then we find a way to collaborate.

FA: Golden Age isn’t solely a store, what kind of events have you taken part in or put on there since you’ve been open, and what are you anticipating in the near future?

MKB: We’ve organized numerous projects including “PDF,” a show of commissioned works on PDF that opened simultaneously in 15 cities internationally, curated by Nicholas Weist; “In Real Life In Real Time” by bi-coastal collaborators ASDF; “Vaguely Paperly” with Tom Greenwood, Lichens, and Barr in conjunction with Kavi Gupta Gallery; and most recently “Activity #91,” by Alex Da Corte. Coming up this year we will be presenting projects by Paul Cowan, Jon Rafman, Barbara Kasten, and Arielle de Pinto amongst others. We’re also working on an installation at Mayerei Gallery.

FA: In an era when blogging and internet presence is so viable (and inexpensive) for young artists, why do you think so many of them put energy (and money) into printed materials and works?

MKB: We’re pretty nerdy when it comes to blogging/technology. We’ve met many people online before meeting them IRL (in real life) and we spend a lot of time looking at art online. However, we still feel that there is a need for tangible goods. It’s so much different to experience something in person than it is to see an image or digital simulation of it. Younger artists/designers see a relationship between these methods and are willing to invest in both.