September 2024

Let It Rain

Words: Kat Hartmann Images: Tristan Ceddia & Rainoff

Skateboarding fosters creativity. Don’t ask how, or why – it’s more of an observation than an indisputable fact – it just does. Call it culture acquisition through osmosis, if you want to hazard a guess. Read: learning about new, awesome shit from your friends with common interests. The way we learnt about new bands before MySpace. The old fashioned way.

Skating led one part of Rainoff the Sydney independent arts publishing house, Sinisa Mackovic to his now partner, Robert Milne. Skateboarding, working at Monster Children Gallery and a mutual curiosity in the works of similar, niche artists. Mackovic and Milne are both awfully interested in the creatives they like. They are also pretty psyched about garnering those works some attention.

Enter Rainoff.

Like all good artistically inspired projects, Rainoff developed organically. Decisions made over pints at the local grew into an independent publishing and distribution house with an impressive roster of local artists and international publications.

Rainoff publish books filled photographic works by local artists Sam Ash and Samuel Hodge. Labours of love they spend hours curating, compiling and presenting to the world at large. They distribute the oblique Daddy magazine and the recently launched, much heralded Mountain Fold Music Journal. They open curated bookshops, give them eponymous names, only to close them again two weeks later. That was always the plan, you see? There will be more, they assure us.

There is no discriminating between art, music and literary works in the pages of their books. Rainoff finds places for things from many mediums. There is no fear of the apparently impending death of print in their words. They realise that the independent publications, the grass roots ones, are popping up all over the place. There is a future for the printed page, albeit a slightly amended one. Ask Rainoff. They should know; they are young – they are the future.

Kat Hartmann: Tell me a little about the history of Rainoff. How did it all begin?

Rainoff: Basically we began publishing in late 2008. Our first book (Never Far by Sam Ash) came out in October. One of the reasons that we started Rainoff was to create a platform to pursue our own creative freedom. Publishing being one of those, through designing and editing the books ourselves. Another ambition which we hope to further is curating. We were able to initiate this with the selection of books for our bookstore.

We wanted to work together due to the fact that we both share a similar aesthetic. A lot of the time working together creates a better flow of ideas. The final concept is often something we might not have considered as individuals. We can bounce things off each other, and an idea can develop into something completely different to what it started as.

KH: What inspired the decision to be both a publishing and distribution house?

RO: The inspiration to be both a publishing and distribution house was due to fact that a lot of our favourite publishers were not available here and we thought that they should be.

These publishers are producing books for some of the best contemporary artists that are having major shows at international art galleries and museums. It’s not just because we like the artists ourselves, it’s actually also that they’re amazing young artists that we felt should be known about within Australia. Hopefully this will create more awareness of young, international contemporary art and allow it to be shown here.

KH: I’m interested in learning more about some of the other publications under the Rainoff distribution umbrella? 

RO: A new title that we have recently picked up for distribution is Plants & Mammals by Carol Bove. It was made for her show at the Horticultural Society of New York. It includes 20th Century Narcissus by Janine Lariviere, a concertina book organised as a pictographic timeline chronicling the introduction of narcissus cultivars throughout the twentieth century, with appendix; exhibition poster and installation photograph. 

Another favourite title of ours is Instilled and Lost by Dean Sameshima, published by Peres Projects. It’s a really beautiful book that compiles all of his work to date and is designed by Albert Folch Studio, who also do the art direction for Apartamento magazine. The cover of the book is quite special. It’s actually a folded up poster, and because of the way it’s folded, you can see all the layers of folds.

KH: What is it about each of these publications that has inspired you to add them to your distribution/publishing house?

RO: Carol Bove is an artist that we both have really admired for a long time. She is gaining some positive attention from the international art world. Most recently having work at the 2008 Whitney Biennial and currently an exhibition at The Horticultural Society of New York. Its not often that she puts out publications – her first being released in 2004, so we thought it was a great opportunity to get her work out here in published format.

Dean Sameshima is represented by Peres Projects. They represent a number of incredible artists. We carry all of their available publications. The Sameshima book is one that doesn’t get enough attention. It really is a great body of work put into a really well designed book.

KH: From the outside the independent publishing scene in Australia seems an almost invisible industry that remains silent and removed from other creative fields. Rainoff have, more recently, broken that silence. The opening of the Rainoff Curated Temporary Bookstore in Darlinghurst in July and the recent launching of the Mountain Fold Music Journal both received their fair share of attention. In your opinion, why the silence and how’d you manage to shout?

RO: Independent publishing in Australia is definitely receiving more attention lately, but we wouldn’t say that it’s because of us. The popularity of independent publishing throughout the world has definitely contributed to us being able to be recognised in what we are doing. Also, there are really talented people, doing great things here. You mention Mountain Fold, Douglas Lance Gibson, who is the publisher and editor-in-chief, has a completely unprecedented vision of what a music magazine should be, so it’s great that it’s getting the attention it deserves.

The bookstore also helped us quite a bit. Often, we talk about the tactility of printed matter, and the store really allowed for people to experience that. Sure, we can be the Australian distributors of these books, but a lot of the time bookshops won’t really take much of what we’re trying to give them, so people still miss out. The shop was better received than we thought it would be, so hopefully this will continue to develop the market for independent press here.

KH: Being that it is a music journal, Mountain Fold deals mostly in words. A recent issue of Daddy (VI) featured literary works as art. Other books have a more obvious grounding in photography; Samuel Hodge and Sam Ash’s books spring to mind. How would you define Rainoff? Literary based, art inclined, or both?

RO: Both. We don’t discriminate between creative fields.

KH: It would be remiss of me not to ask – although the subject has been somewhat exhausted of late – your thoughts on the state of print publishing, both in Australia and abroad. 

RO: Publishing in print will always exist because people want it to exist. It provides an object that can be held and cherished. It seems now more than ever that there are lots of new independent publishing houses popping up all over the world. Which is great. Although, at the same time there is lots of online publishing due the accessibility of the internet. Hopefully this just means that the best will be saved for the printed page.
KH: How do you view the world of publishing beyond Australia?

RO: The world of publishing beyond Australia is definitely thriving at the moment. The popularity is allowing new things to happen such as ZINE’S MATE, the first art book fair held in Tokyo last month. Each year the New York Book Fair becomes more popular and is drawing a lot of positive attention towards publishing. It’s run by Printed Matter and this year for the first time will be held at PS1 – the most prestigious venue thus far.

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