CABINET: WHAT IS IT?
Founded as a non-profit in 2000, Cabinet is an award-winning quarterly magazine of art and culture based in New York that confounds expectations of what is typically meant by the words “art,” “culture,” and sometimes even “magazine.” Its hybrid sensibility merges the popular appeal of an arts periodical, the visually engaging style of a design magazine, and the in-depth exploration of a scholarly journal to create a sourcebook of ideas for an eclectic international audience of readers, from artists and designers to scientists, philosophers, and historians. Using essays, interviews, and artist projects to present a wide range of topics in language accessible to the non-specialist, Cabinet is designed to encourage a new culture of curiosity, one that forms the basis both for an ethical engagement with the world as it is and for imagining how it might be otherwise. In an age of increasing specialization, Cabinet looks to previous traditions of the well-rounded thinker to forge a new type of magazine designed for the intellectually curious reader of the future.
CABINET: HOW IS IT STRUCTURED?
Cabinet’s continuity from issue to issue largely resides in its columns. Every issue since the magazine’s inception has featured a column titled “Colors,” in which we ask a wide variety of writers (ranging from scientists to poets and many others in between) to consider a specific color we assign them. Contributors to the “Colors” column have included Spencer Finch, Daniel Handler, Lyn Hejinian, Shelley Jackson, Aaron Kunin, Paul La Farge, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, Tom McCarthy, Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson, Lisa Robertson, Luc Sante, Lytle Shaw, Frances Stark, and Lynne Tillman. Other regular columns include “Inventory,” which provides an occasion to make creative reassessments of various types of catalogues, lists, and taxonomies—recent installments have focused on a collection of tokens left with eighteenth-century orphans at London’s Foundling Hospital and an assortment of jewelry die sets made by a Polish-born Brooklyn craftsman—and “Leftovers,” which recently included a consideration of incorruptible bodies, both sacred and secular. “Ingestion” examines the intersections between eating, aesthetics, and philosophy—a recent column featured Brooke Holmes on digestion, health, and dreams in ancient Rome. Finally, Cabinet currently publishes a regular column entitled “Legend,” in which Wayne Koestenbaum provides one or more captions to a picture provided by the magazine’s editors.
This unthemed section contains essays, interviews, and artist projects about a vast range of topics. Recent essays have included Michael Wang on an early twentieth-century bioengineering experiment to bring back an extinct breed of cattle known as the aurochs; Colby Chamberlain on the Dada mock trial of Maurice Barrès; Celeste Olalquiaga on the sacred craft of paper reliquaries; Eden Medina on the ill-fated implementation of political cybernetics in Allende’s Chile; George Prochnik on the little-known historical background of tattooing; Rachel Poloquin on Henry Flower’s pioneering Darwinian natural history displays; and Aura Satz on sonic experiments of eighteenth-century German physicist Ernst Chladni.
Interview subjects have included Markus Krajewski on the history of card catalogues; Giorgio Agamben on friendship; Bernard Harcourt on capitalism and the carceral state; Sianne Ngai on minor aesthetic categories; Catalin Avramescu on the intellectual history of cannibalism; Russ Symons on plaice fishing; Eluned Summers-Bremner on the history of sleep; Nancy Knowlton on the disappearance of coral reefs; Kenneth Libbrecht on photographing snowflakes; Anne Chaka on the standardization of government standards for product analysis; Robert Connelly on tensegrity; John Cliett on his classic photographs of Walter de Maria's Lightning Field; Scott Sandage on the history of failure in American culture; and Alain Badiou on the political uses of the rhetoric of evil.
In the themed section of each issue, Cabinet looks at a specific subject from a broad range of perspectives via a mix of essays, interviews, and special artist projects.
Past themes have included “Games,” “Punishment,” “Logistics,” “Trees,” “Forensics,” “Forgetting,” “Hair,” “Learning,” and “Bubbles.” The “Punishment” issue, for example, included Danielle Allen and Justin E. H. Smith in conversation about changing notions of punishment, citizenship, and authority; Ines Weizman and Eyal Weizman on books written by prisoners; Eric Anthamatten’s interview with Bernard E. Harcourt on the relationship between free markets and the carceral state; Will Wiles on the history of the straitjacket; artist projects by Ellen Harvey, Lin + Lam, Francesco Simeti, and Javier Tellez; and more.
Artist projects can appear in each of the magazine’s three sections. In addition to artworks designed for the page, projects have also taken the form of postcards, posters, postage stamps, and DIY paper sculptures. Artists featured in past issues include Janine Antoni, Francis Alÿs, Yto Barrada, Walead Beshty, Matthew Buckingham, Tim Davis, Joseph Grigely, Rachel Harrison, Justine Kurland, An-My Lê, Mark Lombardi, Josiah McElheny, Helen Mirra, Vik Muniz, Paul Noble, Trevor Paglen, Dan Perjovschi, Paul Ramirez Jonas, and Jude Tallichet.
CABINET: WHAT READERS SAY
Cabinet is my kind of magazine; ferociously intelligent, ridiculously funny, absurdly innovative, rapaciously curious. Cabinet's mission is to breathe life back into non-academic intellectual life. Compared to it, every other magazine is a walking zombie.
Slavoj Zizek, philosopher
Memorably quirky in its conceptual range, diversity and inventiveness, Cabinet is an ideal magazine for our times. Typically, the arcane and the quixotic orbit around a dense visual force-field whose nexus becomes the principal topic of that particular issue. At once enthralling and beguiling, its contents segue adroitly from subject to subject, the whole packaged into an unusually elegant design.
Lynne Cooke, curator, Dia Art Foundation
Cabinet is absolutely unrelenting, issue after issue, in its madcap curiosity and creativity. There's a cerebral joy to the whole enterprise—a firm and happy belief that there is still much to be discovered and said about our world, our culture. Opening an issue of Cabinet is like finding out that Karl Marx is related to the Marx Brothers.
Jonathan Ames, novelist
The editors of Cabinet are collecting some of the weirdest and brightest minds out there from different disciplines and assembling them together in a way that doesn't always make sense. This magazine is for me.
Rachel Harrison, artist
Publication or project? Cabinet magazine, the antidote for the suffocated intellectual, continually moves across and beyond all the categories, offering some of the best writing and thinking about culture to be found the world over. Few journals can truly be described as new: Cabinet, while offering rich perspectives both historical and contemporary, is one of them.
Tim Griffin, former editor-in-chief, Artforum
Cabinet is the secret best art magazine.
Jerry Saltz, art critic, New York magazine
Voracious, omnivorous, and playful.
The New York Times, February 10, 2005
Curios and curiouser. The finest thing to come out of Brooklyn since our grandmother, every issue of Cabinet is a deft collection of ephemera and anecdote, a Muetter Museum of themes. Every time, we're left in the dust, wondering where they find their peculiar contributors. Cabinet functions as any good quarterly. It presents you with a sizeable wealth of information and lets you take a couple months to absorb it. Their spring issue addressed the historical and societal significance of beheading, provided a history of amputee cricket games and a history of the pigment ultramarine. The writing is densely informative (footnoted, even) while still cheerfully meandering; creative writing without the sophomoric, self-centered writing-workshop sloppiness. Like the best of artists, it's not wrapped up in gallery gossip nor weighed down by Fluxus antics. Rather than making a big deal of how creative it is, Cabinet functions creatively.
"Best Art Magazine 2003," New York Press, October 2003
Cabinet fits an enormous amount into its finely designed, small-format pages. There are other treats in store too, such as tipped-in artwork, the occasional CD and an extraordinarily broad range of articles on everything from random radio stations to weather quotes to art vandalism. Your coffee table never need lack intellectual rigour again.
Jonathan Bell, Wallpaper, October 2001
The journal's name alludes to the phone booth used by Dr. Who. From the exterior, it looks normal but inside is an entire alternative universe. Cabinet likewise brings the reader to other ways of thinking, successfully blending accessibility in its writing and diversity and originality in its content. Cabinet is lively, humorous, and fascinating and will be perused over and over again.
Michael Colford, "Best Magazines of 2000," Library Journal, 2001
Cabinet is a non-profit organization supported by the Lambent Foundation, the Orphiflamme Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Katchadourian Family Foundation, and many generous individuals. All our events are free, the entire content of our many sold-out issues are on our site for free, and we offer our magazine and books at prices that are considerably below cost. Please consider supporting our work by making a tax-deductible donation by visiting here